National Association Of Scholars: Revoke Pulitzer Prize For 1619 Project

The Project as a whole was marred by similar faults. Prominent historians, most of them deeply sympathetic to the Project’s goal of bringing the African American experience more fully into our understanding of the American past, nevertheless felt obliged to point out, in public statements beginning in September 2019, the Project’s serious factual errors, specious generalizations, and forced interpretations. Hannah-Jones did not refute these criticisms or answer them in a respectful or meaningful way. Instead, she dismissed them. In December 2019 five prominent historians wrote a joint letter to The New York Times expressing their “strong reservations about important aspects of the 1619 Project.”1  The New York Times Magazine’s editor-in-chief Jake Silverstein brushed aside the letter with the explanation that “historical understanding is not fixed; it is constantly being adjusted by new scholarship and new voices.”2 True enough; but he refrained from also mentioning that the advance of historical understanding always involves the testing of new interpretations through a process of open criticism and the free exchange of ideas in honest debate, the very things that Hannah-Jones has consistently disdained. Despite this stonewalling, the criticisms of The 1619 Project continued, notably in another joint letter signed by twelve other historians on December 30. Mr. Silverstein again responded, saying that the Times’s “research desk” had examined their criticisms and “concluded no corrections are warranted.”3

But that was not the end of it. On March 6, 2020, historian Leslie M. Harris, one of the Times’s own fact-checkers, revealed that she had warned the newspaper that an assertion that “the patriots fought the American Revolution in large part to preserve slavery in North America” was plainly false. Harris identified numerous other mistakes that she had pointed out to the Times in advance of the publication of The 1619 Project, none of which was corrected. The Timesdid, however, respond to Harris’s March 6 revelation by adding the above-mentioned correction on March 11. Where Hannah-Jones had originally written, “one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery,” the new text says “some of the colonists.” Even this softened assertion has little or no documentary basis, according to the most distinguished specialists in the period.

Hannah-Jones’s refusal to correct her errors or engage her critics, we have recently learned, was accompanied by surreptitious efforts by The New York Times to alter the record of what it had published in the original magazine of August 18, 2019. Providing no public explanation or acknowledgment of its actions, the Times amended the digital version of the Project text. Not until September 19, 2020, when historian Phillip Magness compared the original and digital versions of the essay in the journal Quillette, did the alterations come to light.4 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. Read more»

William B. Allen, Larry P. Arnn, et al., “Pulitzer Board Must Revoke Nikole Hannah-Jones’ Prize”


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One comment

  1. Thank you, Dr Clark, for drawiing our attention to such a high standard of blogging and subsequent discussion!

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