Civil rights activist Bob Woodson slammed the Pulitzer for awarding the New York Times’ lead writer of the “1619 Project” an award in commentary.
The “1619 Project” was written by journalists and opinion writers and aims “to reframe the country’s history” by suggesting America’s “true founding” was when the first slaves arrived in 1619. NYT writer Nikole Hannah-Jones received a Pulitzer Prize for her work with the project on May 4, a move that Woodson says reinforces the project’s supposed “hate America first initiative.”
“I think the awarding of Nikole Hannah-Jones the Pulitzer for her essay … really is a part of a narrative that started five decades ago on the part of the left to really denigrate the country to disparage its beginnings, to re-write its history, to suggest on these essays that America should be defined primarily by its birth defect of slavery,” Woodson told the Daily Caller.
Woodson is the founder of The Woodson Center as well as the “1776 Initiative,” which is a project aimed at combating the teachings of the “1619 Project.”
Hannah-Jones disagreed with Woodson’s comments about the project in responses to the Daily Caller and criticized the civil rights activist for how he spends his time.
“The truth is, Mr. Woodson is neither a journalist nor a historian, and despite his last civil rights bonafides occuring [sic] four decades ago, he has no credentials or particular expertise to say what should or should not be deemed worthy of a Pulitzer Prize and to make such a statemet [sic] is disrespectful to the character and ethics of the prestigious jurors who made the selection,” Hannah-Jones wrote.
“One must wonder at time where black men like Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd are dying in extrajudicial killings, where the black unemployment rate [with] likely reach upwards of 20 percent, Mr. Woodson is spending his precious time on a months-long conservative media tour to disparage a project led by a black woman on the black experience and black contributions to America. It seems to me that there is more important work for a civil rights leader to do.”
Among Woodson’s concerns about the “1619 Project” is its idea that “America should be defined primarily by its birth defect of slavery,” he said. Woodson criticized the project for suggesting that “because some of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were slaveholders … the whole fundamental value premise of the country is therefore suspect.”
Woodson has also voiced concerns that the project will serve as a crutch for black Americans moving forward. The NYT “1619 Project” has been implemented in schools across the country, despite concerns from some historians.
“They say that it was the legacy or the shadow of slavery and discrimination that is the cause of our contemporary problems, and under this arrangement it means that black Americans who are engaging in self-destructive patterns of behavior are therefore exempt from personal responsibility because of this history,” Woodson told the Daily Caller. “And that’s very dangerous, to say to someone, ‘they are not agents of their own uplift,’ that somehow a people who hates them are responsible for their uplift.”
Hannah-Jones disagreed with this, too, saying that “no one with integrity who reads the 1619 Project can argue that it promotes black victimhood nor hatred for America.”
“My opening essay on democracy shows how black people have valiantly fought for the ideals of this country and in fact have served as the perfectors of this democracy generation and generation, contributing the only true original culture this country has and refusing to bow to slavery, segregation or on-going inequality,” Hannah-Jones responded. “That’s a story of empowerment, not victimization. Wesley Morris’s essay on music states that American music is black music, and that black music is the sound of freedom. One wonders where the victimization lies there.”
“The magazine ends with a photo essay of four black graduates of Howard Law School, the premier historically black law school in the country, in which we trace their ancestry back to slavery to showblack Americans’ refusal to bow to the most devastating oppression and how far black Americans have come. The 1619 Project features nearly two dozen poems and short works of fiction by the most laureled living black American writers. One wonders if Mr. Woodson has actually read the 1619 Project at all, or if he believes black Americans to be so feeble-minded that they cannot handle to learn a truer history about a country where they remain at the bottom of every indicator or well being. ”
Hannah-Jones called Woodson’s responses “great conservative talking points” but alleged that his “argument lacks rigor and thoughtfulness and substance.”