Are we really lurching towards civil war?
The 3395 Project: American National Identity Includes Both the Ideals of 1776 and the Legacy of 1619
The 1619 Project points us to the need for the 3395 Project—the project of constructing a new and stronger American identity that incorporates both the experiences, perspectives, and distinctive contributions of the descendants of enslaved Africans (1619) and also the aspirations and ideals enunciated by European Americans in the Declaration of Independence (1776).
Much of the criticism heaped upon the New York Times’ 1619 Project has stemmed from its avowed intention to “reframe the country’s history.” In particular, the project aims to relocate the date of the American Founding from the current consensus—either 1776 or 1787—to 1619, the year when the first enslaved Africans arrived in the British colony of Virginia.
Many conservatives have interpreted this attempted relocation as attempted larceny. They see it as just another in a long line of efforts to snatch the late eighteenth-century American Founding from its hallowed place at the center of American identity. Yet this interpretation of the 1619 Project is both oversimplified and uncharitable. Most importantly, it fails to recognize the potential in the project’s aims to further the goal of redemption from America’s original sin of slavery.
Seeing the 1619 Project as complementary to the 1776 Project opens the prospect of a new project to which both essentially contribute. It may even be able to unite liberals and conservatives around a shared narrative of American identity and history.
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