1619 Project author: 'It would be an honor' to call these the 1619 riots (Update: She's back)

1619 Project author: 'It would be an honor' to call these the 1619 riots (Update: She's back)

Nikole Hannah Jones, Pulitzer Prize winning author of the lead editorial of the NY Times’ 1619 Project, has been responding to people on Twitter this morning and some of the responses are interesting. Let’s start with this NY Times column by Jamelle Bouie which opens:


Neither Abraham Lincoln nor the Republican Party freed the slaves. They helped set freedom in motion and eventually codified it into law with the 13th Amendment, but they were not themselves responsible for the end of slavery. They were not the ones who brought about its final destruction.

Who freed the slaves? The slaves freed the slaves…

Emancipation wasn’t a gift bestowed on the slaves; it was something they took for themselves, the culmination of their long struggle for freedom, which began as soon as chattel slavery was established in the 17th century, and gained even greater steam with the Revolution and the birth of a country committed, at least rhetorically, to freedom and equality.

Andrew Sullivan pointed out that this seems to downplay rather significantly the Union’s contribution to defeating the South and ending slavery.

And Nikole Hannah-Jones responded with this:


Nothing Sullivan said suggests he is offended by black agency. I’m not offended by this evidence of black agency either. It’s a fact that nearly 200,000 black people fought for the Union. It seems right to honor that contribution to history and to respect the agency behind it. No argument here.


It’s also a fact that the total number of people who joined the Union Army over the course of the war was about 2.1 million. Most of them were relatively young, white farmers. Shouldn’t we also honor their contribution and the agency behind it?

Last night, the NY Post published a piece titled “Call them the 1619 riots.” The piece is capped by a photo whose caption reads, “A Thomas Jefferson statue toppled outside Jefferson High School in Portland, Oregon.” Here’s Hannah-Jones response:


Clearly she’s not upset about tearing down a statue of Jefferson. But that wasn’t the only statue torn down last night. In San Francisco, a group of people toppled a statue of Ulysses S. Grant, the man to whom Gen. Lee surrendered. Politico’s Marc Caputo said the people doing this were crazy.


Hannah-Jones took offense to the wording of one of his tweets:


A little push back and she went right to Hitler. Is there a Pulitzer for proving Godwin’s law?

There are also some significant problems with her argument. While a modern person in some ways, OBL seemed to yearn for a much older time, circa the 7th Century. As for Hitler, the phrase “man of his time” doesn’t suit him at all. Hitler wasn’t just an ordinary person going along with then-current assumptions about race and racism. The reason he comes up in arguments like this is because he wasn’t just a man of his time, he was a world-historic monster.

Maybe you’re wondering like I am where Hannah-Jones draws the line on vandalism as progress. She gave us a hint (since deleted):

To sum up, Hannah-Jones seems to approve of tearing down statues of Jefferson but says she won’t call for doing the same to statues of Grant and Lincoln. However, when a statue of Grant is torn down, she won’t comment or object. In fact, if she objects to having that vandalism associated with her project, she doesn’t say so.

So I guess the question that remains is: If rioters take jackhammers to the Lincoln Memorial will she still feel honored to call this the 1619 riots? Would the NY Times cover that as a great loss or a sign of progress for which they are partly responsible? I said this jokingly yesterday but you can bet there are some people who’d really like to see it happen. Where do the 1619 riots end?


Update: Looks like Nikole Hannah-Jones has deleted her account. I wonder if someone at the NY Times had a conversation with her about endorsing riots. But actually, looking at this, she appears to have been part of two other controversies since then. The first is her endorsement of a conspiracy theory involving setting off fireworks. Apparently this isn’t bored kids, this is a plot to destabilize Black Lives Matter.

This is of course, complete nonsense:

Honestly, this claim is about as solid as the idea that the Revolutionary War was about protecting slavery. She also seems to have offended some Native Americans with a claim about the Trail of Tears:

So, take your pick. She decided for some reason it was time to close her account. And, hey, congrats to the Pulitzer committee for honoring this riot-endorsing, conspiracy-monger with the highest prize in journalism. Great job.


Update: Her account was definitely down for a few hours but now it’s back.

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