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Since debuting in the New York Times Magazine on August 14, 2019, the 1619 Project has ignited a debate about American history, the founding of the country, and the legacy emanating from the nation’s history with chattel slavery.
The project’s creator and editor, Nikole Hannah-Jones, has described the project as seeking to place “the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.” Components of a related school curriculum have been adopted in major cities like Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Buffalo, New York.
For her work on the project, Hannah-Jones was awarded the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary. A book collecting all the essays debuted at number one on the New York Times non-fiction bestseller list in November 2021. Now, the 1619 Project has been reimagined as a television docuseries from Lionsgate and Hulu.
But the project has also come in for heavy criticism from historians and economists of all political and philosophical persuasions for inaccuracies in “matters of verifiable fact” in history and economics. In response to these critics, Hannah-Jones has declared the project not a work history, but instead a work of journalism.
One of the project’s most frequent critics is Phil Magness, Senior Research Fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research.
In this episode, which is a rebroadcast of an interview from August 2020, I talk with Phil Magness about the objectives of the 1619 Project, the economic history of slavery, the project’s historical errors, and why many Americans seem to have such a difficult time accepting the complicated totality of our own history.
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