'New York Times' Must Explain Stealth Edits of '1619 Project'

The New York Times this week was accused of revising controversial parts of its "1619 Project," the newspaper's award-winning examination of the legacy of slavery in the United States. Its editors should explain the revisions and answer critics who say that an ideological agenda has outweighed historical fact in its analysis of the country's founding.

The NYT sometime last year quietly removed wording to describe the central thesis of the "1619 Project," which was named for the year the first slave ship arrived in Virginia, without noting the change as a correction, according to an analysis published this week.

In an article titled "Down the 1619 Project's Memory Hole" on Quillette, economic historian Phillip W. Magness cites evidence of how the NYT reworded the description of the "1619 Project." Instead of saying the project was an effort to "reframe the country's history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, by placing…" the passage now says, "reframe the country's history by placing…"



Twitter users discovered the change while scouring the internet after Nikole Hannah-Jones, the NYT investigative reporter who leads the "1619 Project," denied in a CNN interview last week that she had ever argued that 1619 should displace 1776 as the nation's founding date. She had appeared on the news channel after President Trump had attacked her work as "ideological poison" and announced the formation of the 1776 Commission to promote patriotic education.

Twitter users also found the NYT had removed a description of the first slave ship's arrival as: "America was not yet America, but this was the moment it began," from the "1619 Project" website without any explanation of the change.

The revelation follows other claims about the historical inaccuracies of the project, including a damning account in Politico by a historian who claimed a newspaper fact-checker had ignored her suggested revisions. Leslie M. Harris, a professor of history at Northwestern University, not only criticized the NYT, but also provided some good recommendations on books that people should read to understand the shameful history of slavery.

Other right-wing commentators have been quick to point out the flaws of the "1619 Project," but one of the most sustained attacks has come from the World Socialist Web Site. In explaining their ideological objection to the "1619 Project," self-described Marxists David North and Eric London once wrote: "The historical slogan of the socialist movement is 'Workers of the World, Unite!' not 'Races of the World, Divide!'”

The "1619 Project" is worthy of debate, but the NYT's stealth changes to its website and contradictory remarks about the effort undermine the newspaper's credibility.

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