In August 2019, The New York Times published an extraordinary collection of essays, poems, stories and photos entitled “The 1619 Project.” The Project proposes a “new origin story” for the United States, beginning in 1619 with the arrival in Virginia of the first ship carrying slaves rather than in 1776 with the beginning of the American Revolution. The Project argues that the history we have accepted and taught marginalizes the centrality of White supremacy and systemic racism, not only to slavery but also to the Revolution itself, Reconstruction, the Jim Crow eras, and to who we are today as a people.
In collaboration with the Pulitzer Foundation, the Times has subsequently supported the development of curricular materials for schools based on The1619 Project and has brought together teachers in many states to teach them.
This course will take an in-depth look at the Project’s arguments as well as discuss the controversies that its publication spawned among American historians, politicians, political commentators, and journalists. We will also consider important questions about what is history and who decides what history is taught in our schools. We will look at examples of the Project’s curriculum and will consider how American history textbooks may have fostered White supremacist views. Finally, we will examine the controversy around providing reparations to the descendants of slaves.