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Liberty University history professors debunk 1619 Project at Western Conservative Summit

Dr. Samuel Smith (left) and Dr. Carey Roberts’ morning session was the most viewed workshop of the day.

Two history professors from Liberty University’s College of Arts & Sciences participated in the 2021 Western Conservative Summit in Denver, Colo., on Saturday, where they weighed in on the growing popularity of the 1619 Project, a series of articles published by New York Times Magazine that attempt to rewrite the American past through the lens of Critical Race Theory.

Dr. Carey Roberts, professor of history and the online dean for the College of Arts & Sciences, and Dr. Samuel Smith, chair of the Department of History, presented a workshop titled “1619 or 1776? Will the Real America Please Stand Up.” The summit was hosted by Colorado Christian University’s Centennial Institute.

Roberts and Smith pointed out that the 1619 Project weaponizes history to push a political narrative and that the misuse of the discipline is not the proper way to navigate modern issues. They said the 1619 Project, named after the year when slaves first entered the colonies, teaches that all of America’s problems (including traffic jams) are somehow connected to slavery, racism, and capitalism. This extreme dogma, they said, is framed in Marxism, and is an attempt to hijack the next generation to hate America.

Roberts and Smith explained that the 1619 Project cannot honestly contextualize the present because it ignores the complexities of history.

“We should never reduce human existence down to a singular theme, nor attribute our prosperity to a set of abstract principles short of their historic circumstances,” said Roberts, pointing out that the writers of the 1619 Project oversimplify many facets of America’s founding.

Smith and Roberts’ workshop was titled “1619 or 1776? Will the Real America Please Stand Up.”

Smith and Roberts also spoke about an alternative catalog of articles, called the 1776 Project, which was created in response to New York Times Magazine. The 1776 Project observes all pieces of American’s founding, the good and bad, but encourages readers to be thankful and proud for America’s founding principles and its founders, even though many owned slaves.

The workshop amassed the most online streams of any other workshop on Saturday.

“Right now, the best solution for our cultural problem is to remain vigilant and educate ourselves on the dangers of extreme ideologies,” Roberts said of the 1619 Project.

This year’s summit brought in an array of conservative voices, including Lila Rose, founder and president of Live Action, the largest pro-life nonprofit in the nation; Kevin McGary, president of Every Black Life Matters; Victor Davis Hanson, author, and senior fellow at the Hoover Institute; and Masterpiece owner Jack Phillips, who came under immense national scrutiny in 2017 for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple.

“It was gratifying to see the positive reception at our session on the 1619 Project,” Smith said. “The overall conference was equally gratifying. It’s hard to beat that kind of speaker lineup we listened to. Particularly, I was blessed by the Christian emphasis underpinning so many of the conservative presentations.”

Roberts and Smith’s trip was supported by Liberty’s Standing for Freedom Center, which was a summit sponsor. Other sponsors included Live Action, the Heritage Foundation, Turning Point USA, Young Women for America, and Patriot Voices. The Standing for Freedom Center also sponsored the Faith & Freedom Coalition, which took place in Florida simultaneously.

Smith poses alongside attendees following the hour-long presentation

“It was an honor to work with the Freedom Center and help further their work and the work of the Centennial Institute,” Roberts said. “It’s always encouraging to know so many still love their country and are willing to stand up for what is good and just.”

The Standing for Freedom Center’s mission is to preserve life, liberty, and truth for the next generation by educating people of all ages on the fundamental freedoms granted by God.

“We are grateful for our friends at Colorado Christian University and the vitally important work they are doing through the Centennial Institute,” said Ryan Helfenbein, executive director of the Freedom Center. “We were blessed to be able to send two of our own history professors to Denver to contribute their knowledge and wisdom about the destructive, revisionist history of the 1619 Project.”

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