A group of scholars is demanding the Pulitzer Board revoke writer Nikole Hannah-Jones’ Pulitzer Prize for her introductory essay in The New York Times’ 1619 Project, in which she claimed that the American Revolution was fought in large part to preserve slavery.
“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,’” the statement begins, which was signed by 21 professors, academics, and historians. “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.”
Nikole Hannah-Jones, who writes for The New York Times Magazine, won a 2020 Pulitzer Prize in Commentary for her essay, “Our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written. Black Americans have fought to make them true.” Historian Leslie M. Harris claims she fact-checked Hannah-Jones’ claim that slavery served as one of the driving forces of American independence, but maintained that the Times “ignored” her.
The scholars’ letter continued by highlighting what they described as “surreptitious efforts by The New York Times to alter the record of what it had published in the original magazine[.]”
“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 said, adding later:
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 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. […] Given the glaring historical fallacy at the heart of its account, and the subsequent breaches of core journalistic ethics by both Hannah-Jones and the Times, “Our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written” does not deserve the honor conferred upon it.
Last month, President Donald Trump threatened to pull federal funding from schools that teach the 1619 Project.
During a May interview with Buck Sexton, award-winning historian Dr. Allen C. Guelzo said the 1619 Project treats “questions of enormous complexity” with “a wave of the hand and no research.”
“Part of me wants to say this is what happens when journalists presume on the credulity of the public because we trust what the press says,” Guelzo continued, warning that even though “journalists sometimes think that they are writing ‘the first draft of history,’” often they are not trained to be careful historians, but instead “operate under pressure to write dramatic copy that will fill the space of a 40-page newspaper or a 24-hour news cycle.”
Guelzo also dismantled the 1619 Project during an interview with The Daily Wire Editor Emeritus Ben Shapiro.
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