Follow-Up: CCSU Professors React to Colleague's Criticism of The 1619 Project

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A Central Connecticut State University professor's use of his platform to discourage local schools from teaching The 1619 Project has elicited strong reaction.

Colleagues are raising concerns after an NBC Connecticut Investigates report on an email sent by Professor Jay Bergman to superintendents across the state.

The 1619 Project, longform journalism by the New York Times, advocates taking a fresh look at the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans.

Some of the harshest comments regarding Bergman’s letter actually came from members of his own history department.

Last January, Bergman, a European history professor at CCSU, emailed more than 200 superintendents in Connecticut saying The 1619 Project was "entirely false, mostly false, or misleading," citing historians both on the right and left. He did this using his CCSU email account.

Fellow professors, after seeing the story, got heated in comments obtained by NBC Connecticut Investigates.

A state university professor is denouncing an award-winning initiative named The 1619 Project, calling the project and its creator misleading, bigoted, and more. But the professor’s critique, and how he distributed it, has raised questions.

A letter signed by six members of the history department objected to Bergman’s statements, and declared that his views do not in any way represent the views of those who teach U.S. and African American history.

They went on to say the 1619 project forced historians to root out the history of enslavement and racism from “where older historians had hidden it.”

The story was also the subject of a separate email to faculty and sparked a discussion about free speech.

An astronomy professor called for a formal censuring of Bergman by his colleagues, saying "He does not speak for us - he should stop misleading others into believing that he does."

The interim chair of Bergman's history department added, "his opinions about the schools' curriculum, if he wanted to express them, should have been delivered as a citizen, not as a professor of history opining in an area where he lacks expertise.

Bergman responded to NBC Connecticut Investigates, saying he was most troubled that his arguments were not refuted by his colleagues. He provided the following statement:

"What was perhaps most troubling about the reaction among colleagues at CCSU to my email to superintendents was the absence of any consideration, much less any attempt at refutation, of the arguments I laid out in the original email.

"Instead, they were personal attacks, with the clear implication that because I merely disagreed with their opinions on an issue of public importance, I was morally deficient.

"In fact, one of my colleagues even called me, to my face, a racist. That is hardly the way political disagreements should be dealt with not only on a college campus, but by civilized people everywhere. "

The university has said it strongly disagrees with many of Bergman’s statements, but it has not indicated it will pursue any disciplinary action.

For the original story, and more information on The 1619 Project, click below.

Letter from History Department Professors

Email from Bergman to Superintendents

Educator Interest in The 1619 Project Materials

The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, a partner of the 1619 Project, is tracking interest in the curriculum through anonymous surveys educators can fill out on their site. Click the photo for more from The Pulitzer Center.

The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting
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