Culture Wars/Current Controversies

1619 vs. 1776: When Was America Founded?

By most accounts, America was founded in 1776 when the Founding Fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence. More recently, The New York Times Magazine launched an initiative known as the 1619 Project, aiming to redefine America’s birth as being 1619, when the first slave ship arrived on American shores. Which is it: 1619 or 1776? Professor Leslie Harris outlined the 1619 Project’s positions and shed light on misunderstandings about slavery in traditional teachings of American history. On the other side of this debate, Professor John McWhorter introduced the 1776 Unites campaign, which maintains 1776 as America’s true founding date, upholding America’s founding principles and challenging assertions that the nation is permanently scarred by its past sins. Moderated by The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf, this lively conversation explored if the legacy of slavery or the nation’s Declaration of Independence is what truly defines America.

Leslie Harris, Professor of History, Northwestern University
John McWhorter, Associate Professor of English, Columbia University
Conor Friedersdorf, Staff Writer, The Atlantic (Moderator)

3 replies »

  1. “an initiative known as the 1619 Project, aiming to redefine America’s birth as being 1619, when the first slave ship arrived on American shores.”

    Why focus on when slaves were first brought to (north) America? Why not South America? Central America? The Caribbean islands? What about the fact that there had been a slave trade along the East coast of Africa, since at least as early as 1000 AD. ?

  2. If 1619 means anything it should mean the start of freedom for the african people.After all the way i understand it, great britian was first to push for anti slavery. So you should ask your self was it really possible for that country to abolish slavery without first recognizing the fact that we,former brits and others fought them for our very own freedom from them, I seriously doubt that. I would contend that because of our war with them to gain our (whites and slaves alike) freedom, it seriously weakened their government and their king to the point where decent moral brittish citizens saw the light as did the other half of america, and with a little war to help the cause. If not for america i really believe what freedoms that are here today wouldn’t exist. Because it would take a strong country with a lot more muscle then just weaponry and force. It would take lots of money and a mighty belief in god! and money we had, and lots of it. Without a god fearing america there is no one to help police the world. And you can bet your a$s democrats are no god fearing people! And it wouldn’t be long at all and all the tin pot dictators of the past would re-emerge in short order. BUT GOD!

  3. The first slaves in America were the Natives/Indians. They were captured by the Spanish and made slaves.

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