One of the hotly debated questions surrounding “The 1619 Project,” the New York Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of essays is whether race and slavery played a role in the American Revolution. Nikole Hannah-Jones wrote that Southern slave owners supported the Revolution to protect their property (slaves) and to ward off the influence of British abolitionism. Some of her critics argued that this claim was untrue and that it slandered our Founding Fathers.

Now comes an essay in TIME magazine by historian Robert G. Parkinson of Binghamton University, who argues that it is impossible to understand what happened in 1776 without recognizing the importance of race and slavery.

He begins:

Slavery and arguments about race were not only at the heart of the American founding; it was what united the states in the first place. We have been reluctant to admit just how thoroughly the Founding Fathers thought about, talked about, and wrote about race at the moment of American independence...

Recently, a controversy over “critical race theory” has ignited public debate about the centrality of race to American history. As a part of that debate, which has been ongoing since the publication of the 1619 Project, the nation’s founding has come under the most scrutiny. How much did 1776 have to do with race and slavery? The answer is: you can’t tell the story without it. We have given the founding fathers passes when it comes to race. Although we have sometimes condemned an individual founder like Jefferson as a hypocrite, we have explained it away, either by citing the language in the opening paragraphs of the Declaration, or the emancipation efforts of some northern states, or by saying, well, it was the eighteenth century, what can you expect? Yet you only have to look at the very moment of Revolution to see how deeply race was embedded in the patriot cause.

Please read the entire essay. It is enlightening.