If you go into the colonial records and look at the writings and diary of someone like William Byrd, who’s a very distinguished and learned person—he’s a member of the Royal Society—you’ll find no expressions of guilt whatsoever about slavery. In the antebellum period when most Americans referred to the “founders,” they meant John Smith, William Penn, William Bradford, John Winthrop and so on, the founders of the seventeenth century. Wilfred McClay & … Southerners began to feel this anti-slave pressure now. He spoke out against it. And they don’t appreciate what a radical message is involved in declaring that all men are created equal and what that message means for our obsession with education, and the implications of that for our society. He envies the town meetings of New England, those little ward republics. Q. The group included previous critics James McPherson, Gordon Wood, Victoria Bynum, and James Oakes, along with a new signature from Sean Wilentz. Washington does this, and he comes to see himself as more a farmer than a planter. The United States of America began in 1776, not 1619. Lincoln makes Jefferson the great hero of America. But they lived with illusions and were so wrong about so many things. She claims the British were on the warpath against the slave trade and slavery and that rebellion was the only hope for American slavery. It presents the origins of the United States entirely through the prism of racial conflict. But after the Revolution that’s no longer true. Two of the most prominent critics are Gordon Wood, a famed historian of the American Revolution, and James McPherson, a highly respected Civil War historian. Let me begin by asking you your initial reaction to the 1619 Project. Many of the white Frenchmen fled to North America—to Louisiana, to Charleston, and they brought their fears of slave uprisings with them. From that moment on I think the Civil War became inevitable. He simply was the most politically astute operator that the United States had ever seen. A. And one of the things that they stressed was that there was no aristocracy, no native aristocracy, in America, but you find, if I recall your argument in The Radicalism of the American Revolution, that though aristocracy was not strong, it was something that was still a powerful factor. Scorn for work and slavery were two sides of the same coin. He sees a catastrophe in the works, and he can’t do anything about it. Gordon Wood, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian on United States history, recently spoke with WSWS reporter Tom Mackaman about the New York Times' 1619 Project, the history of slavery, and the legacy of the American Revolution. Sections. That was the gist of the writings of William Manning, the obscure Massachusetts farmer, writing in the 1790s. But we had an aristocracy of sorts. Not just in wealth—I mean, we have that now—but in the way in which people were treated. And it just occurred to me that they lived to see Martin Van Buren. Gordon Wood, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian on United States history, recently spoke with WSWS reporter Tom Mackaman about the New York Times' 1619 Project, the history of slavery, and the legacy of the American Revolution. They belonged to their masters, who could sell them. One of the big lessons of history is to realize how the past doesn’t know its future. This made the American Revolution out to be like the Civil War, where the South seceded to save and protect slavery, and that the Americans 70 years earlier revolted to protect their institution of slavery. ‘We disagree,’ says the New York Times. This article was updated at 7:35 p.m. We should understand that slavery in the colonial period seemed to be simply the most base status in a whole hierarchy of dependencies and degrees of unfreedom. The group included previous critics James McPherson, Gordon Wood, Victoria Bynum, and James Oakes, along with a new signature from Sean Wilentz. Let me begin by asking you your initial reaction to the 1619 Project. Did you know that the “founding fathers” in the antebellum period are not Jefferson and Madison and Washington and Hamilton? Q. Q. Gordon Wood & Tom Mackaman, World Socialist Web Site. And many people thought that this might be the first step toward the eventual elimination of slavery. You can read it here. The Declaration is an Enlightenment document because it repudiated the Ancién Regime assumption that all men are created unequal and that nothing much could be done about it. Then suddenly in the middle of the 18th century you begin to get some isolated Quakers coming out against it. The letter objected most particularly to poor factual scholarship of some of Hannah-Jones works. I would have liked to have asked Hannah-Jones, how would she explain the fact that in 1791 in Virginia at the College of William and Mary, the Board of Visitors, the board of trustees, who were big slaveholding planters, awarded an honorary degree to Granville Sharp, who was the leading British abolitionist of the day. We’re Democrats—meaning both small “d” and also capital “D.” Those aristocrats don’t have much to say to us. He told his fellow Americans, look, we don’t need to pay too much attention to those guys. That’s what it meant to be a subject in the old society. It’s too bad that it’s going out into the schools with the authority of the New York Times behind it. I had no warning about this. A. That’s right. Only because of the Declaration of Independence. And he just yearns for something like that for Virginia. 1776 v. 1619: Two Visions of American History. Q. Hannah-Jones refers to America’s founding documents as its founding myths…. In one perplexing tweet , she singled out the critics as “white historians” (oddly neglecting the lack of racial diversity among the scholars who advised Desmond’s own 1619 Project contribution). The Old World, the Ancién Regime, could be transformed and made anew. Historian Gordon Wood on The 1619 Project. Q. This made the American Revolution out to be like the Civil War, where the South seceded to save and protect slavery, and that the Americans 70 years earlier revolted to protect their institution of slavery. Gordon Wood, Richard Carwardine, James McPherson, Victoria Bynum, James Oakes, and now Leslie M. Harris have all come out criticizing the 1619 Project. It was an age of revolution, and it’s not surprising that the French Revolution and other revolutions occur in in the wake of the American Revolution. With the exception of Wilentz, all of these American historians criticized the 1619 Project at the World… Steve Hayward & Lucas Morel, Ricochet. Aristotle had said that those who worked with their hands and especially those who worked for money lacked the capacity for virtue. These blatant and malicious lies spread by the 1619 Project are a new low for American progressives, and the fact that "woke" fiction is now masquerading as … That’s what I mean by radicalism. From the Civil War on, the “founders” become the ones we celebrate today, the revolutionary leaders. He’s never been a slaveowner. The Revolution unleashed antislavery sentiments that led to the first abolition movements in the history of the world. In fact, there were lots of manumissions and other anti-slave moves in Virginia in the 1780s. When did you learn about it? What that statement meant is that we are all born equal and the all the differences that we see among us as adults are due solely to our differing educations, differing upbringings and differing environments. Consequently, juries became somewhat reluctant to convict to hanging a person for stealing a handkerchief. W hen The New York Times Magazine published its 1619 Project in August, people lined up … These dependencies were simply incompatible with the meaning of the Revolution. Let me begin by asking you your initial reaction to the 1619 Project. That one sentence is the thesis statement of “1776”—a non-partisan black-led response to the New York Times’s “1619 Project” initiative, which launched last week at D.C.’s National Press Club. The Architects of Woke series takes aim at far-left post-modernist and Marxist thinkers and activists responsible for the spread of identity politics from college campuses to society at large.. Directed by Nikole Hannah-Jones, the project attempts to reframe our understanding of American history by alleging the central event in the founding of the United States was the first importation of enslaved Africans to Virginia in 1619 and not the Declaration of Independence in 1776. What Does African American Studies Need to Thrive? In 1776, Britain, despite the Somerset decision, was certainly not the great champion of antislavery that the Project 1619 suggests. Then, with Gabriel’s Rebellion in Virginia in 1800, most of the optimism that Virginians had in 1776—1790 is gone. I think the important point to make about slavery is that it had existed for thousands of years without substantial criticism, and it existed all over the New World. Historian Gordon Wood of Brown University also reprimanded the 1619 Project for failing to provide a full context for slavery and the contribution of Americans of all races toward its eradication: I think the important point to make about slavery is that it had existed for thousands of years without substantial criticism, and it existed all over the New World. Because it seems to me that this concept certainly becomes a burning issue by the time of the Civil War. I just couldn’t believe this. Slavery required a culture that held labor in contempt. That Jefferson, a slaveholding aristocrat, has been—until recently—our spokesman for democracy, declaring that all men are created equal, is probably the greatest irony in American history. 1776 v. 1619: Two Visions of American History. The southern slaveholding planters certainly came closest to the English model, but even in the more egalitarian North there was an aristocracy of sorts. For centuries going back to the ancient Greeks, work with one’s hands had been held in contempt. Peter Kirsanow, National Association of Scholars. Indentured servitude was prevalent everywhere. Unlike his predecessors, he never did anything great; he never made a great speech, he never wrote a great document, he never won a great battle. Right. At the time of the Revolution, the Virginians had more slaves than they knew what to do with, so they were eager to end the international slave trade. Assuming that work was despicable and mean was what justified slavery. You ask yourself what were these slaveholding planters thinking? Jefferson didn’t have anything to do with the Constitution, and so Lincoln makes the Declaration the most important document in American history, which I think is true. Servants were bound over to masters for five or seven years. I was surprised, as many other people were, by the scope of this thing, especially since it’s going to become the basis for high school education and has the authority of the New York Times behind it, and yet it is so wrong in so many ways. Indeed, it is the northern states in 1776 that are the world’s leaders in the antislavery cause. Servitude was not life-time and was not racially-based, but it was a form of dependency and unfreedom. The 1619 Project, according to the ... James M. McPherson and Sean Wilentz of Princeton University, James Oakes of the City University of New York and Gordon S. Wood of Brown University. They couldn’t marry. It is the most powerful statement ever made in our history, and it lies behind almost everything we Americans believe in and attempt to do. Instead, Wood’s own project “explores the 1619 Project as a cultural phenomenon: a testimony to the beliefs and ambitions of one faction.” It does more than that, as I have explained, but even that narrow job—shedding light on what a sizeable portion of the country, the woke part, wants and believes—is a laudable contribution. The 1619 Project claims basically that nothing has ever gotten any better. And southerners come to realize that the North is so opposed to slavery that it will attempt to block them from extending it into the West. How it is that the American Revolution raises the dignity of labor? Search Input. There is still slavery today in the world. Trump Hints at Another Act in Four Years, Just Like Grover Cleveland, Laws and Customs Guide Presidential Transitions â But Some Go off the Rails Anyway, Democrats Introduce Legislation to Strike Slavery Exception in 13th Amendment, Washington History Seminar: Mira Siegelberg on "Statelessness: A Modern History" (Monday, Dec. 7), Beloved University of Kentucky History Professor Dies from COVID-19 Months into Retirement, David Hackett, Historian and Holocaust Expert, Dies at 80, American History Scholar Richard Polenberg Dies at 83. They had no need to defend slavery earlier because it was taken for granted as a natural part of a hierarchical society. Gordon Wood, historian: The only way to use the 1619 Project in the classroom would be “as a way of showing how history can be distorted and perverted." The 1619 Project’s Fake History, covers the New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project. He calls Hamilton and Livingston aristocrats and charges that the proposed Constitution was designed to give more power to the likes of them. Men of wealth and distinction that we would label elites sought to make the title of gentlemen equal some kind of aristocracy. This remained the common view until the American Revolution changed everything. He’s not going to preach to them. He Escaped Death as a Kamikaze Pilot. Gordon Wood & Tom Mackaman, World Socialist Web Site. That kind of concession was multiplied ten thousand-fold in the following decades in the North, and this denial of obvious social superiority in the face of middling criticism is denied even today. When it comes to the New York Times’s 1619 Project, anthropologist Peter Wood minces no words.. Toward the end of his book, 1620: A Critical Response to the 1619 Project, he makes abundantly clear why such a response is essential. It’s a middle-class revolution, and it is essentially confined to the North. “The 1619 Project is, arguably, part of a larger effort to destroy America by people who find it unbearably bad,” writes Wood. Yes, it was set in the Constitution at 20 years, but everyone knew this would be ended because nearly everyone knew that this was a barbaric thing, importing people and so on. One of the things that I have emphasized in my writing is how many southerners and northerners in 1776 thought slavery was on its last legs and that it would naturally die away. Historian Gordon Wood on The 1619 Project. They were aristocrats, he said. Professor Emeritus of History Gordon Wood P’86 co-wrote a letter to the editor requesting a correction to the New York Times Magazine’s acclaimed 1619 Project with four other professors from different universities. I read the Jim McPherson interview and he was just as surprised as I was. In December 2019, five of them - Sean Wilentz, James McPherson, Gordon Wood, Victoria Bynum and James Oakes - sent a letter to the NYT objecting to the framing of the project … His colleagues could have, as we say today, “cancelled” him if they didn’t have some sympathy for what he was saying. So to somehow turn this around and make the Revolution a means of preserving slavery is strange and contrary to the evidence. It was very important that the American colonial crisis, the imperial crisis, occurred right at the height of what we call the Enlightenment, where Western Europe was full of new ideas and was confident that culture—what people believed and thought—was man-made and thus could be changed. Directed by Nikole Hannah-Jones, the project attempts to reframe our understanding of American history by alleging the central event in the founding of the United States was the first importation of enslaved Africans to Virginia in 1619 and not the Declaration of Independence in 1776. But the Georgians and the South Carolinians weren’t ready to do that yet. Historian Gordan Wood speaks with WSWS about American Revolution and the NYT 1619 Project. A. It’s a good question. So supposing the Americans hadn’t broken away, there would have been a larger number of slaveholders in the greater British world who might have been able to prolong slavery longer than 1833. Gordon Wood, historian: The only way to use the 1619 Project in the classroom would be “as a way of showing how history can be distorted and perverted." You see politicians wanting to play down their distinctiveness, their elite status. When did you learn about it? Historian Gordon Wood on The 1619 Project. Of course, they were wrong. These anti-slave sentiments don’t last long in Virginia, but for a moment it seemed that Virginia, which dominated the country as no other state ever has, might abolish slavery as the northern states were doing. Podcast: Lucas Morel Breaks Down The 1619 Project. Yet it was a powerful revolution in its time. If, as a generation of historians from Edmund S. Morgan and Bernard Bailyn, to Gordon S. Wood have made clear, the American Revolution was a pivotal moment in the development of human freedom, the central premise of the 1619 Project is revealed as pernicious nonsense. That was one of the compromises that came out of the Constitutional Convention. I read the Jim McPherson interview and he was just as surprised as I was. Q. A. It’s been argued by some historians, people other than Hannah-Jones, that some planters in colonial Virginia were worried about what the British might do about slavery. Q. The British don’t get around to freeing the slaves in the West Indies until 1833, and if the Revolution hadn’t occurred, might never have done so then, because all of the southern colonies would have been opposed. 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