As a first principle, history cannot be equated with comfort, nostalgia, or a fixed arc of progress. We need to get the facts right; otherwise, we are trading only in what Du Bois called “lies agreed upon.” In particular, we can’t elide the facts that complicate how we might see a historical figure or event. Washington held slaves, and he didn’t treat them very well. Jefferson wrote brilliantly about democracy, and he also owned slaves, exploited Sally Hemings, the enslaved mother of his children, and wondered aloud if black people were biologically inferior. The record shows this to be true.

— From The History That James Baldwin Wanted America to See