The Inherent Fraud of ‘The 1619 Project’

First and foremost, here’s a “shout out,” a “tip of the hat.” and a “thumbs up” to Stephen B. Young, who wrote Refutation of the 1619 Project is right there in the creation of the Continental Congress for American Thinker. It has been good to see my fellow Americans and historical scholars challenge the validity of “The 1619 Project,” doing everything from 1776 Unites to the newly released book, Debunking the 1619 Project by Mary Grabar, Ph.D. (Prof. Grabar also wrote Debunking Howard Zinn.) We need to make sure these two books are part of a balanced approach to teaching the whole truth about American history. These efforts are the commendable and patriotic response of those who clearly discern America’s unique place in human history.

How American history has been taught, and consequently viewed, will remain a matter of controversy. It will be our perpetual responsibility to examine closely our history and discern the lessons learned so they are not repeated.

With that goal in mind, and to support Debunking the 1619 Project, let’s review some events in America’s history, mostly in Pennsylvania, that the 1619 Project ignores.

Did you know?

- 1671: George Fox, generally called the founder of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), when he speaks against slavery on his visit to North America, influences agitation among Quakers against Society members holding slaves.

- 1676: Slavery is prohibited in West New Jersey, a Quaker settlement in current-day South New Jersey.

- 1688: In Germantown (now Philadelphia, PA.), Quakers and Mennonites protest against slavery.

- 1688: The Pennsylvania Quakers pass the first formal antislavery resolution.

- 1693: An Exhortation & Caution to Friends Concerning the Buying or Keeping of Negroes by the Philadelphia Monthly Meeting is published in Philadelphia.

- 1754: John Woolman (b. New Jersey 1720; d. York, England 1772) addresses his fellow Quakers in “Some Consideration of the Keeping of Negroes” and exerts great influence in leading the Society of Friends to recognize that slavery is evil. Philadelphia Yearly Meeting appoints a committee in 1758 to visit those Friends still holding slaves. At the Yearly Meeting in London in 1772, Woolman presents an anti-slavery certificate from Philadelphia. The London Yearly Meeting also issues a statement condemning slavery in its Epistle for the first time in 1754.

- 1758: Pennsylvania Quakers forbid their members from owning slaves or participating in the slave trade.

- 1759: Publication in Germantown (PA) of Anthony Benezet’s pamphlet, “Observations on the Inslaving [sic], Importing and Purchasing of Negroes,” the first of many anti-slavery works by the most influential antislavery writer of 18th century America.

- 1774: “Journals of the Continental Congress – The Articles of Association” contains the second article: “We will neither import nor purchase, any slave imported after the first day of December next; after which time, we will wholly discontinue the slave trade, and will neither be concerned in it ourselves, nor will we hire our vessels, nor sell our commodities or manufactures to those who are concerned in it.”

- 1775: Founding of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery (PAS), the world’s first antislavery society and the first Quaker anti-slavery society. Its original name was the Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage. Benjamin Franklin becomes Honorary President of the Society in 1787.

- 1775: Thomas Paine speaks out against slavery and joins PAS with Benjamin Rush (Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Rush signed the Declaration of Independence).

- 1786: Publication in London of An Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species, Particularly the African, by Thomas Clarkson. Quickly reprinted in the United States, it is the single most influential antislavery work of the late 18th century.

- 1787: Philadelphia free blacks establish the Free African Society in Philadelphia, the first independent black organization and mutual aid society.

- 1793: Hoping to build sympathy for their citizenship rights, Philadelphia free blacks rally to minister to the sick and maintain order during the yellow fever epidemic. Many blacks fall victim to the disease.

- 1800: Absalom Jones and other Philadelphia blacks petition Congress against the slave trade and against the fugitive slave act of 1793.

- 1808: The United States outlaws American participation in the African Slave Trade. January 1st becomes an instant black American holiday, commemorated with sermons and celebrations. These sermons are the first distinctive and sizable genre of black writing in America.

- 1813: Philadelphia black businessman and community leader James Forten publishes his pamphlet, A Series of Letters by a Man of Color, to protest a proposed law requiring blacks coming into the state to register.

- 1816: Several new independent black denominations are established within the African Methodist Episcopal Church under first bishop Richard Allen.

- 1822: Segregated public schools for blacks open in Philadelphia.

- 1827: Sarah Mapps Douglass, a black educator and contributor to The Anglo African, an early black paper, establishes a school for black children in Philadelphia.

- 1829: David Walker of Boston publishes his fiery denunciation of slavery and racism, “Walker’s Appeal in Four Articles.” Walker’s Appeal, arguably the most radical of all anti-slavery documents, causes a great stir with its call for slaves to revolt against their masters and its protest against colonization.

- 1830: The first National Negro Convention convenes in Philadelphia.

You can find much more here, and it’s not all confined to Pennsylvania.

The point is not to rationalize or to justify the institutional slavery that existed in the United States, for which innumerable and unmentionable atrocities were committed, or the persistent evil that resulted in over 500,000 lives lost in the Civil War (more than in any other war). It is my belief the Southern States suffered their due judgment in death and destruction, including the complete destruction of the wealth the South had accrued from slavery.

The point is to highlight what many other, much more studied, credentialed, and prominent historians have pointed out: the “1619 Project” is not an honest study of history. It presents a grossly inaccurate, incomplete, and biased history.

As one can see from the dates and events listed above, the abolitionist movement in the United States began with the Quakers over 100 years before the Declaration of Independence and Abolitionists signed the Declaration. Furthermore, free men and women of African descent were active and fought during the Revolutionary War. In the years following, they advocated for abolition and provided for the needs of their communities.

Our American history, like all recorded human history, is complex and must be understood in the context of the times. Evil is everywhere and has an inertia all its own, which is why we must so repeatedly confront it, in all its forms. We do much better to remember the whole truth of our history, and to learn it well, to ensure those evils we acknowledge—with appropriate shame—are never allowed to repeat.

How shall we view America? What is the America that we shall preserve and leave for our children? For all our faults, America is still the last, best hope for mankind. When America is no longer Freedom’s refuge and a beacon of hope for the world, there is no other place to go.

Jeff M. Lewis is a Christian, a husband and father, a Veteran, and a small business owner in South Texas.

Image: Josiah Wedgwood’s abolition image, ca. 1787, cropped from an 1837 publication of John Greenleaf Whittier’s antislavery poem, “Our Countrymen in Chains.” Library of Congress.

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