NYT Magazine’s 1619 Project paved the way for mainstream media to pursue CRT and race-based reporting: experts

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The publication of the 1619 Project by the New York Times Magazine in August 2019 helped spark a slew of thought-provoking articles on critical race theory and paved the way for an increase in race-based reporting, many agreed. experts and analysts.

The project, written in part by lead writer Nikole Hannah-Jones, claims that 1619, the year the first enslaved Africans were brought to what would later become the United States, should be considered the real founding year of the country. Critics and historians who have been consulted on the project have since called the report historical inaccuracies, suggesting for example that the Revolutionary War was fought in part to preserve slavery.


Regardless of which side of the debate Americans were on, many have noted the rise in race-based studies and reporting.

The Washington Post published a database in January of the number of members of Congress who once owned slaves. The authors said their research provides a “greater understanding” of how slavery “influenced early America.”

“More than 1,800 members of Congress once enslaved black people. Here’s who they were and how they shaped the nation,” reads the title of the study.

Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones signs books for her followers before taking the stage to discuss her new book,
(Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

“The Washington Post compiled the first database of slaveholders in Congress by reviewing thousands of pages of census records and historical records,” the report begins.

Researchers found that 1,800 members of Congress from 38 different states owned slaves and linked slavery to current debates.

“The country still grapples with the legacy of its embrace of slavery,” the authors wrote. “The connection between race and political power in early America resonates in complicated ways, from racial inequalities that persist to this day to polarizing struggles over suffrage and how history is taught in schools. ”

People talk before the start of a rally against "critical race theory" (CRT) taught at schools in the Loudoun County Government Center in Leesburg, Virginia on June 12, 2021.

People speak before the start of a rally against ‘Critical Race Theory’ (CRT) being taught in schools at the Loudoun County Government Center in Leesburg, Virginia on June 12, 2021.


The Atlantic published an article in December 2019 titled “The fight against the 1619 project is not about the facts”, which deepened “a fundamental disagreement about the trajectory of American society”.

“Each of the disagreements in the letter is not just a matter of historical fact, but a dispute over whether Americans from the Founders to the present day are committed to the ideals they claim to revere,” the report said.

“The clash between the Time authors and their historian critics represents a fundamental disagreement about the trajectory of American society,” he continued, before asking a series of questions about the founding of America. “Was America founded as a slavocracy, and are today’s racial inequalities a natural consequence? Or was America designed in freedom, a hesitant redeeming nation through its founding principles? These are not easy questions to answer, because the nation’s pro-slavery and anti-slavery tendencies are so intertwined.”

In November 2021, NPR published an interview with Hannah-Jones as they analyzed “the connection between slavery and modern America”.

An equal mix of supporters and opponents of critical race theory education are in attendance as the Placentia Yorba Linda School Board in Orange County, Calif., discusses a proposed resolution to prohibit its teaching in schools.

An equal mix of supporters and opponents of critical race theory education are in attendance as the Placentia Yorba Linda School Board in Orange County, Calif., discusses a proposed resolution to prohibit its teaching in schools.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Education experts have also linked the publication of the 1619 Project to the emergence of critical coverage of race theory in mainstream media. The controversial program teaches that American institutions are inherently racist; supporters say it’s a necessary guide for students, while critics say it only serves to divide young adults by race.

“Project 1619 likely has something to do with the emergence of CRT coverage in mainstream media,” Corey DeAngelis, national director of research at the American Federation for Children, told Fox News Digital. “The project has sparked much debate over possible historical inaccuracies, and the Pulitzer Center’s website claims that approximately 4,500 classrooms have already included Project 1619 ideas in their curriculum since 2019. In fact, five systems schools have widely embraced the project: Buffalo, New York; Washington, DC; Chicago, Illinois; Wilmington, Delaware; and Winston-Salem, North Carolina.”

In the months since Project 1619 surfaced, several outlets have looked into the history of the CRT or shared their take on the program. The term had previously not made headlines.

“Critical Race Theory Is a Flashpoint for Conservatives, But What Does It Mean?” asked for a headline from PBS, calling him “the GOP’s new lightning rod” and analyzing his effect on Virginia’s 2021 gubernatorial race.

“A simple introduction to critical race theory (and why it matters),” reads a Forbes report, defining CRT as “a theoretical perspective that asserts that race is always about inequality. and dominance”.

Many media and pundits appeared to take sides in the debate.

“Republicans can’t hide the story,” Washington Post opinion columnist Jennifer Rubin wrote in June 2021 while pushing back against CRT criticism.

“The panic over critical race theory is an attempt to whitewash American history,” Kimberle Crenshaw, a prominent CRT scholar, wrote in The Washington Post.

Proponents of the CRT argue that academic doctrine is not taught to elementary school children and is only shown in college-level classes, a debate that has sparked several other reports about the program.

“Teaching critical race theory isn’t happening in classrooms, teacher survey finds,” read a report from NBC News.

“Teachers’ union head says critical race theory not taught in schools, vows to stand up for ‘honest history,'” CBS News wrote. Parents, activists and scholars have challenged this narrative. Dr Carol Swain called it “ridiculous”. When asked what connection, if any, Project 1619 had to CRT, Swain noted that the theory existed long before the project was published.


Jeffrey McCall, a DePauw University professor and media critic, agreed with Swain that CRT had been circulating long before the 1619 Project emerged, but credited the latter with raising the profile controversial program.

“The 1619 Project provided an extra spark to these reporting initiatives in part because of the high-profile platform it was published on, and second because the project won a Pulitzer Prize,” McCall told Fox. NewsDigital. “These two factors served to give the 1619 Project some legitimacy in the eyes of the wider establishment media and garnered even more attention on the news agenda. The murder of George Floyd and the social unrest that followed further intensified the nation’s attention to racial issues, building on the race narratives that were based on the 1619 Project and the CRT in general.”

Academics on the other side of the debate argue that the 1619 Project belongs in classrooms alongside traditional textbooks, as long as it is presented in the right way.

“I *think* that the 1619 Project *can* be a great tool for improving and expanding history teaching, *if* we present it as a perspective on the past (which of course it is) rather than as the ‘correct’ one,” Jonathan Zimmerman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, told Fox News Digital.

“Give students the 1619 Project and their state-approved textbook, and ask: What are the differences?” He continued. “Which story is ‘better’? How would we know? This exercise will learn much more about what history really is – and what historians do – than give it one interpretation or the other. The real question is whether we have enough confidence in our students and teachers – and in ourselves – to do so.”


Swain was adamant that the 1619 Project had already done more harm than good, delivering a scathing critique that it was the worst time for race-based reporting to emerge.

“I think this is the worst possible time in American history for us to divide people along racial lines because the country is rapidly heading towards majority-minority, and that may already be because we we don’t really know who’s in this country, what the numbers are, but we do know that there are many states that have already crossed or will cross soon,” Swain told Fox News Digital. “And then why would you push a running program when…we have people who are not doing well. I mean the average American is struggling, regardless of race. Now is not the time to divide people. It bothers me.”

“You can tell a positive story, or you can tell a story that shames white people and angers black people,” she added.

Critical race theory remains a hot topic in today’s media climate.


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