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Pulitzer Prize-Winning 1619 Project Creator: There’s A ‘Difference Between Being Politically Black And Being Racially Black’
Reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones attends the 75th Annual Peabody Awards Ceremony held at Cipriani Wall Street on May 21, 2016 in New York City.
Brent N. Clarke/FilmMagic/Getty Images

On Friday, Nikole Hannah-Jones, a staff writer for The New York Times Magazine who was the creator of the 1619 Project and won a Pulitzer Prize for “her essay that served as the leading piece in the 1619 Project,” as The Times reported, issued, then deleted a tweet in which she posited that there was a “difference between being politically black and racially black.”

Jones’ tweet came on the same day former Vice President Joe Biden stated to popular African-American commentator and radio host Charlamagne tha God, “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black,” precipitating widespread criticism.

Some social media users took issue with Jones’ statement:

The 1619 Project has come under withering criticism for its perspective on American history. Many historians have questioned its accuracy and its attempt to undermine the salutary and historic effects of the American founding. Among them are Pulitzer-Prize winning author James McPherson, professor emeritus of history at Princeton University, who wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Battle Cry of Freedom,” widely regarded as the authoritative account of the Civil War. He stated: “I 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.”

MacPherson said of Hannah-Jones’ statement in her essay that “anti-black racism runs in the very DNA of this country,” “the idea that racism is a permanent condition, well that’s just not true. And it also doesn’t account for the countervailing tendencies in American history as well. Because opposition to slavery, and opposition to racism, has also been an important theme in American history.” Of Hannah-Jones contention that “black Americans have fought back alone” to make America a democracy, MacPherson responded:

From the Quakers in the 18th century, on through the abolitionists in the antebellum, to the radical Republicans in the Civil War and Reconstruction, to the NAACP which was an interracial organization founded in 1909, down through the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, there have been a lot of whites who have fought against slavery and racial discrimination, and against racism. Almost from the beginning of American history that’s been true. And that’s what’s missing from this perspective.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Gordon Wood, professor emeritus at Brown University and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book “The Radicalism of the American Revolution,” stated, “I was surprised, as many other people were, by the scope of this thing, especially since it’s going to become the basis for high school education and has the authority of the New York Times behind it, and yet it is so wrong in so many ways.”

James Oakes, Distinguished Professor of History and Graduate School Humanities Professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, who has written two books winning the prestigious Lincoln Prize, was asked about the 1619 Project dovetailing with the identity politics of the Democratic Party.The questioner continued, “And the claim that is made, and I think it’s almost become a commonplace, is that slavery is the uniquely American ‘original sin.’”

Oakes answered, “Yes. ‘Original sin,’ that’s one of them. The other is that slavery or racism is built into the DNA of America. These are really dangerous tropes. They’re not only ahistorical, they’re actually anti-historical.”

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