What The New York Times' 1619 Project Gets Wrong About Capitalism: Phillip Magness

In a new collection, the economic historian documents how classical liberals pushed for abolition and equality in 19th-century America.


When The New York Times launched its 1619 Project last year, it sought to "reframe the country's history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative." What began as a series of articles and commentaries in the Times magazine morphed into a collection of lesson plans for elementary and high school students and provoked an immediate controversy.

Five of the nation's most eminent academic historians co-signed a letter to the Times describing the project as "partly misleading" and containing "factual errors." And Northwestern University Professor Leslie M. Harris revealed that she had been a fact-checker on the series and that her warnings of a major error of interpretation had been ignored. But Harris also took "detractors of the 1619 Project" to task for "misrepresent[ing] both the historical record and the historical profession," writing that the "attacks from its critics are much more dangerous" than the Times' "avoidable mistakes."

Enter Phillip W. Magness, an economic historian, a research fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research, and the author of a new collection of essays on the project. Magness praises aspects of the series but he says that the project's editor, Nikole Hannah-Jones, is guilty of blurring lines between serious scholarship and partisan advocacy. And he has called for the retraction of an essay in the series by Princeton sociologist Matthew Desmond, which was headlined, "In order to understand the brutality of American capitalism, you have to start on the plantation."

Nick Gillespie spoke with Magness from his office in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, about what the Times gets right and wrong about U.S. history, capitalism and slavery, Abraham Lincoln's contested legacy, and why our interpretation of American history matters to contemporary society.

NEXT: What Have the Media Gotten Wrong (and Right) During Coronavirus?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. When everyone is a slave, no one is a slave.

    1. I got some shackles in the back, if your into that sort of thing.

      1. Change Your Life Right Now! Work From Comfort Of Your Home And Receive Your First Paycheck Within A Week. No Experience Needed, No Boss Over Your Shoulder... Sax.Say Goodbye To Your Old Job! Limited Number Of Spots Open...
        Find out how HERE......Detail here

    2. Some slaves are more free than other slaves. Barack Obama should only get half of a reparation allotment.

      1. Obama has no connection with American slavery at all.

        1. Except by marriage.

          1. ...and Libya

  2. Without reading the article, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess the answer is they get 'everything wrong' when it comes to capitalism.

    1. Was it the "New York Times" in the headline that gave it away?

      1. Absolutely, yes it was.

      2. plus they got 1620 wrong

        1. In the united states thats 420

          1. everywhere I am is 420

            1. Especially during this shutdown. Hehehe.

      3. Hustler magazines and Faux News aren't legitimate news sources

  3. I like how Nick almost said antebellum, but he caught himself and said pre civil war. Come on Nick, were not that dumb. Cool discussion though.

  4. "reframe the country's history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative."

    Why blacks and not some other pack animal?

  5. I've often heard the mantra that black American's were left behind in wealth creation due to slavery, and this is used as an argument in why they deserve reparations today. It's to 'offset' those years of marginalized earning potential.

    Of course, never mind that generational wealth tends to disappear after just one generation. We have to pretend that savings only go one way for everyone to make that even remotely plausible.

    Sure, a handful of black Americans might have become Rockefeller's if not for slavery but good luck figuring out who those dozen people might have been. Shit, last I checked some Black Americans managed to obtain generational wealth even with slavery so...how does one measure this exactly?

    1. RIP Willie Davis, dead at 85.

      He managed to become rather wealthy and almost all of that wealth was earned after Vince Lombardi was no longer his boss.

    2. Who knows. I'm still waiting for my Holocaust reparation check.

  6. Are you going to do The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and what they got wrong about the automotive industry in the 1930's next? The NYT and the 1619 Project is just pure evil garbage shit from start to finish and any sort of attempt to rebut the nonsense they're pushing gives it a legitimacy it doesn't deserve.

  7. As a matter of principle, I don't read NYT stuff, but I do wonder how the 1619 project handles the fact that those brought to Virginia were not slaves.
    From the impeccable Wikipedia -
    At this time (1665), there were only about 300 people of African origin living in the Virginia Colony, about 1% of an estimated population of 30,000. The first group of 20 or so Africans were brought to Jamestown in 1619 as indentured servants. After working out their contracts for passage money to Virginia and completing their indenture, each was granted 50 acres (20 ha) of land (headrights). This enabled them to raise their own tobacco or other crops.

    In one of the earliest freedom suits, Casor argued that he was an indentured servant who had been forced by Anthony Johnson, a free black, to serve past his term; he was freed and went to work for Robert Parker as an indentured servant. Johnson sued Parker for Casor's services. In ordering Casor returned to his master, Johnson, for life, the court both declared Casor a slave and sustained the right of free blacks to own slaves.

  8. I'm guessing the objective is to link free exchange of goods and services with slavery, using the term "capitalism" as a devil-word.

    Of course, they could just as well do a narrative weaving slavery into a broader history of statism and oppression by governments ignoring the right of self-ownership. It would have been more accurate, though I think the NYT is too blinded by their "don't call us socialist, not that there's anything wrong with socialism" ideology.

  9. From Sociology for the South (1854), by slavery apologist George Fitzhugh:

    “…Socialism is already slavery in all save the master. It had as well adopt that feature at once, as come to that it must to make its schemes at once humane and efficient….Our only quarrel with Socialism is, that it will not honestly admit that it owes its recent revival to the failure of universal liberty, and is seeking to bring about slavery again in some form….

    “We cannot believe that the Socialists do not see that domestic slavery is the only practicable form of socialism – they are afraid yet to pronounce the word.”


    1. Fitzhugh is a gold mine of leftist sentiment

  10. It's stupidities like the 1619 project that affirm my long term optimism. Socialism simply doesn't work without other people's money, and trying to push big lies doesn't work without socialist levels of control. It backfires as people learn that all the crap pushed in government schools was lies.

    So go ahead, NYT, MSNBC, CNN, and all the others. Go ahead and try to top each others' fake news. The public does catch on, even if slowly.

    1. As an example, Progressives have been pushing their eugenics in one shape or another for, what, 150 years, ever since Darwin? Their biggest admirer died in 1945 after murdering 6 million losers. Their other admirers have murdered more, but not in the name of eugenics.

      They sure can cause trouble in one locale or another, for a while, but as Lincoln said, you can rob some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but not all the people all the time.

      1. Good example of when talking points pass for thought.

        1. Hi Hihn. Earned enough points in your behavior plan to earn some internet privileges?

  11. A clinger doesn't like something published by The New York Times? That's the news?

    1. Some newspaper wrote something.

    2. The rev doesn't like anything to the left of Chairman Mao? That's the comment?

      1. Hey, more ignorance. Simple minds Authoritarian Markets.

        1. Did all the retards on this site join some sort of union where they have to defend each other from appropriate ridicule?

  12. Meh who cares, NYT defends socialism, Joe Hands In Her Pants Biden, Cuomo's Mask Ordinance, and anything left of center where the center is around the planet size ego of brainless AOC. I literally don't care what anyone in NYC thinks about anything. If they feel it's important come see the paradise out west and let me show you with my fist in your face. Because frankly you fuckers don't get a say.

  13. We plan customized campaigns to meet your organizational requirements and campaign goals.

    Our social media quality AUDIT reports and consumer research analytics with BigData & Social media metrics give you in-depth insights that will help us plan, design, implement & monitor your digital marketing and social media brand campaigns to reach relevant target audiences for measurable goals.

    We also provide custom designed seo services in pune and social media corporate training by the Best Digital Marketing Professional in India services for Top Organizations and Elite Academic institutions with extended digital skill up-gradation and support through the year.

  14. The New York Times may as well be the liberal equivalent of One America News. Anyone who reads that rag for its "facts" bought into their side of the fake news years ago. If one wants to escape poverty, the first thing one must learn is how to save and generational wealth. There are PLENTY of poor people, like penniless poor people, who come to this country both legally and illegally alike who escape poverty. Many of them don't even qualify for state aid and yet they still manage to escape poverty in a few generations.

    If that is any clue, my guess is that if they went the route of reparations, the money would go to electronics, cars, and eating out and recipients of the money would by and large be back to square one in no time flat. Slavery was terrible...but very few (no one at all?) today knows or even knew a slave. It might as well be ancient history. Jews easily have as much to complaint about but I don't recall seeing large Jewish ghettos and high crimes rates among their people. Lots of struggles for lots of people and most rise above it...especially after hundreds of years.

  15. Harrison Nevel is a famous YouTuber from the US who runs his own self titled channel. harrison nevel net worth is of 450K USD. His content is mainly clothing related videos. He gives advice on fashion, DIYs, and challenges.

  16. tallest NBA players ever: Muresan ranks as the tallest player to participate in an NBA game. His career was much more than a novelty act.

Please to post comments