The 1619 Project attempts to promote two ideas: The Atlantic slave trade was the driving force that prompted America’s establishment, and the American Revolution was fought to preserve slavery rather than to gain independence from the British. Critics have slammed the project as an attempt to rewrite U.S. history through “an inaccurate, left-wing lens.”
Led by National Association of Scholars President Peter Wood, the group published its call to rescind Hannah-Jones’ award in an Oct. 6 letter.
“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,” the group wrote in their letter. They pointed out that “there is simply no evidence” for the essay’s claim that the American Revolution sought to protect the institution of slavery.
In addition, the scholars indicated in their letter that Hannah-Jones’ Pulitzer award was not intended to honor her individual essay but the 1619 Project’s larger idea that the arrival of 20 African slaves at the Jamestown Colony in 1619 should be the nation’s true founding. (Related: Report: The Ochs-Sulzberger family that owns the New York Times were slave owners.)
The 1619 Project elicited criticism as soon as it was published. This led The New York Times to revise a crucial part of the piece without putting a disclaimer.
Historians have been sympathetic to the project’s goal of bringing the African-American experience more fully into the understanding of America’s history at large. They could not, however, help but point out serious factual errors, unsound generalizations and forced interpretations in the essay.
Back in March, historian and New York Times fact-checker Leslie Harris had pointed out numerous other mistakes in Hannah-Jones’ piece before it was published. Both the paper and Hannah-Jones ignored and dismissed these corrections, though an erroneous section saying the patriots who fought the American Revolution wanted to preserve slavery was revised. Other historians, however, have said that the corrected section had “little to no basis.”
The scholars concluded their letter by arguing that Hannah-Jones did not deserve the Pulitzer Prize given to her, on account of the “glaring historical fallacy” at her essay’s core and the breaches of journalistic ethics by both her and the New York Times. Only by withdrawing the prize awarded to her can the Pulitzer Prize Board rectify its error.
Across the country, some public schools have already incorporated the 1619 Project into their curriculum. This is even though historians have slammed the project for its erroneous leftist view of history. Reason reported in January 2020 that school districts in Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Buffalo, New York were already using the 1619 Project in their history subjects.
President Donald Trump has subsequently threatened to withdraw funding for public schools that use the 1619 Project. He responded to reports of California’s use of the project in public schools in a Sept. 6 tweet, saying that the Department of Education is looking into the matter and said schools in Calif. “will not be funded” if the reports proved true.
In July, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton filed a bill that banned the use of federal funds for any school that taught the 1619 Project in its history classes. Cotton’s bill, the Saving American History Act of 2020, asserts that the U.S. was established July 4, 1776 with the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
The senator slammed the 1619 Project in a press statement as a “racially divisive, revisionist account of history” that denies the noble principles of freedom and equality on which our nation was founded.” He added: “Not a single cent of federal funding should go to indoctrinate young Americans with this left-wing garbage.”