Tuesday, May 05, 2020
The only Pulitzer the 1619 Project deserved was for fiction
By Post Editorial Board | New York Post
Pulitzer malpractice: Apparently, willful error can now win you the most elite prize in journalism.
As it was designed to do, The New York Times’ woefully mistaken 1619 Project just won a Pulitzer Prize. Worse, the award for commentary actually went to Nikole Hannah-Jones for her essay introducing the series — that is, to the article that brought the most sustained criticism from historians across the spectrum for its naked errors of fact.
The project’s central conceit is that “out of slavery grew nearly everything that has truly made America exceptional: its economic might, its industrial power, its electoral system.” Hannah-Jones even argued that the main reason American Revolution was fought to preserve slavery — a claim so contrary to the truth that the Times eventually corrected that part of her essay, though only to add two words: Now it says “some of” the founders fought chiefly for that reason.
It’s still not true — and the experts she consulted told her so. Leslie M. Harris, a black history prof at Northwestern, says she warned Hannah-Jones: “Far from being fought to preserve slavery, the Revolutionary War became a primary disrupter of slavery in the North American Colonies.”
Apparently, willful error can now win you the most elite prize in journalism.
Nor was that her only distortion. Hannah-Jones also claims that President Abraham Lincoln “opposed black equality.” As part of The Post’s weeklong Twisted History series on the 1619 Project, historian Allen Guelzo pointed out that that Lincoln called for black voting rights and was hailed by Frederick Douglass as “emphatically the colored man’s president.”
But Hannah-Jones’ project barely mentions Douglass — a giant of 19th century America — or other great black freedom fighters. Even the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the entire civil-rights movement get short shrift because they contradict her thesis.
Slavery and Jim Crow are tremendous stains on America’s history. But Hannah-Jones took it far beyond that, insisting that they are the nation’s essence. That’s why the country’s top US history scholars — Princeton’s Sean Wilentz and James McPherson, Brown’s Gordon Wood, CUNY’s James Oakes — united to denounce Hannah-Jones’ core claims.
Too bad the Pulitzer committee now thinks that facts are irrelevant to journalism.