The New York Times’ “1619 Project,” which aims to chronicle the history, legacy, and modern ramifications of slavery on the 400th anniversary of the first African slaves being brought to the colonies, has generated a ton of controversy this week. But I wanted to approach the topic from another angle: How slavery doomed the possibility of achieving limited government in the United States.
I will say at the outset that the Times project has triggered a predictable mix of overheated as well as fair criticism. The initial articles in the series were published right after the executive editor Dean Baquet signaled that the Times was going to pivot from Russia coverage to focusing on race in the run up to the 2020 election. The Times also declared it “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.”
A number of conservatives reacted to the project by branding it as anti-American. But I don’t think that’s fair, at least based on the lead essay I read from Nikole Hannah-Jones. In fact, her piece is quite the opposite. Sure, it chronicles the brutality of the institution of slavery and the century of oppression, institutionalized discrimination, and racist terrorism that followed.