The University of Louisville has publicly rebuked Senator Mitch McConnell, one of its most prominent graduates, after he refused to recognize the significance of the date 1619 in American history, commonly acknowledged as the start of American slavery.
Dr. V. Faye Jones, the school’s interim senior associate vice president for diversity and equity, remarked in a university-wide email issued on Thursday that McConnell’s comments are “troubling” for the descendants of slaves.
“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 said in the email.
“What we know to be true is that slavery and the date the first enslaved Africans arrived and were sold on US soil are more than an ‘exotic notion,’” she added.
The controversial statement came on Monday in response to a reporter questioning McConnell about a letter he and other Republican senators sent to US Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, critiquing educational initiatives to tackle systemic racism.
“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.
The senate minority leader also called attention to the New York Times Magazine initiative, The 1619 Project, saying that “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.”
Jones clarified in the email that University of Louisville leaders disagree with his statements, and the rebuke was necessary to remain aligned with its vision.
“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,’” Jones wrote.