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One of us is a Golden Gopher, class of '89, and the other has written widely on controversial topics including race and racism. As longtime academics, we were both proud and dismayed on hearing that the University of Minnesota's Distinguished Carlson Lecture Series will host New York Times "1619 Project" Director Nikole Hannah-Jones on Tuesday, Dec 6.

We were proud because universities should offer platforms for a broad range of controversial ideas. As Keith Whittington writes in "Speak Freely: Why universities must defend free speech," the very mission of a modern American university is to propose and test ideas rather than impose the fashionable orthodoxies of the elites.

Yet we were also dismayed, because in higher education generally — including at the University of Minnesota — voices questioning The 1619 Project are seldom welcome, even though the project's analysis is in fact highly questionable.

A Pulitzer Prize winning collection of essays and works of art, The 1619 Project proposes to define America by its history of racism and slavery, which allegedly motivated the American Revolution. Factually, this is highly problematic.

Only four of the 31 authors contributing to the project are historians, and none are experts on the U.S. founding. It shows.

Prominent historians such as James McPherson, James Oakes and others have rebutted 1619's central claims. A 1619 Project fact-checker and (sympathetic) professional historian publicly regretted that Nikole Hannah-Jones refused to accept facts that contradicted her simplistic story of unrelenting oppression.

1619's mistakes are many. For instance, Native Americans practiced slavery long before Europeans arrived in the Western Hemisphere, and the first enslaved Africans (and first slave revolt) came to what became the U.S. not in 1619, but in 1526.

Historians agree the founders did not fight the Revolutionary War to save slavery, which continued in British colonies for a half-century after Americans declared independence in 1776.

Plantation owners considered the Declaration of Independence so anti-slavery that in the years before the Civil War, they sought to rewrite the document to impose their view that only all white men are created equal.

The Founders saw the ideals of the American Revolution as advancing freedom. Many (mistakenly) hoped slavery would die out after they banned the importation of enslaved peoples.

Though a slave owner, Declaration of Independence chief author Thomas Jefferson proposed gradual emancipation in his native Virginia. In 1784 Jefferson came within one vote of securing a congressional ban of slavery in the West, including lands that later became Alabama and Mississippi. This might have sent U.S. slavery into a slow death. Jefferson observed bitterly that his failure doomed "millions unborn."

In the first decades of independence, most Northern states incrementally ended slavery, becoming among the first governments on earth to do so. Northern state legislatures often ended slavery in response to petitions from Black Revolutionary War veterans.

The 1619 Project ignores this complicated history. Instead, as scholar Peter Wood writes in 1620: A Critical Response to the 1619 Project, 1619 is in part a case for reparations, but also "an effort to destroy America by teaching children that America never really existed, except as a lie told by white people in an effort to control Black people."

Americans argue about whether our thoroughly disavowed history of slavery defines our nation. Yet in many nations, slavery continued into the 20th century and beyond. Mauritania criminalized slavery only in 2007. As in the 19th century U.S., in 21st century Mauritania slavery is tied to ethnicity, with Arab slave owners and Black African enslaved peoples.

1776 Unites, an ideologically diverse group of Black intellectuals to which one of us belongs, has made a standing offer to debate Nikole Hannah-Jones and other prominent leftists regarding our nation's founding and purpose. Tellingly, none have responded, just as powerful segregationists never debated Martin Luther King. When you dominate major institutions like the New York Times and higher education, why allow dissenters to expose your errors?

Accordingly, we respectfully urge the Humphrey School of Public Affairs to offer 1619 critics an opportunity to correct the record in the months ahead, perhaps through a debate about 1619. Our nation's future may depend on our knowledge of its past.

Robert Maranto is the 21st Century chair in leadership in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas. He earned a Ph.D. in political science at Minnesota in 1989. Wilfred Reilly is an associate professor of political science at Kentucky State University whose most recent book is "Taboo: 10 facts you can't talk about." The views expressed here are solely their own.