The National Association of Scholars has called for the Pulitzer Prize Board to revoke the Prize it awarded to The New York Times’ Nikole Hannah-Jones earlier this year for her lead essay in the Gray Lady’s historically challenged The 1619 Project.
Their call is not merely for the many well-documented historical inaccuracies of the Project’s central thesis and supporting argumentation. They are calling for Hannah-Jones’ prize to be rescinded as well for the resultant academic and journalist troubles demonstrated by Hannah-Jones and The Times in the face of this substantial criticism.
In late September, a major story broke at Quillette showing how Hannah-Jones and The Times secretly deleted the most fundament claim of her piece – that slavery was the central reason for our nation’s founding – and in a series of now-deleted posts, Hannah-Jones boldly claimed that the “#1619Project does not argue that 1619 is our true founding.”
The National Association of Scholars (NAS) explains that “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.” They add, “Hannah-Jones has falsely put forward claims that she never said or wrote what she plainly did, the offense is far more serious.”
Their assertion is that this is not award-winning behavior.
The central and clearly articulated thesis of the Project was that our nation’s “true founding” was not 1776, but rather 1619 when some twenty African slaves were shipped to these shores at Jamestown. Hence, the project’s very name. But for some reason, The Times tried to surreptitiously erase that part of the story, as Quillette and others have documented.
As such, the Project asserted that “our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written” because slavery was “at the very center of the story” of our nation’s founding. As Peter Wood, President of the National Association of Scholars (NAS), explains “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.”
Criticism of The 1619 Project was significant and sudden when it appeared late last year. Critics as diverse and wide-ranging as even the World Socialist Web Site denounced the Project early on as a “racialist falsification of American and world history.” Leslie Harris, a professor of history of African-American slavery at Northwestern University, explained in a thorough essay in Politico how she was chosen as a fact-checker for the project, but that, “despite my advice, the Times published the incorrect statement about [slavery being a key reason for] the American Revolution anyway in Hannah-Jones’ introductory essay.” Harris explains, “The United States was not, in fact, founded to protect slavery—but the Times is right that slavery was central to its story.”
In fact, five of the world’s leading scholars of the period were quick to point out the Projects deep historical carelessness and oversights in a very public letter to the Times’ editor, even while explaining “we applaud” its spirit. The New York Times largely dismissed the scholar’s serious concerns offering a relativistic explanation that “historical understanding is not fixed; it is constantly being adjusted by new scholarship and new voices.”
Many of these scholars sat for extended interviews with the World Socialist Web Site to discuss their concerns with the revisionist slant of the 1619 Project and they can be seen here, here, here, here, and here. Princeton’s James McPherson was keen to remind us that while slavery was indeed a very dark curse on the soul of our nation, “opposition to slavery has also been an important theme in American history” as well.
The 21 signatories of the National Association of Scholars’ letter are found here.
Photo from Mike Vitelli/BFA.com for The New
Visit our Election 2020 page