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Photo Credit: Jon Ort / The Daily Princetonian

To the Editor:

In my interview with your reporter, James Anderson, I misspoke on one matter. As spelled out in the article I wrote in The Atlantic, my objection to the 1619 Project's handling of the American Revolution is that it asserts, first, that Britain was deeply conflicted in 1776 over its connection to slavery; second, that there were also at that time rising calls in London against the Atlantic slave trade; and third, that closing the trade would have upended the colonial economy, North and South. Entirely on the basis of these three statements, the project’s lead essay asserts that protecting slavery was a primary reason why the Americans declared their independence. But all three statements are false. While talking with Mr. Anderson, I unfortunately let the word “government” slip in, which was a mistake. I stand by what I wrote in The Atlantic, and note that, in her conversation with your reporter, Nikole Hannah-Jones asserted that, at the time of the American Revolution, “there was a pre-existing abolitionist movement in Britain.” That assertion is just as false as her earlier claim about mounting British protests against the Atlantic slave trade in 1776. I regret my mistake and hope that this letter clarifies matters.

Sincerely yours,

Sean Wilentz

George Henry Davis 1886 Professor of American History

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