In a final, fatal rebuke of Nikole Hannah-Jones’s 1619 Project, a collection of 21 professors, academics, and historian have sent a declamatory statement to the Pulitzer Board, demanding that they revoke the award given to the New York Times writer for her inaccurate, divisive, fact-lacking attempt at rewriting American history through the lens of racism and slavery.
“The National Association of Scholars has agreed to host this public letter to the Pulitzer Prize Board,” wrote Peter Wood, the president of the group. “The letter calls on the Board to rescind the prize it awarded to Nikole Hannah-Jones earlier this year. I am one of the 21 signatories. A hard copy has been mailed to the Pulitzer Committee as well as a digital copy.”
The letter begins: “We call on the Pulitzer Prize Board to rescind the 2020 Prize for Commentary awarded to Nikole Hannah-Jones for her lead essay in ‘The 1619 Project.’ That essay was entitled, ‘Our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written.’ But it turns out the article itself was false when written, making a large claim that protecting the institution of slavery was a primary motive for the American Revolution, a claim for which there is simply no evidence.”
Arguing for the prize’s revocation, the scholars noted that the New York Times has been busy retracting and editing the essay, the project, and, indeed, the entire premise behind the 1619 Project in the months since its original publication.
“These were not changes to Hannah-Jones’s essay itself, but to the crucially important introductory materials whose claims—for example, the ‘reframing’ of American history with the year 1619 as the nation’s ‘true founding’—form the underlying rationale of the entire Project,” they wrote. “The duplicity of attempting to alter the historical record in a manner intended to deceive the public is as serious an infraction against professional ethics as a journalist can commit. A ‘sweeping, deeply reported and personal essay,’ as the Pulitzer Prize Board called it, does not have the license to sweep its own errors into obscurity or the remit to publish ‘deeply reported’ falsehoods.”
The letter may be the most recent academic criticism of the much-celebrated 1619 Project, but it is certainly not the first. As far back as January, respected scholars and historians were speaking out against this farce. In an article for The Atlantic, Princeton professor Sean Wilentz disputed many of Hannah-Jones’s claims, including that slavery was one of the main motives behind the American Revolution.
Also critical of the 1619 Project was peerless historian James McPherson, who said he was “disturbed by what seemed like a very unbalanced, one-sided account, which lacked context and perspective on the complexity of slavery.”
But because the main thrust of the essay is “Blacks Good, Whites (and America) Evil,” any criticism of the 1619 Project is treated as racism by Hannah-Jones, The New York Times, and racial activists. As long as you’re on the “right side” of the narrative, the details and facts don’t really matter all that much.
As we’ve learned over and over again.