One focus of the historians is the preposterous claim of the 1619 project that a primary reason that the colonists launched the American Revolution was to protect slavery. “This is not true,” they say. “If supportable, the allegation would be astounding — yet every statement offered by the project to validate it is false.”

Silverstein counters by invoking disquiet among American slave-holders over the landmark Somerset decision in England in 1772 that found that chattel slavery wasn’t supported under the “natural law.” Yet nothing in the historical record suggests that the decision, which didn’t apply to the colonies, played a role in precipitating the revolution. Silverstein also notes the so-called Dunmore Proclamation by the royal governor of Virginia in late 1775 offering freedom to slaves who joined with British forces. By this point, though, the revolution was already underway (the First Continental Congress met in 1774; Lexington and Concord came earlier in 1775).

Nothing is going to budge the Times from its view that slavery is the central story of America, because establishing that is the entire point of the 1619 project. Nonetheless, the dissenting historians are performing an important public service. They are making the dishonesty of the project a matter of record and might, in so doing, cause educational institutions to think twice before adopting it wholesale into their curricula.