The New York Times has begun a major initiative, the “1619 Project,” to observe the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe American history so that slavery and the contributions of black Americans explain who we are as a nation. Nikole Hannah-Jones, staff writer for The New York Times Magazine wrote the lead article, “America Wasn’t a Democracy, Until Black Americans Made It One.” She writes, “Without the idealistic, strenuous and patriotic efforts of black Americans, our democracy today would most likely look very different — it might not be a democracy at all.”
There are several challenges one can make about Hannah-Jones’ article, but I’m going to focus on the article’s most serious error, namely that the nation’s founders intended for us to be a democracy. That error is shared by too many Americans. The word democracy appears nowhere in the two most fundamental founding documents of our nation — the Declaration of Independence
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