Participant complains of 'falsehoods' in library's 1619 Project programs

The CH-UH library has sponsored and promoted a [series of programs about] The 1619 Project, a collection of essays compiled by a New York Times staffer about the role and impact of slavery in the U.S.

Shortly after the program [about the project] was distributed to schools and libraries in 2019, [some] prominent American history scholars condemned The 1619 Project for its bias and falsehoods about America’s founding and the role of slavery. Mary Grabar of the Alexander Hamilton Institute called it a "jumble of lies, half-lies, bad history and bad faith." Historian Robert Paquette of Hamilton College called it "dangerous rubbish."

The materials on the library’s 1619 Web page do not include any of the criticisms, and exclude the views of dissenting Black intellectuals. Kay Coles James, president of the conservative Heritage Foundation, said that the dubious history of The 1619 Project hurts the cause of racial reconciliation by creating a "false narrative." 

I zoomed in to two sessions conducted by Heights Libraries’ employee and moderator John Piche. A recording of the sessions shows that when I made my first and only comment—to refute a recurring false claim about the Constitution, the first contrarian comment of any kind in the entire program—Piche soon interrupted and muted my comment, as he had never done to other, more contentious and long-winded participants.

The general theme of the material and discussion is the never-ending misery, hopelessness, and lack of opportunity for African Americans. A group of Black intellectuals and writers who reject the “grievance peddling” and “victimhood culture” of the 1619 Project have launched, which offers "a special focus on stories that celebrate black excellence" and "showcases African-Americans who have prospered by embracing America’s founding ideals."  

I asked Piche about the scholars' criticisms of the program and if the library had any standards for evaluating programs. Piche replied that "supervisors" approved the program. I submitted a formal review request to the library, recommended the 1776 Unites curriculum, and suggested Mr. Piche was too biased to present a balanced view on the subject.

In a written reply, Library Director Nancy Levin advised me that a library board committee reviewed my complaint, and said, in part: "We have heard your complaint and will be dedicating the May 13 program to address the controversy and criticism of The 1619 Project in a program called '1619 Project vs. 1776 Project'. Additionally, when applicable, conservative scholars will be included in future discussion packets."

The library declined to include the 1776 Unites material, and John Piche continues as the moderator. The 1776 Project is a different program than 1776 Unites.

Robert Shwab

Robert Shwab, an arbitrator for FINRA and a business consultant, is a resident of Cleveland Heights.

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Volume 14, Issue 4, Posted 2:40 PM, 03.17.2021