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Letter: Yes, the story of slavery is revisionist

Circa 1800: Slaves picking cotton on a plantation.

Circa 1800: Slaves picking cotton on a plantation. Credit: Getty Images/Hulton Archive

History evolves as scholars learn more

When The New York Times published “The 1619 Project” on Aug. 18, there was a backlash from conservative critics about the integrity and accuracy of the project, which aims to reframe U.S. history with slavery as its foundation.

Newsday columnist Cathy Young writes that the project is “revisionist,” a common pejorative used to discredit histories that highlight negative aspects of America’s past [“A revisionist narrative of slavery,” Opinion, Aug. 20].

But all history is revisionist, as it is based on newly uncovered primary sources, scholarship, and contributions from groups — like enslaved Africans and African-Americans — excluded from previous accounts. The editors and authors of “The 1619 Project” would likely embrace the claim that theirs is a revisionist history that tells “the unvarnished truth,” in the words of historian John Hope Franklin.

Young writes that “we risk replacing one mythology with another that demonizes America and its achievements” and could make “ordinary Americans feel that patriotism is being made politically incorrect.” This is a false dichotomy; history isn’t a zero-sum endeavor, either patriotic or critical. It’s both, because uncovering negative aspects from the past pushes us toward a brighter future.

As a teacher of history, I must teach about the good, the bad and the ugly to help students think critically to understand the devastating impact of slavery and racism on our country.

Dennis Urban,

  Massapequa Park

Editor’s note: The writer teaches at John F. Kennedy High School in Bellmore.

Suffolk lawmaker should show up

To Susan Berland’s request to Skype into meetings of the Suffolk County Legislature, which represents hubris of the highest order, I say a resounding NO [“Participation via Skype?,” News, Aug. 19].

She was elected to serve as a legislator, and serving means being there. If that is too much, I suggest she resign in favor of someone who cares more for his or her constituents than about vacations, which can be scheduled when the legislature is not in session. And I say this as a member of the Democratic Party, the same as Berland.

Richard M. Frauenglass,

  Huntington

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