As an attack on the Founding Fathers generally, the 1619 Project is neither new nor unique. What is novel about the 1619 Project, however, is the cultural scope that its social justice purveyors are attempting to reach.
We should see the 1619 Project for what it is: part of a comprehensive attempt at political revolution. It seeks to transform the American republican regime, which is based on equal rights for individuals, into one defined by identity politics and the unequal treatment of identity groups.
The Real American RevolutionJohn Adams once asked a friend, “[What] do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American war? The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people. A change in the religious sentiments of their duties and obligations. ... This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affection of the people, was the real American Revolution.”
This quotation from Adams contains the key to understanding the 1619 Project.
If there had been no transformation in “the minds and hearts of the people” before political tensions with England erupted into a physical revolution, the American colonists likely would have replaced the British regime with one exactly like it in the United States. In their “minds and hearts,” they would have remained subjects of a monarch.
As Adams explained, the “minds and hearts” of the colonists changed when their sentiments in regard to their “duties and obligations” changed. Previously, they had felt a duty to obey the British king, who claimed a right to rule them as their superior. Gradually, the colonists came to understand that no one—not even a king—has a right to rule them without their consent.
The colonists realized they only owed “duties and obligations” to a government that provided protection for their rights. When that protection ceased, so also did their consent. And the Revolution came.
Winning the “Minds and Hearts” of ChildrenSimilarly, the purveyors of the 1619 Project are trying to effect a revolution in the “minds and hearts” of American children today through an education curriculum tailored to its narrative.
“We will be sending some of our writers on multi-city tours to talk to students,” representatives said, “and we will be sending copies of the magazine to high schools and colleges.”
The 1619 Project follows Adams’s prescription for how to effect a revolution in “minds and hearts.” It seeks first to change Americans’ sentiments about “duties and obligations,” or justice, specifically in regard to the past evil of slavery.
Once the change in sentiments is accomplished, the transformation of opinions and affections can soon follow. At that point, the revolution is all but complete.
The 1619 Project would have school children think there is nothing to celebrate about the men of 1776. That is a dangerous deception. Lincoln went on to explain exactly why all Americans should admire and celebrate what those imperfect men in 1776 found the wisdom to discern and the virtue to declare.
They “set up a standard maxim for free society, which should be familiar to all, and revered by all; constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people of all colors everywhere.”