“1776 isn’t just our nation’s ‘official’ founding,” Stephens wrote. “It is our symbolic one, too. The metaphor of 1776 is more powerful than that of 1619 because what makes America most itself isn’t four centuries of racist subjugation. It’s 244 years of effort by Americans — sometimes halting, but often heroic — to live up to our greatest ideal.”
Times leadership took pains to praise the 1619 Project this weekend. They maintained that Stephens’s criticism represented not an institutional scolding of the project but commitment to thoughtful debate. “The Times’s openness to hear and tolerate criticism is the clearest sign in its confidence in the work,” acting opinions editor Kathleen Kingsbury said.
Hannah-Jones, though, was livid, and let Kingsbury and Stephens know it in emails ahead of publication. On the day the NAS called for the revocation of her Pulitzer, she tweeted that efforts to discredit her work “put me in a long tradition of [Black women] who failed to know their places.” She changed her Twitter bio to “slanderous and nasty-minded mulattress” — a tribute to the trailblazing journalist Ida B. Wells, whom the Times slurred with those same words in 1894.