Just weeks after questionable comments about Black leadership in D.C., Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) is once again accused of racism for arguing that slavery was a "necessary evil."
Cotton's comments came during criticisms of the 1619 Project, a New York Times essay series examining the impact of slavery on the United States and its founding. Cotton introduced a bill that would cut funding for schools that incorporated the 1619 Project as part of their curriculums.
Cotton told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:
"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 Lincoln said, to put slavery on the course to its ultimate extinction."
The comments were criticized by historian and writer Nikole Hannah-Jones, who spearheaded the 1619 Project.
If chattel slavery — heritable, generational, permanent, race-based slavery where it was legal to rape, torture, an… https://t.co/enFXza2e0v— Ida Bae Wells (@Ida Bae Wells) 1595788611.0
Cotton is now attempting to walk back the comments by claiming that slavery as a necessary evil was a view put forth by the founding fathers and Abraham Lincoln.
He falsely claimed that the 1619 Project was "debunked."
More lies from the debunked 1619 Project. Describing the *views of the Founders* and how they put the evil instit… https://t.co/cdbISAFWnQ— Tom Cotton (@Tom Cotton) 1595795614.0
In reality, slavery was not on a "path to extinction," but actually expanded with the advent of cotton and other lucrative crops in the southern states. By the time of the Civil War, slavery was relied upon for labor to maintain these crops.
Cotton was swiftly corrected.
Contra Sen. Cotton, slavery was neither a "necessary" evil nor destined for "ultimate extinction." Slavery was a ch… https://t.co/RT1VDfkKKT— Joshua D. Rothman (@Joshua D. Rothman) 1595790779.0
@TomCottonAR They had debates about slavery and chose to keep it. It allowed people like your great great great gre… https://t.co/NZY5adZUMW— Maryam Mohamad (@Maryam Mohamad) 1595795781.0
@TomCottonAR Can you share the source for how the Founders put slavery on a path to extinction? Did they predict th… https://t.co/Yn0C83S5rq— annand (@annand) 1595818157.0
@TomCottonAR "Debunked" does not mean "something I don't agree with."— Dennis Croskey (@Dennis Croskey) 1595803721.0
@TomCottonAR That "path to extinction" was so effective it only took 76 years and the deaths of more than 600,000 people to achieve it...— Jessi Wigdahl (@Jessi Wigdahl) 1595805163.0
@TomCottonAR A path to extinction that somehow wended its way through the first half of the 19th century when the d… https://t.co/AWrPOvF4Hm— Jeremy Neely (@Jeremy Neely) 1595818625.0
People soon began roasting Cotton for his reinterpretation of history.
@TomCottonAR A southern white senator named Cotton who doesn't understand the material legacies of slavery or the Founding. Shocker.— William D. Adler (@William D. Adler) 1595803694.0
@TomCottonAR Why are you taking such a strong stance against understanding the experience of Black Americans?— Ricky Dale Harrington Jr. (@Ricky Dale Harrington Jr.) 1595796977.0
@TomCottonAR Racism strictly for the sake of racism. Not even wrapping it up in a bow here.— Julia (Juju) Hook (@Julia (Juju) Hook) 1595803249.0
@TomCottonAR @realDonaldTrump Thanks for confirming that you said 'slavery was a necessary evil'.— D Villella ❄️ (@D Villella ❄️) 1595808972.0
Cotton's press secretary, James Arnold, stressed that Cotton was expressing the views of the founding fathers, and that "reporting to the contrary is politically motivated and dishonest."