Current Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg (and former candidate Beto O’Rourke) announced they were both all-in on the New York Times’ 1619 Project, “a major initiative” by the New York Times Magazine that seeks to examine American history as if it began in 1619, the year the first slave ship arrived in Virginia.

The 1619 Project has had its share of criticism, though. National Review’s Jim Geraghty noted right away that a number of black historical figures were overlooked, from the Tuskegee Airmen to Harriet Tubman to Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson. “In the reframing of the 1619 Project,” he tweeted, “African-American success stories disappear.”

Civil War historian James McPherson was recently interviewed about the 1619 Project and noted that it “focused so narrowly on that part of the story [American racism] that it left most of the history out. So, of course, it’s been distributed to schools as a glossy magazine and has been adopted by some into the curriculum.

Now, five historians have written a letter to the New York Times asking that it publish “prominent corrections of all the errors and distortions presented” in the 1619 Project.

In a very lengthy reply to the five historians, the Times suggested it wouldn’t be printing any corrections:

The project was intended to address the marginalization of African-American history in the telling of our national story and examine the legacy of slavery in contemporary American life. We are not ourselves historians, it is true. We are journalists, trained to look at current events and situations and ask the question: Why is this the way it is? In the case of the persistent racism and inequality that plague this country, the answer to that question led us inexorably into the past — and not just for this project….

As the five letter writers well know, there are often debates, even among subject-area experts, about how to see the past. Historical understanding is not fixed; it is constantly being adjusted by new scholarship and new voices. Within the world of academic history, differing views exist, if not over what precisely happened, then about why it happened, who made it happen, how to interpret the motivations of historical actors and what it all means.

In other words, there’s a preconceived narrative that transcends historical facts.

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