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My Turn: The falsehoods of the 1619 Project

For the Monitor
Published: 8/6/2021 6:20:05 AM

As a political science - economics student at UNH, I, along with the students in my political science class, had to wrtie a white paper about globalization. There were strict requirements in order to get a passing grade. There had to be footnotes, a detailed bibliography and sources used like think tanks and peer review groups. If this academic rigor was not employed, a student would not get a passing grade. Nikole Hannah-Jones used none of these resources in her 1619 Project essays. She would have received an “F.”

If faculties try to bring the 1619 Project into our schools without teaching the 1776 Project alongside it, our teachers will be inflicting academic harm on our children and intellectual dishonesty on their part in this process. Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan (D-NY) once said “we are entitled to our own opinions, but we are not entitled to our own facts.” Ms. Hannah-Jones is not entitled to dump her facts on our children.

The first falsehood is that Black Americans “for the most part” fought alone against racial injustice. This falsehood completely ignores the abolitionist movement in the 1830s in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. These states were the cradle of this movement with white men like John Adams, John Quincy Adams and our own New Hampshire Sen. John Hale at the forefront. Not a word from Ms. Hannah-Jones about this movement. Her claim of Black people having to go it alone is a falsehood, not a fact.

Parents, ask your children if during their field trip to our State House, did their teachers read to them the inscription at the base of John Hale’s statue? It reads, “The measure of my ambition will be full, if when my wife shall, repair to my grave to drop the tear of affection to my memory. They may read on my tombstone, he who lies beneath surrendered office, place and power rather than bow down and worship slavery.” Black people were clearly not alone in their fight for racial justice.

Another falsehood is Hannah-Jones being audaciously brazened as to use the tactic of using the race card and calling out President Abraham Lincoln as a racist. Lincoln was, arguably, the best president America ever had. Lincoln used his superior leadership skills to navigate the ship of state through the waters with cross currents of saving the Union and ending slavery. Lincoln did both.

Hannah-Jones used the example of one meeting Lincoln had at the White House with five free African-Americans leaders. He asked for advice from these leaders if it would be advisable to end slavery and send the freed slaves to a country in Africa for their own well-being. Prior to this meeting, Lincoln had already written the Emancipation Declaration. So, ending slavery was not an issue in his mind. History records there were of mixed feelings on the question of repatriation. (“An interview with historian James Oakes on the New York Times’ 1619 Project,” World Socialist Web Site, 11/18/19).

New Hampshire’s own summer resident at The Fells in Newbury, John Hay, was secretary to Lincoln and Hay was present at that meeting. Hay was so taken back by that conversation, he called the idea “hideous & barbarous humbug.” (“A Matter of Facts,” Sean Wilentz, The Atlantic, 1/22/20) Lincoln was a good listener. He “sloughed off” that idea and he never brought it up again.

Here is another example of how an older white man, a resident of New Hampshire, made sure that Black people did not go it alone. Our teachers need to teach the significance of men like Hay, Hale, Quincy Adams and John Adams in letting the world know that the white supremacy label did not play well in New England.

The other argument Hannah-Jones used in her thesis that Abraham Lincoln was a racist were the words from in a eulogy Lincoln gave of Sen. Henry Clay in 1852. Lincoln was describing the thoughts of Clay that slaves were a “troublesome presence” not himself. According to Wilentz’s article, he asserted that Lincoln did not believe that the United States was “a democracy intended only for white people.” If Hannah-Jones is going to call President Lincoln a racist because of that eulogy, she needs to call out President Biden as a racist also because of Biden’s eulogy of Sen. Robert Byrd, who was once a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

In a speech in Peoria, Illinois, in 1854, Lincoln said that “out of the abundance of man’s heart, that slavery extension is wrong: and out of the abundance of his heart, his mouth will continue to speak.” Can we actually think that Lincoln, who gave that speech, drafted the Emancipation Proclamation, led the nation to ratify the 13th Amendment and ultimately gave his life to achieve the goals of his presidency of the saving of our union and abolishing slavery, is a racist?

The 1619 Project curriculum is being distributed with the help of the National Education Association, the country’s largest teacher’s union. The union announced that it recently worked with The New York Times to distribute copies of the 1619 Project to educators and activists around the country in the NEA’s Edjustice program.

As Dr. Allen Guelzo, a senior research scholar in the Council of the Humanities at the James Madison Program’s Initiative in Politics at Princeton University, said, “the 1619 Project is not history, it is ignorance.” (“Preaching a conspiracy theory,” City Journal, 12/8/19).

Parents, grandparents and taxpayers, unless you want the 1619 Project curriculum to teach our students that President Lincoln was a racist, you should make sure the 1619 Project is not taught in your schools. There are better, more factual ways to teach the evils of slavery in American history than the biased and misleading information in the 1619 Project.

(Joseph Mendola is a former Kearsarge Regional School Board member. He lives in Warner.)

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