Nikole Hannah-Jones is taking part in an “honest dialogue” about the 1619 Project, at the University of Virginia. This would seem to be yet another “dialogue” where Hannah-Jones lectures her audience, and her interlocutor says “Yes, you’re so right.” To our knowledge, Hannah-Jones has not yet engaged in a real debate about the 1619 Project—or even a “conversation” where her interlocutor is informed about her claims about race and American history, and can provide the audience reasons to disbelieve Hannah-Jones’ tendentious account.
If the University of Virginia really wanted an “honest dialogue,” they could have invited Lucas Morel of Washington and Lee University to have a dialogue with Hannah-Jones. Morel disagrees thoughtfully and profoundly with Hannah-Jones, he lives in Virginia, and he provides a model of civil conversation. Yet he isn’t there.
To our knowledge, no university, school of education, or history department has set up a dialogue between an informed opponent of the 1619 Project and Nikole Hannah-Jones—or between any opponent and supporter of the 1619 Project. Here are the names of some other scholars, all of whom could speak civilly and authoritatively about the shortcomings of the 1619 Project:
William Allen, H. W. Brands, Michael Burlingame, Victoria Bynum, Clayborne Carson, Peter Coclanis, Hans Eicholz, Joseph Fornieri, Bruce Gilley, Allen Guelzo, Kevin Gutzman, K. C. Johnson, Peter Kolchin, Glenn LaFantasie, Glenn Loury, Wilfred McClay, Deirdre McCloskey, James McPherson, John McWhorter, James Oakes, Robert Paquette, George Rable, Adolph Reed, Jason Ross, Diana Schaub, Colleen Sheehan, Steven Smith, Sean Wilentz, Gordon Wood, and Michael Zuckert.
Why hasn’t any university arranged for a debate between one of them and Nikole Hannah-Jones? Why hasn’t Nikole Hannah-Jones agreed to enter a forum where she would have to answer an informed opponent?
Until our universities host a real “honest dialogue”—until Nikole Hannah-Jones submits herself to a genuine cross-examination of her arguments—then our universities, Hannah-Jones, and every proponent of the 1619 Project, will stand convicted of gross sins against intellectual freedom and rigorous inquiry—laziness, cowardice, and intolerance.
They can acquit themselves of these charges at any moment, by setting up a “dialogue”—or better yet, a debate—between Hannah-Jones and any of the scholars we have named.