Reframing American History

By Erick Erickson

The New York Times has commissioned their 1619 Project, which apparently “aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.”

The key word is “reframe.” The Times does not seek to tell the story of the United States. Nor does it seek to add to the story. Instead, the Times has a conclusion and is working backward to contort facts to fit the conclusion. This is activism. The Times is not reporting but rather building narratives in which they must ignore or fabricate facts.

In the very first essay, writer Nikole Hannah-Jones boldly claims that “one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery. By 1776, Britain had grown deeply conflicted over its role in the barbaric institution.” This is not true on multiple fronts.

In 1776, the British were not nearly as conflicted as Hannah-Jones claims. While the sentiment was certainly growing, it did not come to a head until 1787, when William Wilberforce took up the cause in Parliament, and even then, it took 20 more years for Parliament to pass the Slave Trade Act of 1807, which prohibited the trading of slaves. Britain did not formally abolish the slavery in its empire until 1833.


Contrast that with Massachusetts, which began serious consideration of abolishing slavery in 1767 and voted to do so in both 1771 and 1774, only to see the British governor-general veto the effort. Rhode Island forbade the importation of slaves in 1774 and in 1784 granted freedom to slaves born in Rhode Island.

Thomas Jefferson noted the Second Continental Congress intended to put a passage into the Declaration of Independence that would have condemned slavery and the slave trade, but the effort was abandoned due to Georgia's and South Carolina's objections. To say, however, that a primary purpose of the revolution was to preserve the slave trade directly contradicts the sentiments of most of the founders and the fact that multiple American colonies were well ahead of Britain in ending slavery.

By 1770, many of the prominent voices involved in the revolution, including Jefferson, Benjamin Rush and Patrick Henry, were all publicly and privately stating the colonies would need to end slavery. They did not at the time because they needed unity with the South and continued to kick the can down the road. But that is far different from revolting to preserve an institution they were trying to figure out how to end.

Then there is the project's name: 1619 is the year that African slaves first landed on the North American continent in the Virginia Colony. This distorts reality. British colonists were already there setting up democratic institutions, defining the parameters of continental governance. In another essay, the Times let an author claim American capitalism developed in the fields of the South. This, too, is historically untrue. We derive the capitalist spirit and "Protestant work ethic" from the New England pilgrims who settled in Plymouth in 1620, isolated from the Virginia colony and without slavery for a decade more.

William Bradford, who came to Plymouth on the Mayflower, noted that the colony rejected collective land ownership and instead embraced private property and free enterprise after the former nearly caused mass starvation. The pilgrims deemed it better for individuals to work their own land, care for their own families and sell their excess.

Another essay falsely claimed Republicans took back the Senate in 2010 and then began systematically blocking Obama-era judges. Yes, this, too, was supposedly tied to slavery. The author got the basic facts wrong and ignored Democrats' ending the filibuster on judges.

Americans could use more knowledge about slavery, but this effort is not it. Instead, the Times has chosen to reframe American history to divide us along racial lines and exploit that division for progressive politics. The Times is behaving as its editors claim the President behaves.

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17 thoughts on “Reframing American History”

  1. Thank you for this article. Our public schools and universities have been “reframing” our history for years. I recently had an interesting conversation with a millennial who knew absolutely nothing about the holocaust! Some of our teachers have been reframing our history without anyone knowing it! A case in point is the electoral college. None of the millennials that I have asked about the electoral college knew the reason for it, but then again, they have been taught that the USA is a democracy, not a Constitutional Republic.

  2. You are so right with “reframing” our history! It’s history for goodness sakes! Just like wars we fought for our freedom and lost lives! Maybe they want to reframe the World Trade Center attack too!

    Schools and Universities should be teaching “History”!

    I can’t stand the NY Times. What about the Irish, the Italians, the Jews and many others – really. how about how far the US has come in the past 400 years – the greatest country in the world!

    Blame Capitalism! that’s what made us great!

    Great Article and thank you!

  3. Rewriting the History – Did you know that
    • Almost all of slave owners were Democrats (as well as some Blacks) – North African Muslims and Blacks sold the slaves, and British, Dutch, French were the transporters
    o Of the enslaved Africans brought to the New World an estimated 5-7% ended up in British North America (USA and East Canada). The vast majority of slaves transported across the Atlantic Ocean were sent to the Caribbean sugar colonies, Brazil (38.5%), and Spanish America (17.5%)
    • KKK was the Democratic Militia
    • LBJ is credited for the Civil Rights Laws, which he strongly opposed as the Leader of the Senate, but could not veto because he would have been overwritten by the Senate – yet he is hailed as the champion
    o LBJ: “I’ll have those n…s voting Democratic for the next 200 years.”
    • The statues which are relocated (taken down) are all Democrats
    • Southern Democrats did not switch the parties – Of the known Dixiecrats, only three switched parties becoming Republicans: Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms and Mills E. Godwin, Jr.

  4. NYT need’s to look at the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the events leading up to our most costly war (in human terms), the War of the Rebellion, often referred to as the Civil War. American’s from the earliest days were in search of Liberty, religious and personal freedom.
    As the north and south developed their economies, the north tending to industry, the south to agricultural, mostly cotton. The British nearly took the side of the south, their source of cheap cotton to fuel there industry of producing cotton products. They only sided with the north when it became clear the north would prevail.
    The south was predominantly democrat and the wealthy and political classes early decided they needed to leave the union to preserve their source of wealth. The British were not all that concerned with slavery in our nation, after all, most of the world’s nations had the sin of slavery themselves. Many still do!

  5. Both slavery and Jim Crow are part of the fabric of American History. There is a segment of people in the world who will always be famous for being more hateful than any others. Where did they come from?

    This magazine is fake news masterfully created by the master of fakeness, Donald Trump.

  6. My great grandparents on both sides of my family came to the New World in the late 1500’s. It angers me how much leftist Democrats have rewritten history and are still continuing that effort. They are just making stuff up !

  7. The Times and nearly all MSM have a blind spot in how theY approach all issues
    about America. They will not concede that Capitalism is the engine that has
    produced more wealth and prosperity than any other form of economics. It has
    created a middle class that is the envy of the rest of the world and gives opportunity
    to the lowest to advance to the highest ranks in our economy. They fail to report
    how the liberal progressives have held our major cities back that are nearly 100%
    controlled by Democrats. But most relevant to this article, is how they claim that
    the 3/5’s count of the slave population is evidence of the racist underpinnings of
    our country. This compromise was reached to limit the power of the Slave States
    and eventually to the eventual freeing of the slaves in the Civil War which was
    pretty much fought over the original premise of our founding, that, “all men are
    created equal.’

  8. With all due respect to the many ancestors of African-Americans who worked hard to help build early America, very few of these ancestors speculated, managed or invested in the growth and ethical development of the USA. Slavery was ubiquitously practiced around the world in those times, and the US did not more nor less than was common practice. There was nothing unique here in that regard. I hope this story is told honestly and completely.

  9. As usual the Times has gone “a bridge too far”……they are trying to tie anyone who came to the British colonies in the Americas to the promulgation and furthering of slavery. Many who came originally were indentured servants, or slaves of another color, they are simply changing facts to support their views of what it was all about. Fact is that most Original American Colonists were far too poor to have servants or were themselves “indentured” to a master of some kind…..slave labor!

    This is all building to a time in the future when reparations will rise up and the Times will have created their own vehicle to put them in the forefront of spending Taxpayer Money! The fact is to me, in 2019, I did not own slaves and those wanting reparations never picked any cotton! Liberal/Socialist BS!

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