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The 1619 Project makes the case, among other things, that racial hierarchy is inimical to true freedom.
Nikole Hannah-Jones, 1619’s organizer and editor, makes this point very clearly in her powerful introductory essay. It is we who have been the perfecters of this democracy”—by moving America towards the fulfillment of the ideals professed in the Declaration of Independence.
She cites her own family history as a testament to the promise of American democracy: her father, born in the county in Mississippi with the highest number of lynchings in the country, went on to serve in the U. Army and proudly flew the American flag in front of the Iowa home of her youth. Her essay is one of the most fiercely patriotic pieces of writing I have ever read. Hers is a patriotism not of hagiography but of struggle, born of an honest reckoning with a usually brutal American past.
Many conservative critics have completely missed the point, even when it seems they are just on the cusp of getting it.
John Daniel Davidson, writing in , for example, complained that while she “argues persuasively that African Americans are the true believers in America’s Founding ideals”—note the capitalization of “Founding,” which suggests a religious dimension to the term—“but also that they are dupes because the ideals are a lie.” It is difficult to imagine a more tortured accusation.
In the mid-1960s Harry Jaffa and Frank Meyer engaged in a series of dueling essays in on this question.