A group of scholars published a public letter to the Pulitzer Prize Board on Tuesday, calling on it to strip New York Times writer Nikole Hannah-Jones of her 2020 prize for the 1619 Project.
The “1619 Project” is an article series written by journalists and opinion writers that seeks to retell American history through the lens of slavery and its consequences. It has received criticism from many conservatives and historians for perceived inaccuracies. Most recently, this criticism comes in the form of a letter signed by 21 people and published by The National Association of Scholars after Hannah-Jones, the project’s lead writer, won a Pulitzer Prize in commentary.
“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,'” Peter Wood, a historian and one of the signatories, wrote. “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.”
The letter cites the Pulitzer board’s comments upon giving Hannah-Jones an award in commentary relating to one of her essays. The board, according to the letter, “praised Hannah-Jones for ‘a sweeping, deeply reported and personal essay for the ground-breaking 1619 Project, which seeks to place the enslavement of Africans at the center of America’s story, prompting public conversation about the nation’s founding and evolution.'”
A group of scholars, myself included, are calling on the Pulitzer Board to revoke the prize awarded earlier this year to Nikole Hannah-Jones for her “1619 Project” essay:https://t.co/PHKJx614Q6
— Glenn Loury (@GlennLoury) October 6, 2020
“Note well the last five words,” the letter added. “Clearly the award was meant not merely to honor this one isolated essay, but the Project as a whole, with its framing contention that the year 1619, the date when some twenty Africans arrived at Jamestown, ought to be regarded as the nation’s ‘true founding,’ supplanting the long-honored date of July 4, 1776, which marked the emergence of the United States as an independent nation.”
The letter continues on to detail various criticisms, controversies and “faults” the project has had since its inception – including the NYT’s clarification to Hannah-Jones’ Pulitzer Prize-winning essay. (RELATED: As Top Historians Ring Alarm Bells About NYT’s 1619 Project, Defiant Public Schools Refuse To Answer Questions)
The clarification, according to the letter, softened but did not get rid of “its unsupported assertion about slavery and the Revolution.” The letter also notes various historians who have taken issue with the project.
Hannah-Jones’ 1619 Project is currently described as “an ongoing initiative” that “aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.”
Previously, the project suggested America’s “true founding” was when the first slaves arrived in 1619 – a note that the letter points out.
“The Pulitzer Prize Board erred in awarding a prize to Hannah-Jones’s profoundly flawed essay, and through it to a Project that, despite its worthy intentions, is disfigured by unfounded conjectures and patently false assertions,” according to the letter.
“To err is human. But now that it has come to light that these materials have been ‘corrected’ without public disclosure and Hannah-Jones has falsely put forward claims that she never said or wrote what she plainly did, the offense is far more serious. It is time for the Pulitzer Prize Board to acknowledge its error rather than compound it.”
The letter is signed by the Larry P. Arnn, the President of Hillsdale College, Wood, the President of the National Association of Scholars, James Ceaser, a politics professor at the University of Virginia, and others.
“The list of signatories provide the only comment necessary,” Hannah-Jones wrote when contacted for comment by the Daily Caller.
The letter was mailed and digitally sent to the Pulitzer Committee, according to Wood.