In a November 2021 NPR Podcast "Throughline," investigative journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones was asked about her role in the 1619 Project, a long-form journalism endeavor she developed with the New York Times Magazine. The project aims to reframe the country's history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of the United States national narrative. The interviewer asked her about one of the central arguments in the essay: The American Revolution, which is mainly about American colonies trying to preserve slavery. There came criticisms from several prominent historians about the honesty of that claim.
"...We tend to think about history as being settled, right? There are these facts. This happened on this date. And this is who did it. But history is - it is a field of consensus, and consensus does not mean that that's actually what occurred. And for a long time, historians didn't even deal with slavery in a revolution that was largely led by slaveholders."
As in all things, the consensus within the realm of history seems to imply some moral authority over all other dissenting opinions. But the sad reality is historians can only function by standing on the shoulders of giants or, in some other cases, the shoulders of monsters. There is a limited pool of resources that a historian can summon up—eventually, we all hit the same intellectual bedrock. I read the books my professor read in college, which he read, and so on. Most likely, my children will also be able to trace their primary sources back to the same academic wellspring. My point in my incoherent rant here is that we will likely always find consensus when we all interpret the same sources. Many historians come to similar conclusions as they hang onto the interpretation of older historians. The revisionists and dissenters within our field can break the cycle of academic thought, which is borderline destructive.
2:58 Gettysburg Address
8:05 Appomattox Courthouse
13:29 Battle of Palmito Ranch
19:38 The 13th Amendment
NPR's history podcast 'Throughline': Nikole Hannah-Jones and the 1619 Project
The Gettysburg Address
Appomattox County, VA | Apr 9, 1865
Battle of Palmito Ranch
Origins of Photojournalism
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