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‘1619 Project’ Documentary Is Laced With Inaccuracies, Historians Say

  • Hulu released the first episodes of the six-part documentary series based on Nikole Hannah-Jones’ “The 1619 Project,” which reframes American history to center around the “consequences” of slavery.
  • Historians critical of the “1619 Project” told the Daily Caller News Foundation that claims such as the American Revolution was fought over slavery are historically inaccurate.
  • “This is … almost a fantasy version of history that [NHJ] has settled upon after badly misreading historical evidence,” Phil Magness, an economic historian, author of “The 1619 Project: A Critique” and American Institute for Economic Research senior research faculty and director of research and education, told the DCNF.

A new Hulu series based on The New York Times’ “The 1619 Project” includes historical references that are factually inaccurate, historians told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Hulu released the first 2 episodes on Jan. 26 of the six-part documentary expanding on “The 1619 Project,” authored by Nikole Hannah-Jones, which “seeks to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of our national narrative,” according to its description. Several historians, however, argue that the content in the documentary is not an exact retelling of American history.

“This is … almost a fantasy version of history that [NHJ] has settled upon after badly misreading historical evidence,” Phil Magness, an economic historian, author of “The 1619 Project: A Critique” and American Institute for Economic Research senior research faculty and director of research and education, told the DCNF. “And a lot of it comes back to her attempting to backfill her narrative after she came under criticism for this claim by cherry-picking bits and pieces of the truth and bits and pieces of mythology that she’s gotten from other historians.”

Magness took issue with a claim made in the documentary that the American Revolution was fought over slavery.

He said that “this has been one of the most controversial of claims from ‘The 1619 Project’ basically since its inception” and added that Hannah-Jones attempted to “recast the American Revolution, and especially the colonist cause, as being a defense of slavery against the British empire making overtures to abolish the institution.”

Gordon Wood, who has previously criticized “The 1619 Project” for its inaccuracies, told the DCNF that “Hannah-Jones is just plain wrong about her claims about the causes of the American Revolution.”

“In fact, the Revolution created the first antislavery movement in the history of the world. In 1775 the first antislavery convention known to humanity met in Philadelphia at the very time the Second Continental Congress was contemplating a break from Great Britain. The Revolution and antislavery were entwined and developed together,” Wood wrote in a chapter of his latest book, Power and Liberty: Constitutionalism in the American Revolution, obtained by the DCNF.

Magness also broke down the documentary’s portrayal of John Murray, also known as Lord Dunmore, the colonial governor of Virginia who ordered a proclamation in 1775 to award freedom to slaves of “rebellious colonists” if they fought for the British militia. Magness told the DCNF that Dunmore, who is reportedly described in the documentary as an “emancipator,” did not award freedom to slaves of loyalist colonists.

“Recasting Lord Dunmore as something as an emancipator … is a historical farce,” Magness said. “Lord Dunmore, himself, was a slave owner. The few times that he left his ship in the James River during the early days of the American Revolution were to visit his slave plantation and dine with British officers.”

Hannah-Jones appeared with historian Woody Holton in the documentary to discuss Dunmore’s proclamation outside of the governor’s mansion in Williamsburg, Virginia, and mistakenly claimed that the location is where the order originated, Magness said.

The economic historian said that Dunmore had sent the order from a ship in the James River when “Williamsburg was clearly already in the hands of the colonists and he is making this last ditch effort several months after when she’s placing it on the timeline.”

He said that the revolution had been underway for “the better part of a year” when Dunmore issued the order.

Dunmore later was “reassigned to the Bahamas as the colonial governor there after he’s basically expelled from the future United States and becomes one of the most notorious pro-slavery governors in the islands history,” according to Magness.

“He’s really a horrible, brutal figure in British colonial history on the pro-slavery side, so the fact that The 1619 Project is turning him into this emancipationist hero just shows the absolute absurdity and the lack of connection to basic historic reality that [NHJ] has in undertaking this project,” he told the DCNF.

Hannah Jones did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment. Holton declined to comment.

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