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History As It Happens

May 20, 2021

An effort by Republican lawmakers in several states to prohibit the teaching of the New York Times’ 1619 Project in public schools has reignited the debate over who controls our understanding of the past. It has also refocused attention on the project’s numerous factual errors about a matter of such surpassing importance as the American Revolution. University of Virginia historian Alan Taylor shares both criticism and praise of the 1619 Project’s specific claims as well as its overall aim, which is to emphasize the importance of slavery and systemic racism in American history instead of the founding principles of liberty and freedom that were, as the project’s opening essay argued, betrayed by the crime of human bondage.