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Happy 1619, Not July 4th, Birthday: All the History Fit to Print that the NYT Omitted

The New York Times Heats Up the Culture Wars (https://blackjunction.tv)

Even without the coronavirus, the United States should not be celebrating July4th as its birthday according to The New York Times. In its Pulitzer-Prize winning Sunday Magazine issue entitled “1619” (August 18, 2019), The New York Times asks us to accept 1619 as the true birth year of the United States and not 1776 (see the blog The Battle between 1619 and 1776: The New York Times versus the History Community). It claims that a ship carrying “a cargo of 20 to 30 enslaved Africans” marks the country’s origins. It does so even though no country existed at that time and there weren’t even close to 13 British colonies then either.

As one might expect, there was a negative reaction to this publication. For the most part the NYT was able to swat away these responses. What was striking about them was that they were mostly about the American Revolution and Abraham Lincoln. Hardly anyone commented on about the  attempt to redefine American history by having it originate not with the Declaration of Independence but with “original sin.”

In some ways the lack of comments on 1619 was not surprising – there was hardly anything written in the magazine about 1619! One would think that in a magazine with the title “1619,” there would be at least one article devoted to that topic. Instead it was almost absent save for a few stray comments here and there that mentioned 1619 in passing. The supplement contains more information. But if you really wanted to know about 1619, you are far better off reading the vastly superior account in USA Today [see my blog 1619: The New York Times versus USA Today (and Hamilton)].

There were a few comments that directly addressed the year in question. For example, Nell Irvin Painter, Princeton University, wrote (How We Think about the Term ‘enslaved’ Matters):

Nell Irvin Painter

People were not enslaved in Virginia in 1619, they were indentured. The 20 or so Africans were sold and bought as “servants” for a term of years, and they joined a population consisting largely of European indentured servants, mainly poor people from the British Isles whom the Virginia Company of London had transported and sold into servitude.

Enslavement was a process that took place step by step, after the mid-17th century. This process of turning “servants” from Africa into racialized workers enslaved for life occurred in the 1660s to 1680s through a succession of Virginia laws that decreed that a child’s status followed that of its mother and that baptism did not automatically confer emancipation. By the end of the 17th century, Africans had indeed been marked off by race in as chattel to be bought, sold, traded, inherited and serve as collateral for business and debt services. This was not already the case in 1619.

How come The New York Times didn’t know this? As you can see from Prof. Painter’s comments, the slavery system developed ad hoc over time as new situations occurred. For example, suppose someone was baptized, then what? Suppose someone had a white father and a black mother, then what? The system whereby 75% -white Sally Hemmings was legally both black and a slave did not exist in 1619. It took time for different combinations and circumstances to develop.

What then should be done to redress the shortcomings, omissions, and errors in the NYT’s publication? The answer is fairly straightforward. Have a conference or conferences to plug the gaps and provide the information that was to fit to print in “1619” but wasn’t. Specifically, there are 5 topics which should be covered by my count.

1. Where’s Africa?

According to a recent NYT note on the “1619” publication, an earlier draft by Nikole Hannah-Jones began the story earlier than July 4th and the American Revolution (“Telling ‘the Sweep of 400Years’,” June 18, 2020, print). It began with the Middle Passage where she wrote “They say our people were born on water.” I don’t know who “they” are in the sentence but that beginning would have been a step in the right direction. It’s still not Africa, but it’s closer. The phrase was used by Tiya Miles in “1619” who then mentions the Mbundu, Akan, and Fulani peoples. But the phrase ignores what the people of the Middle Passage brought with them from Africa to the Western Hemisphere. It’s as if the Middle Passage had “severed them so completely from what had once been their home that it was as if nothing had ever existed before, as if everything and everyone they cherished had simply vanished from the earth.” The presence of the King of the Kongo at Pinkster celebrations demonstrates that not everything had vanished. What was this kingdom and why was its king remembered?

The story “out of Africa” should begin in Africa. If the focus is 1619, then the area of concern is the modern country of Angola. No such country existed in 1619 and no people there self-identified as “Angolans” then either. However it is the region that produced over 5 million of the 12 million people brought to the Western Hemisphere, especially Brazil, and was the source of people on the vessels that were captured by pirates and brought here. The study would explore the Kingdom of Kongo and the Mubundo and Imbangala peoples as they were the ones most involved in the slave trade. There are scholars with expertise in this subject who could have been consulted in the preparation of “1619” and who could be invited to do a session, symposium, or conference on it.

2. Where’s Europe?

Similarly there is a story to be told about the Europeans who were involved in 1619. The key people are the Portuguese who arrived in Kongo in 1481. What were they doing there? How did it happen to be that the Portuguese were making the difficult voyage south along the African coast (going south was easy, it was the return north that was the challenge)? What did slavery mean in the European tradition? Why were owned people called “slaves” anyway? What was the geo-political situation at the time including Christian-Moslem and Protestant-Catholic? Why did the Dutch and the English get involved? These relationships are important. In 1491, the Kongo king voluntarily became Catholic beginning a long relationship between the independent country (not a colony) and the Church. In 1618, the Thirty Years War began which included the Kongo as well. There are scholars with expertise in these subjects who could have been consulted in the preparation of “1619” and who could be invited to do a session, symposium, or conference on them.

3. Where’s the Slave Trade?

How did the people who were brought to first the Atlantic Islands and Europe and then to the Western Hemisphere come to be brought to these areas? What were the mechanisms by which so many people could be brought to the Western Hemisphere by so few people? Miles uses the phrase “people stolen from western and central Africa.” This phrase expresses a popular explanation (see Roots):

Spike Lee: “just the fact that we were stolen from Mother Africa and brought here through the Middle Passage… (Time, June 22-29, 2020, print).

Other people take a different view.

Frederick Douglass:

Depend upon it, the savage chiefs on the western coast of Africa, who for ages have been accustomed to selling their captives into bondage, and pocketing the ready cash for them, will not more readily see and accept our moral and economical ideas, than the slave-traders of Maryland and Virginia. We are, therefore, less inclined to go to Africa to work against the slave-traders, than to stay here to work against it. (“African Civilization Society,” February 1859)

Henry Louis Gates: The sad truth is that without complex business partnerships between African elites and European traders and commercial agents, the slave trade to the New World would have been impossible, at least on the scale it occurred…. But the sad truth is that the conquest and capture of Africans and their sale to Europeans was one of the main sources of foreign exchange for several African kingdoms for a very long time. Slaves were the main export of the kingdom of Kongo; the Asante Empire in Ghana exported slaves and used the profits to import gold. Queen Njinga, the brilliant 17th-century monarch of the Mbundu, waged wars of resistance against the Portuguese but also conquered polities as far as 500 miles inland and sold her captives to the Portuguese. When Njinga converted to Christianity, she sold African traditional religious leaders into slavery, claiming they had violated her new Christian precepts. (Ending the Slavery Blame-Game, The New York Times, April 22, 2010).

Who is right? There are scholars with expertise in this subject who could have been consulted in the preparation of “1619” and who could be invited to do a session, symposium, or conference on it.

4. Where’s Virginia?

As Prof. Painter’s comments on “1619” indicate, there is a story to be told about what happened in Virginia in the 1600s. The people who were legally free, though indentured, when they landed in Virginia, paved the way for the slavery system The New York Times took granted existed in 1619. That story would include the values the English settlers brought with them to Virginia including on slavery, free people, and servants. It includes the values of the English Puritans and Anglicans who settled in Virginia. It includes the values of small landholders and tobacco plantation owners in Virginia. There are scholars with expertise in these subjects who could have been consulted in the preparation of “1619” and who could be invited to do a session, symposium, or conference on them.

5. Where’s New Amsterdam?

The importance of the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam is that it provides another example of a colony going through some of the same issues that occurred in Virginia at the same time. It does so with a different cultural background. New Amsterdam began as a trading port or merchant city that would become an “island at the center of the world.” Later on, it expanded northwards and created “manors” including here in Westchester where I live. The environment here was not conducive to tobacco. The church here was Dutch Reform and not Anglican or Puritan. I mention these points to suggest that the Virginia model, which itself required decades to finalize, is not the only model for understanding slavery in the colonial period. Virginia and New Amsterdam both struggled with the defining the meaning of slavery and the place of Africans in their respective colonies. There are scholars with expertise in these subjects who could have been consulted in the preparation of “1619” and who could be invited to do a session, symposium, or conference on them.

By coincidence, I just received an eblast from the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture announcing an online conversation on “Slavery and Freedom in the Era of Revolution” focusing on abolitionism. The series of conversations will be based on The New York Times 1619 Project-related event “Slavery and the American Revolution: a Historical Dialogue” (March 6, 2020) held in New York involving several scholars.

I also just received a notice from the American Historical Association of a webinar to be held July 2 on “Erasing History or Making History? Race, Racism, and the American Memorial Landscape” including Annette Gordon-Reed, Harvard University, who participated in the March 6th event above.

Even in the time of Covid-19, it is possible to discuss topics such as the ones I listed above and there are organizations conducting similar type discussions. The issue is does anyone really want to know about 1619?

New York Times Investigates the Brain of Donald Trump: President Has a Hissy Fit

Presidential Press Conference

The New York Times has investigated the brain of Donald Trump. That was not its intention when it published above the fold on the front page “Despite Timely Alerts, Trump was Slow to Act” (April 12, 2020, print). Its intention was to document the failures and shortcomings of the impeached wartime President in his handling of the coronavirus crisis. In that effort it appears to have succeeded.

Somehow the subject of the article became aware of it. Obviously he did not read it. Obviously also no staff member briefed him on the contents of the article. He may have seen the headline on a print copy. (I don’t know if the White House still receives print copies.) He may have seen and heard it discussed on a news show other than on Fox. However it happened he did become aware that he had been taken to task for his failures and shortcomings. Naturally he responded as he would be expected to respond.

He is even more reliable than Old Faithful in his eruptions.

But the article did more than simply document his failure and shortcomings in managing the coronavirus crisis. It also provided a window into how his mind operates and on what level.

Example #1 [from the front page]

The president, though, was slow to absorb the scale of the risk and to act accordingly, focusing instead on controlling the message, and protecting gains in the economy and batting away warnings from senior officials.

CONFEDERATES FIRE ON FORT SUMTER. ABRAHAM LINCOLN SLOW TO ABSORB THE SCALE OF RISK

What can we learn from this passage?

1 Adults in the White House understood the scale of the risk. Their brains had the mental necessities to understand the situation, to recognize the full gravity of the pending crisis; he did not, his brain does not function at that level.

He provided a demonstration of the smallness of his mind at the news conference the following day. During the Q&A, he got into an exchange with a reporter about what he had done. He kept answering that in January there were no deaths and no infections. Other people in the White House were capable of projecting into the next weeks and months when there would be infections and deaths on an epidemic scale. He was not able to do so. His analytical skills were limited to DOW JONES DOWN. ELECTION LOST. Beyond that he was out of his league. His inability to grasp the magnitude of the risk matches the silliness of his forbidding a cruise ship to dock to keep the number of cases down on his watch. After all, he declared the virus would not strike here so the ship had to be kept a sea. We have contained the threat.

2. It’s all about him. Obviously.

3. Every day is like another episode on TV and he has to control the narrative. Obviously.

The takeaway from this passage is not about his failure to act. The takeaway is not about his choosing Option A instead of Option B. The takeaway is his lacking the cognitive skill to grasp the situation. He didn’t understand what adults in the White House could understand.

Example #2 [page 14]

These final days of February, perhaps more than any other moment during his tenure in the White House, illustrated Mr. Trump’s inability or unwillingness to absorb warnings coming at him. He instead reverted to his traditional political playbook…squandering vital time as the coronavirus spread silently across the country.

GERMANY BOMBS LONDON. WINSTON CHURCHILL UNABLE OR UNWILLING TO ABSORB THE SITUATION

What can we learn from this passage?

1. He still had not grasped the situation. He lacks the ability to do so.

2. He reverted to form, in this case being the seventh-grade-smart-aleck-dumb-aleck that is his true self.

At the infamous press conference Monday, he got into an exchange with a reporter about China.

The discussion went back and forth. He was having problems since he was trying to defend his world of make believe in which he is most comfortable against real world questioning. Finally he could fake it as an adult no longer. He had exhausted himself and reverted to his old standby: FAKE NEWS.

There are limits as to how long he can do the penguin walk and fake being an adult. He can maintain that façade for brief intervals like a child going to grandma’s funeral or delivering a State of the Union address. A two-hour press conference exceeds his mental capacity to keep it up. At some point he inevitably will go off script and revert to being the person he truly is.

Example #3 [page 15]

Mr. Trump took a conciliatory approach [towards China] through the middle of March, praising the job Mr. Xi was doing.

That changed abruptly when aides informed Mr. Trump that a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman had publicly spun a new conspiracy about the origins of Covid-19: that it was brought to China by U.S. Army personnel who visited the country last October.

Mr. Trump was furious. [He responded on Twitter, “Oh Yeah! Oh Yeah! Oh Yeah! I’LL SHOW YOU!] The China Virus.  

CORONAVIRUS WREAKS GLOBAL HAVOC. IMMATURE CHILD PRESIDENTS BOASTS OF HIS SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE

What can we learn from this passage?

CHINA HAS HANNITYS TOO! CHINA HAS HANNITYS TOO! CHINA HAS HANNITYS TOO!
SO DOES RUSSIA!

No one has a monopoly on bull-trump. China is just as capable of slinging it as Fox, the Presidential spokespeople, or the impeached wartime President himself. He has been lucky so far that the Democrats have not given him a taste of his own medicine. Perhaps they should observe how the Chinese, Russian, and Iranian Hannitys act.

How then after weeks of failure did he finally grasp the situation?

Example #4 [page 15]

But in the end, aides said, it was Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the veteran AIDS researcher…who helped to persuade Mr. Trump. Soft-spoken and fond of the kind of charts and graphs Mr. Trump prefers, Dr. Birx did not have the rough edges that could irritate the president. He often told people he thought she was elegant. 

What can we learn from this passage?

1. Mad Dog tried the same technique. Do you think he was soft-spoken without rough edges? Do you think he successfully hid the fact that he was dumbing down his presentation to the level a person with limited cognitive skills and of great ignorance could understand? Do you think he threatened the masculinity of Bonespur Boy?

2. The key to leading him to knowledge appears to be the proverbial old-fashioned school marm. For all we know, Dr. Birx reminds him of teachers he had in elementary school, teachers before his father put in him military school in the vain hope that he would man up.

3. If he were in elementary school today, he would be classified as “special.” He proves the need for special-ed teachers who can give students the 1:1 time they need to be able to learn despite certain challenges.

As Jill Filipovic wrote (A day after claiming ‘total’ power, Trump caves in, CNN, April 15, 2020):

This is an important moment to reemphasize that Donald Trump is not a learned man. Yes, he has a business degree, but he shows no interest in learning, no curiosity about the world around him, and little apparent ability to ingest much in the way of new information that is not presented in simple pictures or on TV. Comprehending complex material seems far beyond his grasp.

His intelligence briefings have to be pared down to child-like levels, and he still barely reads them, and resists receiving them regularly. Some believe he’s indifferent to the printed word. Does anyone really think this man has even read, let alone understood, the US Constitution?

In conclusion, The New York Times article written to expose the failures and shortcomings of the impeached wartime President also reveals that those failures and shortcomings are not his fault. When you are a child living in the land of make believe, you make up the rules. If you want to be king, then you are king. The problem occurs when you try to live in the adult world and even Kellyanne Alternate Reality Conway can’t save you. Our president genuinely lacks the mental necessities or cognitive skills required to function as an adult, a deficiency that cannot be hidden during a crisis unless you only watch Fox. Unfortunately mental limitations are not a high crime or misdemeanor or removable under the 25th Amendment. At present there is no legal remedy for removing a President during a crisis because he can’t grasp the situation.

Suppose the New York Times and Anonymous Already Plan on Going Public

Another Delivery to the New York Times

Suppose the New York Times and Anonymous already plan on going public. In the past 24-hours or so, I have heard a great many people on radio and TV and I have read articles in print and on the web about Anonymous. One common comment is “Why now?” Another relates to how does this op-ed piece advance the cause to which Anonymous aspires. The follow-up thought declares that its publication makes no difference, causes no change, solves no problem…unless simply ticking off the impulsive child President was the goal.

At the same time, Anonymous is referred to a senior administration official in the singular. One possibility floated about is that Anonymous has military/security/diplomatic experience.

Let’s follow through on that supposition. People with that kind of experience make plans. They consider different scenarios. They ponder alternatives. They anticipate reactions. Is it possible that the New York Times and Anonymous never considered what would happen after the publication? We know they were aware of the possibility of being fired but did it ever occur to them that the identity of Anonymous would not remain a secret for long? Did they expect that everything would go back to normal after Hurricane Anonymous passed?

It seems more likely, that they anticipated the disclosure of the identity of Anonymous and decided to take control of the situation. After all, isn’t that what you expect if Anonymous had military background? We can see that deceptiveness is in the author’s toolkit. The use of the word “lodestar” is not a clue to author’s identity…except showing a familiarity with Mike Pence’s vocabulary. The Capital’s biggest brown nose is on a mission from God to become President. There are no circumstances under which he could be Anonymous.

The delay in announcing the identity of Anonymous is deliberate. It is a set up. It provides an opportunity for people to go on record in response to the op-ed piece. It provides an opportunity to prove the claims in the op-ed piece are true. It provides an opportunity to nail people to the wall and hang them out to dry once they have publicly responded.

Let’s consider the reactions of the target President, Congressional Republicans, and Fox.

As expected, the impulsive immature child was in full volcanic mode. There is nothing new there. What is interesting to observe is his choice of words to condemn the action. He called it “TREASONOUS.” One can be a traitor to one’s country. Even the person who thinks Canada burned the White House and Lincoln was a Democrat probably has heard of Benedict Arnold. Treasonous acts do threaten the national security, should be investigated, and should be punished. However, the narcissist is defining treason in terms of himself and not his country. Again, there should be no surprise there. But it substantiates the claims made about his amoral lack of values.

Between Woodward and Anonymous, he is in full form. He is an A+ president, doing a great job, possibly the greatest job ever by an American President. He anticipates a red wave. His polling numbers are great. No one can touch him in 2020. No doubt, Republicans, who, like the Chinese, only get their news from one source, the government-authorized propaganda media, agree. Anyone who reports otherwise is the enemy of the people engaging in FAKE NEWS.

Suppose the very stable genius is wrong about the red wave. Suppose the Democrats win control of the House. Suppose the Democrats act on that basis and investigate all the items on the Republican hit list of potential problems where they are at risk. Will the President honor the election results? If a blue wave puts Democrats in charge will the President of the United States honor the results or will he demand a full investigation into the rigged results?

Suppose the very stable genius is wrong about 2020 (assuming he is still in office and chooses to run again)? Will the President honor the election results? Will the President leave the White House voluntarily? Will he demand a full investigation into the rigged results? Will he remain in the White House until the investigation by his Attorney General (not a stupid Southerner)is completed? (Can he go without playing golf for that long?)

Our A+ President who is doing a great job can’t be subpoenaed, can’t be impeached, and can’t be voted out of office.

If Anonymous (and Woodward’s) goal was to expose the truth, getting his reactions has been priceless.

Turning now to the Congressional Republicans, the response to Anonymous is not surprising. They couldn’t care less about the merits of what Anonymous wrote. Their only interest is to punish Anonymous. This reaction confirms my longstanding belief that when the little boy exclaimed that the Emperor was naked, he would immediately be stomped to death by an enraged mob that didn’t want to know the truth.

Finally, there is Fox News. Fox has been hyperventilating about the Deep State subverter of the vote of the American people. They don’t care about the Russian violation of that vote. They do care about how the duly-elected President is being thwarted by unelected people who think they know better than the American people what should be done. Fox vehemently castigates the White House Resistance (plural) who put their judgment over that of the We the People. One almost gets the impression that Fox considers Anonymous and the Resistance to consist of Democrats, holdovers from the Obama administration.

Now let’s return to the original suggestion: suppose the New York Times and Anonymous already plan on going public. Imagine if Anonymous is a composite. Imagine if multiple people contributed to its writing. No one would be trumping if they denied writing it since no one person did write it. Now imagine say, H. R. McMasters, John Kelly, and James Mattis, as military hero John McCain was dying, finally saying, “enough is enough.” Suppose the career military officers who have been repeatedly humiliated by the ignorant 5th grader decided that they had had it. Suppose these people decide to go public and expose Crazytown. Suppose these people decided to set up Congressional Republicans as ballless and Fox as brainless. Suppose these people publicly sited chapter and verse documenting that the incumbent President lacks the emotional maturity, knowledge, and character to hold that position and that he should be removed from office as soon as possible. Then what?

It’s not Seven Days in May. It’s not Dr. Strangelove. But it’s not General McArthur either.

Obviously I am speculating but it is unreasonable to assume that Anonymous is a one-act event. There’s more to come.