McConnell alma mater criticizes him for 1619 comments

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is facing backlash from his alma mater over comments he made this week rejecting the idea that 1619, when the first enslaved people arrived in America, was one of the most important points in U.S. history.

“[McConnell’s comments] are quite troubling for American descendants of slaves, our allies and those who support us,” V. Faye Jones, the University of Louisville’s interim senior associate vice president for diversity and equity, said in a campus-wide email on Thursday, according to the Courier-Journal.

“To imply that slavery is not an important part of United States history not only fails to provide a true representation of the facts, but also denies the heritage, culture, resilience and survival of Black people in America,” Jones continued. 

“It also fails to give context to the history of systemic racial discrimination, the United States’ ‘original sin’ as Sen. McConnell called it, which still plagues us today,” Jones said.

Republicans including McConnell have been growing more vocal in their opposition to critical race theory and The New York Times’s 1619 Project.

“I think this is about American history and the most important dates in American history. And my view — and I think most Americans think — dates like 1776, the Declaration of Independence; 1787, the Constitution; 1861-1865, the Civil War, are sort of the basic tenets of American history,” McConnell said during a speech at the university on Monday.

“There are a lot of exotic notions about what are the most important points in American history. I simply disagree with the notion that The New York Times laid out there that the year 1619 was one of those years,” he continued.

The 1619 Project seeks to trace American history through systemic racism and the aftermath of the slave trade, pointing out the racist origins of multiple U.S. institutions.

“What we know to be true is that slavery and the date the first enslaved Africans arrived and were sold on U.S. soil are more than an ‘exotic notion,’ ” Jones wrote in Thursday’s email. “If the Civil War is a significant part of history, should not the basis for it also be viewed as significant?”

McConnell graduated from Louisville in 1964, according to the Courier-Journal. In 1991, he founded the McConnell Center on the campus, providing scholarships for students.

Jones said stated that the university’s president and provost join her in rejecting McConnell’s sentiments.

“Our vision statement affirms that we ‘commit ourselves to building an exemplary educational community that offers a nurturing and challenging intellectual climate, a respect for the spectrum of human diversity, and a genuine understanding of the many differences — including race, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, religion, diversity of thought and political ideology — that enrich a vibrant metropolitan research university,’ ” she said. “To be true to that vision, President [Neeli] Bendapudi, Provost [Lori Stewart] Gonzalez and I reject the idea that the year 1619 is not a critical moment in the history of this country.”

Tags Courier-Journal Critical race theory Kentucky legacy of slavery Louisville Mitch McConnell Slave trade Slavery Slavery in the United States systemic racism The 1619 Project V. Faye Jones

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