Over the year since its launch, headlines and commentary about a few factual and interpretive errors in the 1619 Project have sidelined the critical histories of enslavement, segregation, racism and African Americans’ contributions to the nation that it sought to highlight. The critiques have demanded a level of perfection that few publications of any kind achieve, and in doing so, have obscured much of the correct and important history that is contained in the project. The continued focus on these critiques also obscures the work of generations of scholars who have and continue to work to create a history more reflective of our nation.
Many scholars and teachers have engaged with the 1619 Project for two reasons: because respectful exchange is productive, even when we disagree; and because we understand the aim of the project is to focus on those histories that have remained marginal to our national narrative. The 1619 Project has not provided all the answers about these histories — no single publication could. But it is pushing to the fore new ways of thinking about our shared histories. In turning back a century or more of historical error around the histories of slavery and African Americans, it’s not surprising that some things are wrong, unresolved or in process. Yet the continued attention to a handful of issues in the 1619 Project should not impugn the larger effort.
Leslie M. Harris, Chicago
The writer is a professor of history and African American studies at Northwestern University.
Karin Wulf, Rockville
The writer is director of the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture and a professor of history at William & Mary.