Much has been written about the problems with The New York Times’ 1619 Project, criticisms the outlet has responded to with fingers in their ears.
It follows then that the creator of the project, Nikole Hannah-Jones, would take a similar attitude toward criticism. During a question-and-answer session at the University of Virginia on Monday, Hannah-Jones demonstrated her approach to the intricacies of history by dismissing the criticism as “not legitimate” and saying nothing more. Mind you, those criticizing the project are the country’s most prominent historians.
Commentary senior writer Christine Rosen attended the event and reported that Hannah-Jones didn’t offer any “substantive response” to the legitimate criticism but did say she “didn’t sit down and say, ‘I’m just going to make up some s**t about the Revolution.’”
As The Daily Wire previously reported, multiple historians have taken the Times to task over its “unbalanced, one-sided account” of history that lacks context. Pulitzer Prize-winner James McPherson, author of dozens of books and articles about the Civil War, said he was “disturbed by what seemed like a very unbalanced, one-sided account, which lacked context and perspective on the complexity of slavery, which was clearly, obviously, not an exclusively American institution, but existed throughout history.”
“And slavery in the United States was only a small part of a larger world process that unfolded over many centuries. And in the United States, too, there was not only slavery but also an antislavery movement. So I thought the account, which emphasized American racism — which is obviously a major part of the history, no question about it — but it focused so narrowly on that part of the story that it left most of the history out. So I read a few of the essays and skimmed the rest, but didn’t pursue much more about it because it seemed to me that I wasn’t learning very much new. And I was a little bit unhappy with the idea that people who did not have a good knowledge of the subject would be influenced by this and would then have a biased or narrow view,” McPherson continued.
James Oakes, author of two Lincoln Prize-winning books, said there’s “been a kind of standard bourgeois-liberal way of arguing that goes all the way back to the 18th century, that whenever you are talking about some form of oppression, or whenever you yourself are oppressed, you instinctively go to the analogy of slavery.”
Brown University’s Gordon Wood, also a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, said the project was “wrong in so many ways,” and cited Hannah-Jones’ attempt to paint the American Revolution as a rebellion to keep slaves.
It is these criticisms Hannah-Jones, who is not a historian, responds with such flippant remarks, as Commentary’s Rosen noted:
She also claimed that “historians objected to a non-historian doing public history,” especially because she is a “black woman who presents the way I do.” This is in keeping with her general approach to her critics. After McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom, criticized aspects of the project, Hannah-Jones responded, “LOL. Right, because white historians have produced truly objective history.”
As Rosen concluded, “This isn’t a scholarly effort to challenge and correct the historical record; it’s an identity-politics version of National Treasure, except instead of an ancient tomb of riches being revealed, it’s the hidden venality of the Founding Fathers, Abraham Lincoln, and anyone else who fails the 1619 Project’s moral litmus test on race.”