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)