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Letter Calls for Withdrawal of ‘1619 Project’ Pulitzer


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National Review

An open letter released today and signed by 21 scholars and public writers calls on the Pulitzer Prize Board to rescind the Prize for Commentary awarded to Nikole Hannah-Jones for her lead essay in “The 1619 Project.” The letter is posted at the website of the National Association of Scholars here. (I am one of the signatories.)


The letter revisits the sorry tale of the 1619 Project’s errors and distortions and invokes these in calling for the revocation of the prize. The recent revelations that The New York Times stealthily edited out the signature claim of the project—that the advent of slavery in the year 1619 constitutes our country’s “true founding”—were, however, the immediate occasion for this letter. As Phillip Magness (another signatory) has shown, Nikole Hannah-Jones has several times denied ever claiming that 1619 was our true founding, although in fact she has made this latter claim repeatedly.

These actions on the part of both the Times and Hannah-Jones are profoundly irresponsible and disturbing. How can we explain them?

Jonah Goldberg has suggested that the Times may have undertaken its stealth edits, “out of a partisan desire to deny Donald Trump and his fans a talking point.” There is some evidence in support of this suggestion.  As Wilfred McClay (another signatory) notes in Commentary Magazine, leaked transcripts of internal meetings at the Times suggest that the 1619 Project may have been part of a strategy designed to help elect a Democratic president by highlighting America’s (allegedly) endemic racism. Not long after President Trump effectively made American history a campaign issue in his Mt. Rushmore address this July, Hannah-Jones began to deny that she or the 1619 Project had ever asserted that the year 1619 was America’s “true founding,” citing the stealthily edited text of the project as evidence. (See especially the exchange with Ben Shapiro here.) The Hannah-Jones interview on CNN that helped kick off the controversy over the stealth edits took place the day after President Trump attacked the 1619 Project in his address to the White House Conference on American History. This suggests that Hannah-Jones was willing to jettison the most notable claim of her project—even to the extent of denying that she had ever made it—once that claim began to seem like a campaign liability.:snip:

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