And the Pulitzer goes to...Nikole Hannah-Jones?

John David

CounterCurrent: Week of 5/17


The 2020 Pulitzer Prize winners were announced two weeks ago, including those awarded for work in journalism, creative writing, drama, and music. Established in 1904 by journalist extraordinaire Joseph Pulitzer and administered since 1917 by the Columbia Journalism School, the prizes were designed “as an incentive to excellence” in these fields, granting the awardees international recognition and monetary grants to bolster their work.

Nikole Hannah-Jones, the founder and face of The New York Times’ “The 1619 Project,” won the Pulitzer Prize in commentary journalism for her lead 1619 essay “Our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written. Black Americans have fought to make them true.” The Pulitzer Committee’s announcement of the prize was as follows: “For a sweeping, deeply reported and personal essay for the ground-breaking 1619 Project, which seeks to place the enslavement of Africans at the center of America’s story, prompting public conversation about the nation’s founding and evolution.”

The award is a disappointing yet unsurprising decision by the Pulitzer Committee, one that clearly betrays its willingness to overlook gross violations of journalistic standards in order to promote progressive ideals. The 1619 Project in general and Hannah-Jones’ essay in particular is riddled with historical errors both factual and interpretive, as demonstrated by a wide variety of historians. At the same time, it inculcates in its readers a hatred of America and has spread throughout all 50 states through the Timeseducational partnership with the Pulitzer Center (no relation to the Pulitzer Prizes).

How did a piece of historical commentary that misrepresents central elements of the American founding, rejects rigorous historical analysis, and elevates proudly biased distortions of history win the most prestigious prize in journalism?

In this week’s featured article, National Association of Scholars President Peter Wood gives his take on the Pulitzer’s announcement and explains why a 1619 Project Pulitzer points to the larger collapse of journalism as an honest enterprise. He writes:

The Pulitzer Committee no doubt had good reasons for giving Hannah-Jones this award, but I doubt they are the reasons expressed in the citation. The citation is no more than artful camouflage. The 1619 Project is a power play in which, at great expense in both money and reputation, The New York Times has attempted to intensify racial resentment and accelerate identity politics.

Nikole Hannah-Jones’ Pulitzer Prize is, in the words of a certain Democratic presidential hopeful, pure malarkey. Her eminently flawed 1619 Project essay deserved no consideration for this award due to its widespread disregard of journalistic standards and historical facts, as well as her refusal to engage with historian detractors. The Pulitzer Prize has become little more than a means to promote progressive ideals in journalism and the arts, a far cry from what it was created to do.

P.S.: Peter Wood’s forthcoming book 1620: The True Beginning of the American Republic is available for pre-order now. Published by Encounter Books, the work synthesizes the various critiques of The 1619 Project and puts forth a different vision of the American founding, one centered on the genesis of the Plymouth colony in 1620. To pre-order, click here.


CounterCurrent is the National Association of Scholars’  weekly newsletter, written by Communications & Administrative Associate John David. To subscribe, update your email preferences here.

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