Why We Chose 1620 as the Year of ‘Our True Founding,’ Not 1619

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ arrival at Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620, an event which President John Quincy Adams described as the “birthday” of our nation. You might expect this seminal moment in world history to be commemorated with great fanfare. But don’t get your hopes up. . .

“There appear to be few commemorations, parades, or festivals to celebrate the Pilgrims this year, perhaps in part because revisionist charlatans of the radical left have lately claimed the previous year as America’s true founding,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) said last week in a speech honoring the Pilgrims’ 400 anniversary.

The “revisionist charlatans” he was referring to are the authors of the New York Times’ “1619 Project,” which commemorates the year that the first ship arrived in the Virginia colony carrying African slaves. Recognizing the significance of the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery is certainly worthwhile, but the 1619 Project’s authors went beyond recognition and sought to “reframe” all of American history around the events of 1619. For this, they have been roundly criticized by historians who decry their many inaccuracies and revisionist interpretations (including, for example, their claim that the American Revolution was fought in order to preserve slavery in the colonies).

Most of the criticism has focused on the Project’s controversial claim (which was later scrubbed from the New York Times’ website) that 1619 is the year of “our true founding,” not 1620 when the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth and planted the seed of our democracy that ripened in 1776.

In a Times op-ed rebutting the critics, Nicholas Guyatt argues that “the 1619 Project radically challenges a core narrative of American history” by refuting the notion that “the story of the United States [is] a gradual unfolding of freedom.” Instead, the Project’s authors “describe a nation in which racism is persistent and protean. White supremacy shapeshifts through the nation’s history, finding new forms to continue the work of subjugation and exclusion.”

(Read more from “Why We Chose 1620 as the Year of ‘Our True Founding,’ Not 1619” HERE)

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