The '1619 Project' Wins a Pulitzer

Politics over truth.

Nikole Hannah Jones was recently awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her contribution to The New York Times’ “1619 Project.” 

It is in her essay that she makes the assertion that America’s declaration of independence from England was a sham designed to protect the institution of slavery.  Such American ideals as freedom and equality of rights, then, were rhetorical smokescreens in the name of which the country’s apparent founders mobilized their own material self-interests.

The real founders, those who “have fought to make…our democracy’s founding ideals…true,” have always been “black Americans.”   

The New York Times’ so-called “1619 Project” has never been anything more or less than ideological politics masquerading as history. It is a function of the Racism-Industrial-Complex (RIC).

Its critics, specifically those genuine historians of American history who recognize that history is essentially the study of the past for the sake of, not present political purposes, but that of the past, have seen the 1619 Project for what it is from its inception.

Quite simply, the 1619 Project embodies an all-too familiar narrative, one that, by now, has become ensconced in the national consciousness, courtesy of those who work day and night to “fundamentally transform” America so as to make it unrecognizable to itself.

According to this tale, America, ultimately, is an extended project of “white supremacy,” an uninterrupted exercise of the most brutal oppression by whites of non-white peoples, particularly those of the latter who were brought to its shores from Africa. 

The 1619 Project’s is a moral melodrama whose main characters are single-dimensional constructs of collectives—whites, blacks, “the colonists,” “slaves,” etc.—whose storylines coalesce around one over-arching plot.

This plot is slavery.   

World-renowned historians have repudiated the 1619 Project, calling it out for the fake history that it is. One group wrote a letter to the Times requesting that its writers correct its bogus claims. The request went unheeded.   

Sean Wilentz, a historian from Princeton University, wrote an essay in The Atlantic in which he attempted to set the record straight. Before reading his critique, though, it would be instructive to consider that the same professor who would take the Times to task for its historical inaccuracies made the following remarks in the way of accounting for his motivation in challenging the 1619 Project:

The New York Times has taken a lead in combating the degradation of truth and assault on a free press propagated by Donald Trump’s White House, aided and abetted by Vladimir Putin’s Russia, and spun by the far right on social media.  American democracy is in a perilous condition, and the Times can report on that danger only by upholding its standards ‘without fear or favor.

Wilentz adds: “That is why it is so important that lapses such as those pointed out in our letter receive attention and timely correction” (italics added).

Wilentz goes on to underscore that, the assertions of the 1619 Project to the contrary aside, “a perceptible British threat to American slavery in 1776 in fact did not exist.”

Professor Wilentz references Moral Capital, Christopher Leslie Brown’s widely-heralded account of British abolitionism. In Britain, as Brown establishes, the movement to abolish the slave trade didn’t really get underway until 1787—i.e. years after the American colonists had prevailed over England.  

Moreover, growing opposition to the slave trade in Britain was inspired by the anti-slavery sentiments of the American colonists.

Prominent historian Gordon Wood was a co-signatory to a letter authored by a group of historians and sent to Jake Silverstein, the editor-in-chief of The New York Times Magazine. Silverstein refused to make any of the corrections to the claims of the 1619 Project that he was urged to make. Wood, in turn, replied.

“Demonstrating the importance of slavery in the history of our country is essential and commendable,” Wood begins. He is quick to add, however, that this “necessary and worthy goal will be seriously harmed if the facts in the project turn out to be wrong and the interpretations of events are deemed to be perverse and distorted.” 

“In the long run,” Wood warns, “the Project will lose its credibility, standing, and persuasiveness with the nation as a whole.”  Justice is a goal shared by all decent people, but, Wood insists, it cannot be pursued “at the expense of truth.”

Having spent “my career studying the American Revolution,” Wood states, he “cannot accept the view that ‘one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery.’”  One reason that Wood unequivocally rejects this claim is straightforward enough:

“I don’t know of any colonist who said that they wanted independence in order to preserve their slaves” (italics mine).

Beyond this, there wasn’t a single colonist on record who so much as “expressed alarm that the mother country was out to abolish slavery in 1776.”

Moreover, Wood adds, if “southerners were concerned about losing their slaves, why didn’t they make efforts to ally with slaveholding planters in the British West Indies?”  

Wood’s argument continues: “There is no evidence in 1776 of a rising movement to abolish the Atlantic slave trade, as the 1619 Project erroneously asserts, nor is there any evidence the British government was eager to do so.”

However, “even if either were the case, ending the Atlantic slave trade would have been welcomed by the Virginia planters, who already had more slaves than they needed.”

Wood buttresses this last assertion by reminding Silverstein that it was “Virginians in the years following independence [who] took the lead in moving to abolish the despicable international slave trade.”

As far as Northerners were concerned, Wood remarks that far “from preserving slavery [,] the North saw the Revolution as an opportunity to abolish the institution” (italics added). In the years immediately succeeding 1776, the “first anti-slave movements in the history of the world, supported by whites as well as blacks, took place in the northern states [.]”

Wood alludes to John Adams, “who hated slavery and owned no slaves” and who was more “responsible for the Declaration of Independence” than anyone as the quintessential Northerner who couldn’t have possibly found slavery “worth preserving.”

Yet, despite the historical record and the efforts of world renowned historians to convince the 1619 Project to amend its many errors, it continues to be lauded. 

However, considering the relationship between its contributors and their admirers, the latest accolade bestowed upon it is worth about as much as the 1619 Project itself. As FrontPage Mag's Daniel Greenfield recently notes, the Pulitzer Center is “the educational partner of the 1619 Project” (italics mine).

“Our educational partner won our award. Incredible!” Greenfield facetiously writes.

The Shillman Journalism Fellow of the David Horowitz Freedom Center supplies some additional commentary that is worth quoting:

“Handing Nikole Hannah-Jones a Pulitzer after she had been thoroughly discredited is not just about her, or her toxic racial agenda [the promotion of the Racism-Industrial-Complex], it’s also about covering for the Pulitzer Center’s decision to get into bed with her….

Once you commit the intellectual crime, you’re committed to covering it up.”

That neither Nikole Hannah-Jones nor any other contributor to the 1619 Project has won any history awards is another telling fact that her admirers will doubtless overlook.   


Frontpage's Series on NY Times’ 1619 Project:

Jason Hill: How the 1619 Project Destroys the True Moral Meaning of America.

Bruce Thornton: The Pulitzer Prize and the Corruption of History and Journalism.

Daniel Greenfield: Project 2019 - How the New York Times Profits from Slavery Today.

Bruce Thornton: NY Times’ 1619 Project Puts Slavery at the Center of America’s Founding.

Jason D. Hill: Why New World Slavery Was Inevitable.


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