There are all sorts of things you can reasonably say about the juxtaposition of our ideals and slavery — that our founders were conflicted and hypocritical; that our ideals were incompletely realized and would remain so for a very long time, stretching deep into the 20th century; that our compromise with slavery significantly vitiated the force of our founding principles.
But to portray the American experiment as all about slavery is perverse. The influence of this twisted view appears in the distortions, both subtle and blatant, in the 1619 essay by [Nikole] Hannah-Jones.
It’s worth delving into these in some detail. They reveal what makes the 1619 project not just an an effort to shine a light on a terrible part of our past but a much more ambitious, ideologically driven attempt to redefine our history. …
… Hannah-Jones’s account of American slavery is justly excoriating but is careful to leave out anything that might even slightly complicate her story or might prove discomfiting to the Left.
“They were,” Hannah-Jones writes of the first slaves brought to colonial America, “among the 12.5 million Africans who would be kidnapped from their homes and brought in chains across the Atlantic Ocean.” She doesn’t say who kidnapped them. She refers later to “people stolen from western and central Africa.” Again, she doesn’t say who first stole these people so they could be sent across the Atlantic in chains.
Why not? Like it or not, it was Africans who captured other Africans, and marched them to the coast to be sold to European slavers. African slavery existed before Europeans showed up, and it persisted after they left. This, of course, doesn’t make the Middle Passage, so excruciatingly awful it’s difficult to even read about, any better. But it cuts against the impression that she wants to leave that slavery was a uniquely European, and especially American, phenomenon.