Dec 2, 2021
Amid a national debate over history curricula and the importance of racism and slavery in shaping the American past, The 1619 Project has returned in expanded book form as an immediate bestseller. With its new and longer essays packing sweeping claims about the character of our national origins, the book expands upon the project’s initial, central argument: a transhistorical white supremacy defines American society. But this is pseudo-history, according to James Oakes, a preeminent scholar of slavery and nineteenth century U.S. politics. Upon reading the new 1619 Project book, Oakes explains its errors and distortions as well as its larger purpose, which is to advance an interpretation of American history through a cynical, racial lens. This lens distorts the very issues the project purports to shine light upon, namely slavery and its relationship to capitalism.