Executives at Hulu have announced that the streaming service will air a planned docu-series based on the highly controversial and discredited “1619 Project” published by The New York Times.
The year 1619 is when the first slaves were brought to North American territory that would later become the United States, but Nikole Hannah-Jones, the Times writer who created the project, has been criticized for her inaccuracies regarding the period.
The Times said in 2019 when the project was unveiled that it “aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.”
“History is history and we have to tell the truth,” she told CBS co-host, Gayle King, during an interview, further claiming that the 1619 premise is “not de-legitimizing” America’s founding history but rather portraying it as “patriotic.”
“Black Americans have actually used those founding words to bring us closer to the democracy that the Founders envisioned,” she added. “And that is the most patriotic of things.”
In announcing the docuseries, Hulu did not say when it would first air. But the streaming service said that Hannah-Jones and Oprah Winfrey will team up as producers, while Shoshana Guy will serve as showrunner and Roger Ross Williams will direct the first episode and oversee the series.
“Our most cherished ideals and achievements cannot be understood without acknowledging both systemic racism and the contributions of Black Americans. And this isn’t just about the past — Black people are still fighting against both the legacy of this racism and its current incarnation,” Williams said.
Hannah-Jones received a Pulitzer Prize for the series despite its historical claims coming under widespread dispute, including her assertion that the American colonists fought the Revolutionary War largely to preserve slavery, not break with England.
But even the Times published a piece that was highly critical of Hannah-Jones’ essay.
“Journalists are, most often, in the business of writing the first rough draft of history, not trying to have the last word on it,” Times columnist Bret Stephens wrote in October. “We are best when we try to tell truths with a lowercase t, following evidence in directions unseen, not the capital-T truth of a pre-established narrative in which inconvenient facts get discarded. And we’re supposed to report and comment on the political issues of the day, not become the issue itself.”
In particular, he questioned Hannah-Jones’ claim that America’s “true founding” was 1619 because that’s when African slaves first arrived in North America (a colony that would become Virginia), given that Native American tribes already on the continent had held slaves for centuries.
Also, Princeton historian Sean Wilentz took Hannah-Jones to task over several allegations she made, including slavery being the principal motivation behind the War for Independence, that Abraham Lincoln actually “opposed black equality,” and that blacks “alone” fought for equal rights following the Civil War.
“I don’t know of any colonist who said that they wanted independence in order to preserve their slaves,” he wrote in a separate letter to the Times. “No colonist expressed alarm that the mother country was out to abolish slavery in 1776.”
Princeton’s James McPherson, the country’s leading Civil War scholar, noted that he was “disturbed by what seemed like a very unbalanced, one-sided account, which lacked context and perspective on the complexity of slavery.”
And James Oakes of the City University of New York added that the notion “slavery or racism is built into the DNA of America” is but one of several “really dangerous tropes.”
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