Twenty-one distinguished scholars in higher education and research published a letter calling for New York Times editor Nikole Hannah-Jones to lose her 2020 prize for her controversial "1619 Project" series that many have deemed revisionist history.
In the letter, the scholars assert that the Pulitzer board awarded Hannah-Jones the prize in Literature with a celebration of its alternative view of history, which asserts that America's "true founding" was in 1619 with the arrival of African slaves at Jamestown, rather than 1776.
"Beginning almost immediately after its publication, though, the essay and the Project ran into controversy," says the letter. "It has been subjected to searching criticism by many of the foremost historians of our time and by the Times' own fact checker. The scrutiny has left the essay discredited, so much so that the Times has felt the need to go back and change a crucial passage in it, softening but not eliminating its unsupported assertion about slavery and the Revolution."
Among others, the letter was signed by individuals such as Larry P. Arnn, the president of Hillsdale College; Victor Davis Hanson, a fellow at the Hoover Institution; and Glenn Loury, a professor at Brown University. Loury announced the letter on Twitter Tuesday afternoon.
Another signatory, Phillip W. Magness – a Senior Research Fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research – has previously documented how Hannah-Jones made multiple claims that 1619 was the year of America's "true founding," despite her repeated backtracking in recent months under intense scrutiny.
The letter goes on to detail multiple instances where the 1619 Project created "serious factual errors, specious generalizations, and forced interpretations."
"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 letter states.
The letter then concludes with a call for the Pulitzer board to rescind Hannah-Jones' award.
"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," states the letter. "Nor does The 1619 Project of which it is a central part, and which the Board seeks to honor by honoring Hannah-Jones's essay. The Board should acknowledge that its award was an error. It can and should correct that error by withdrawing the prize."
Another one of the signatories – Stanley Kurtz of the Ethics and Public Policy Center – argues that this incident has turned the Pulitzer "into a joke."
"It's one thing to know that the 1619 Project had a partisan political aspect... But to casually make a gigantic claim — a claim cited in the prize itself — then simply toss it away and cover up the fact of having done so, turns a core reason for the prize into a joke," he writes.
🔦 Hannah-Jones also came under scrutiny this year for a resurfaced 1995 letter where she called whites "barbaric devils" and "bloodsuckers." President Trump, along with other Republican politicians, have introduced measures to stop funding to schools that teach "The 1619 Project" as part of their curriculum.