1619 Project Creator Says Her Series Is 'Journalism' and 'Not a History'

May 10, 2020

The creator of the controversial 1619 Project, a New York Times Magazine commentary series on the impact of slavery in America, is now saying her work was meant to be "journalism" and "not a history."

"The 1619 Project is not a history," Nikole Hannah-Jones said in an MSNBC interview on Sunday. "It is a work of journalism that examines the modern and ongoing legacy of slavery."

Hannah-Jones won a Pulitzer Prize for the 1619 Project last week, but the initiative has been frequently criticized for its inaccuracies by historians.

In December 2019, five distinguished American historians wrote a letter to the magazine editor, saying that they were "dismayed at some of the factual errors in the project and the closed process behind it."

In February, a group of predominantly African-American scholars, community leaders, and journalists launched the 1776 initiative, a series of essays and educational resources that "counter the false history that the 1619 Project espouses and has disseminated as a school curriculum."

A report in March revealed that the Times consulted historian Leslie Harris, who "vigorously argued against" Hannah-Jones including one of her most controversial claims—that the American Revolution was fought to preserve slavery—before the launch of the 1619 Project in August 2019.

A few days after the report, the Times printed an editor's note and Hannah-Jones tweeted that a correction had been made.

"Yesterday we made an important clarification to my #1619Project essay abt [sic] the colonists' motivations during the American Revolution," she said. The article would now read that slavery was the primary motivation for the American Revolution for "some of" the colonists.

"As written, it appears that I am saying this was a universal motivation of ALL colonists. I wasn't clear enough," Hannah-Jones said.

The 1619 Project has been sent as curricula to thousands of classrooms with the help of the Pulitzer Center.

After Hannah-Jones's win was announced, the Pulitzer Center congratulated Hannah-Jones "on her historic win" and said it "looks forward to continuing to collaborate with her and the team at The New York Times Magazine on this important work."