Nikole Hannah-Jones, author of the lead essay for the NY Times’ 1619 Project, was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for commentary today. The Pulitzer website describes the Project as, “a sweeping, deeply reported and personal essay…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.”
It certainly did prompt a lot of conversation, I’ll give it that. Still, it’s a bit odd that the committee overlooked the fact that the Times and author Nikole Hannah-Jones were strongly criticized by a number of professional historians for the accuracy of claims made in the essay. One particular flashpoint was the claim that the Revolutionary War was prompted by a desire on the part of colonists to protect the institution of slavery. The Times initially refused to make any corrections to the piece after it was criticized by several experts in the field, but eventually, in March, they issued a belated “clarification.”
Today we are making a clarification to a passage in an essay from The 1619 Project that has sparked a great deal of online debate. The passage in question states that one primary reason the colonists fought the American Revolution was to protect the institution of slavery. This assertion has elicited criticism from some historians and support from others…
We recognize that our original language could be read to suggest that protecting slavery was a primary motivation for all of the colonists. The passage has been changed to make clear that this was a primary motivation for some of the colonists. A note has been appended to the story as well.