For decades we have seen awards given to music, movies, and tv programs that didn’t deserve them. Usually, they were rewarded because they were edgy or promoted the latest leftist fad or ideological cause. The latest Pulitzer Prize awarded to a New York Times columnist unfortunately follows in that sad tradition.
The prize for commentary was awarded earlier this month to Nikole Hannah-Jones for her essay that was part of the newspaper’s 1619 Project. In previous commentaries, I have talked about this project that asserts that America did not start in 1620 with the Pilgrims but in 1619 when the first slave was brought to Jamestown.
In her essay, she wrote: “Conveniently left out of our founding mythology is the fact that one of the primacy reasons colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery.” This claim was so absurd that the New York Times actually felt the need to update the text with the word “some.” That led blogger and columnist Andrew Sullivan to ask, “How many Pulitzer prizes have gone to essays that have had to subsequently publicly correct one of their core claims? Or has been challenged by every major historian in the field, right and center and left?”
Prominent historians have been critical of the essay and the project. That includes such men as Gordon Wood (emeritus professor at Brown University and leading scholar on the revolutionary era) and James McPherson (emeritus professor of history at Princeton University). They (and three other historians) wrote an open letter criticizing its sloppy treatment of the facts that violated “both honest scholarship and honest journalism.”
I think the best line came from the editorial board of the New York Post who suggested that the essay and 1619 Project actually deserved the Pulitzer prize for fiction.