A senator for the state of Arkansas is defending comments he made on slavery in the United States.
Republican Senator Tom Cotton said US founders viewed slavery as a “necessary evil upon which the union was built”.
His comments were criticized as an attempt justify the slavery of black people.
He is introducing legislation to ban federal funds for a project by the New York Times newspaper, aimed at revising the historical view of slavery.
The project’s founder expressed outrage at the remarks.
What did Senator Cotton say?
Senator Cotton told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that he rejects the idea that the US was a systemically racist country to its core.
“We have to study the history of slavery and its role and impact on the development of our country because otherwise we can’t understand our country.
“As the Founding Fathers said, it was the necessary evil upon which the union was built, but the union was built in a way, as [Abraham] Lincoln said, to put slavery on the course to its ultimate extinction.”
On Thursday Senator Cotton introduced the Saving American History Act, aimed at stopping funding for 1619, an initiative which bases US history teaching around the first arrivals of slave ships in the US in August of that year.
The project won the Pulitzer prize for commentary for its founder, New York Times journalist Nicole Hannah-Jones, but it has been criticised by many US conservatives as an attempt to shift focus from American independence to slavery.
After five prominent historians wrote to the Times to flag historical inaccuracies, the newspaper corrected the article with two words; the phrase “some of” was added to describe the number colonists who wanted to secede from Britain in order to preserve slavery.
“The entire premise of the New York Times’ factually, historically flawed 1619 Project… is that America is at root, a systemically racist country to the core and irredeemable,” Senator Cotton said, calling the project “left-wing propaganda”.