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To Preserve Slavery? Debating the Cause of the American Revolution

To Preserve Slavery? Debating the Cause of the American Revolution

This talk by University of Maryland historian Dr. Richard Bell examines The 1619 Project’s controversial claim that “one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery.”

When those twenty-four words first appeared in print in the New York Times magazine back in August 2019, they shocked lay readers and many historians as well. In a public letter to the Times demanding corrections to The 1619 Project, five senior US history professors wrote that “This is not true. If supportable, the allegation would be astounding.”

Given the enduring belief that the patriots fought the American Revolution to achieve life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, Nikole Hannah-Jones’ claim is certainly astounding. But is it supportable? What’s the evidence? Does any of it hold water? Those are the questions that animate this lecture: to weigh the evidence for and against the claim that Americans fought the American revolution to preserve and protect their right to own other human beings as slaves.

Richard Bell photo

About Richard

Dr. Richard Bell is Professor of History at the University of Maryland and author of the book Stolen: Five Free Boys Kidnapped into Slavery and their Astonishing Odyssey Home which was a finalist for the George Washington Prize and the Harriet Tubman Prize. He has held major research fellowships at Yale, Cambridge and the Library of Congress and is the recipient of the National Endowment of the Humanities Public Scholar award and the 2021 Andrew Carnegie Fellowship. Dr. Bell serves as a Trustee of the Maryland Center for History and Culture and as a fellow of the Royal Historical Society.


This event will be held in the Board Auditorium at the Fairfax County Government Center, 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, VA.

This program is appropriate for ages 18+. Register by clicking on the "Begin Registration" button (below). 

Related LibGuide: Adults and 50-Plus by Fairfax County Public Library (Admin)

Monday, May 8, 2023
7:00pm - 8:30pm
Government Center
FCPL Event Guidelines
Registrations open at 10:00am Monday, April 10, 2023

Event Organizer

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FCPL Administration Staff

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