How could Frederick Douglass, who launched such powerful verbal attacks against slavery and slaveholders, hold America's founders in such high esteem, calling them "brave men," and saying, "It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men." The answer is that he understood "context," which the creators of the "1619 Project" either do not know or have purposefully ignored. 

The “1619 Project” claims that 1619, when the first African slaves were brought to this land, was the true founding of America, not 1776. According to this narrative, America’s founders were evil slaveholders who founded the country to protect slavery and their own wealth. America was forever defined by slavery and is racist and corrupt at its very core.

Backed by federal and corporate funding, the New York Times' “1619 Project” is being implemented in public schools and corporate settings throughout America. This is tragic for this teaching is producing a generation that despises and hates America. Proponents are using this twisted history to groom a generation for the fundamental transformation of America into a socialist/Marxist state.  

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who spent eight year in a Soviet labor camp, said, “To destroy a people you must first sever their roots.” This is the goal of the “1619 Project”—to destroy the America of Washington, Madison, Jefferson, Lincoln, and King. They are doing this by rewriting America’s history and severing her from her roots of faith and freedom.

Slavery is certainly a blight on America's history, but the 1619 narrative is a distortion of the facts. Here are 4 simple facts that show the “1619 Project” to be a total farce.

Fact #1
Slavery Was Not Unique to America

The propagators of this teaching would have us think that slavery is unique with America. However, slavery has been practiced by many peoples and civilizations for thousands of years. Slavery was being practiced in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and many parts of the world when the first African slaves were brought to America in 1619.

This is why the late Dr. Walter E. Williams, who was Professor of Economics at George Mason University, said that slavery in America was neither odd nor strange. He pointed out that at the beginning of the nineteenth century, “An estimated three-quarters of all people alive were trapped in bondage against their will either in some form of slavery or serfdom” (Hyatt, America’s Revival Heritage 2nd Edition, 89).

Williams pointed out that what was unique about slavery in America was both the brevity of its existence and the moral outrage that arose against it. The late historians, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and Eugene Genovese, agreed, saying,

Europeans [and Americans] did not outdo others in enslaving people or treating slaves viciously. They outdid others by creating a Christian civilization that eventually stirred moral condemnation of slavery and roused mass movements against it (Hyatt, America’s Revival Heritage 2nd Edition, 57).

Fact #2
America’s Founders Turned Against Slavery

Contrary to a thesis of the “1619 Project,” America’s founders turned against slavery at a time it was accepted and practiced in most of the world. The occasion for this anti-slavery movement was the Great Awakening, beginning in 1726, which spiritually and morally transformed colonial America. Dr. Thomas Sowell, who happens to be Black, has written of this, saying,

Slavery was just not an issue, not even among intellectuals, much less among political leaders, until the 18th century–and then it was an issue only in Western civilization. Among those who turned against slavery in the 18th century were George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and other American leaders. You could research all of 18th century Africa or Asia or the Middle East without finding any comparable rejection of slavery there (Hyatt, 1726: The Yearthat Defined America, 90).

For example, Dr. Benjamin Rush of Philadelphia, who was a founding father, member of the Continental Congress, and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, helped form America’s first abolition society in his hometown. He called on the ministers of America to take a bold stand against slavery, saying, “Slavery is a Hydra sin and includes in it every violation of the precepts of the Laws and the Gospels” (Hyatt, 1726: The Year that Defined America, 101).

Benjamin Franklin called slavery "an atrocious debasement of human nature." Two years before the Constitutional Convention, liberated his two slaves and began advocating for abolition. He joined the abolition society in Philadelphia and later served as its president. 

George Washington, in a letter to Robert Morris, dated April 12, 1786, said, “There is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a plan adopted for the abolition of slavery.” Before his death, he devised a personal plan to completely rid Mt. Vernon of slavery. In a conversation with John Bernard concerning abolition, Washington declared,

Not only do I pray for it, on the score of human dignity, but I can clearly foresee that nothing but the rooting out of slavery can perpetuate the existence of our union by consolidating it in a common bond of principle (Hyatt, AbolitionistFounding Fathers, 42).

By the time of the writing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the Constitution in 1787, virtually every founder agreed with John Adams who declared,

Every measure of prudence ought to be assumed for the eventual total extirpation of slavery from the United States. I have throughout my whole life held the practice of slavery in abhorrence (Hyatt, 1726: The Year that Defined America, 101).

Yes, America’s founders were at the forefront of the fight to end slavery in the 18th century.

Fact #3
America’s Founding Documents Are Colorblind

Because of the Great Awakening and the antislavery sentiments it produced, there are no classifications based on race or skin color in America’s founding documents. The words “slave” and “slavery” are nowhere to be found. This was purposeful for James Madison said, “The Convention thought it wrong to admit in the Constitution the idea that there could be property in men."

There is nothing in either the Declaration of Independence or the U.S. Constitution to indicate that the freedoms guaranteed therein do not apply to every individual. Indeed, from the beginning, abolitionists used the founding documents in their fight against slavery and inequality.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–1968) understood this and in his stirring, I Have a Dream speech, he challenged America, not to dispense with her founding documents, but to live up to them. Speaking from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, he declared,

When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Then quoting from the Declaration of Independence, he proclaimed,

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” (Hyatt, 1726:The Year that Defined America, 122).

Yes, America’s founding documents are colorblind even if her history has not been.

Fact #4
The Testimony of Frederick Douglass and Dr. King

Writing in 1963 from the Birmingham City Jail where he had been incarcerated, Dr. King expressed his conviction that his fight for civil rights would succeed because of America’s unique heritage. He wrote,

Our destiny is tied up with the destiny of America . . . We will win our freedom because the “sacred heritage” of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands.

Calling the country’s heritage “sacred” indicated that Dr. King believed there was something special and of God in America’s founding. He obviously considered the Jim Crow South where he lived and worked to be a sharp departure from America’s founding vision of faith and freedom.

Frederick Douglass (1816-1895), the former slave and passionate abolitionist, came to the same conclusion 100 years before Dr. King. In his early years, he felt he had no part in America, but after years of research he completely changed his thinking. In a July 4th speech in 1852, Douglass called the U.S. Constitution “a glorious liberty document,” and declared,

Fellow citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men too—great enough to give fame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men.

The Conclusion of the Matter

Douglass called the founders “brave men” because they took a bold stand against slavery at a time it was accepted and practiced in most of the world. Dr. King called America’s heritage “sacred” for the same reason. But will we hear any of this from the proponents of the “1619 Project?”

Of course not! They are driven by a political agenda that requires them to highlight and exaggerate everything bad and evil in America’s past and ignore everything good and noble. Nonetheless, the 4 simple facts delineated above will completely demolish their narrative.  

Dr. Eddie Hyatt is the founder of the “1726 Project,” which is dedicated to educating the American populace about the nation’s roots in faith and freedom. He is the author of several books on the topic, including 1726: TheYear that Defined America, from which this article was primarily derived, and available from Amazon and his website at http://eddiehyatt.com.

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