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September 8, 2022

1619 Strikes Again

Rewriting history was never the only thing to be done. Silencing critics was always next.

There was a time when history was a respected branch of the humanities that gave students and scholars an opportunity to study our past with the hope of understanding our present and preparing for our future. That time seems itself like a part of history.

Now, like many other once respected fields of study, history has been distorted and reshaped by woke leftists to support their intellectually bankrupt worldview. Scholars of note who have spent decades studying the past and formulating grounded theories have had their work thoughtlessly cast aside and delegitimized for the sole reason that it did not comport with the leftist worldview.

Take, for instance, a recent episode involving James Sweet, professor of history at the University of Wisconsin. Sweet is a scholar of African history with a long and distinguished list of publications and lectures. He is also the current president of the American Historical Association, which “promotes historical work and the importance of historical thinking in public life,” according to its website.

In a recent issue of the association’s journal, Perspectives on History, Sweet shared some thoughts about the decline of the history profession. It’s a topic of valid concern. In recent years, participation in history at the college level has taken a nosedive. It has suffered the steepest decline of all undergraduate majors, and it would be steeper if not for “diversity requirements” that mandate enrollment in basic history courses. In 2019, history accounted for about 1% of all bachelor’s degrees awarded, the lowest since 1949.

Sweet pondered if “presentism” might be part of the problem. Scholarship of history before 1800 has declined in relation to interest in contemporary socioeconomic topics. He wrote, “This new history often ignores the values and mores of people in their own times, as well as change over time, neutralizing the expertise that separates historians from those in other disciplines.”

Sweet used the 1619 Project as an example of opinionated work that has been passed off as legitimate historical scholarship. We’ve covered in detail this racist attempt to rewrite American history, so Sweet’s grievances should be familiar. What should also be familiar is what followed Sweet’s perfectly reasonable attempt to open a dialogue about the condition of current historical scholarship.

Nikole Hannah-Jones, author of the 1619 Project, and her woke friends wasted no time attacking Sweet for his so-called insensitivity and racist worldview, which of course in the real world means that he was spot-on in his assessment. Just the same, the level of vitriol was enough to make Sweet reverse course and issue a shamefully submissive apology. You can read Sweet’s original article here, which is unfortunately preceded by said apology.

Sweet’s take on the harm that has come to the history profession is valid, made all the more so by leftists’ reflexive and unprofessional reaction. They always tip their hand and reveal their indefensible stance when they engage in this type of bullying, but it silences the opposition, and that’s all that counts in the long run.

Sweet was wrong to apologize. He is not pursuing a political agenda; he is a scholar attempting to defend the greater character of his profession. He should not feel guilty about what he wrote. Only when we choose to stand by the courage of our convictions and stop apologizing to the woke mob will we be free of its ideological and intellectual tyranny.

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