Nikole Hannah-Jones, The New York Times correspondent and the visionary behind its ambitious examination of racial issues stemming from the 1619 arrival of enslaved people in the English colonies, isn’t the least bit surprised by the meltdown among white conservatives reacting to her recasting American history with African Americans and slavery at the forefront.
“The whole reason we did the project in the first place is because our society has been unwilling to grapple with the legacy of slavery, with the centrality of slavery to the development of the United States,” Hannah-Jones said in an interview Monday on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes. “So this isn’t shocking to me.”
Her remarks came in reaction to uproar over The 1619 Project, which launched on Sunday and reframed American history in the context of the 400th anniversary this month of the arrival of a ship carrying enslaved Africans into a port near Hampton, Virginia.
In a series of essays and narrative accounts, The 1619 Project makes the point that overlooked and discredited contributions of African Americans began with that historical marker and continues into the present-day state of U.S. society.
Predictably, conservative activists rushed to condemn the project, often boldly stating their opposition without reading it or comprehending its contents. For example, arch-conservative commentator Eric Erickson inaccurately described the project’s authors as “opinion writers who profit from seeing things through racial lenses and keeping racial tension aflame as much as Trump does.”
In fact, only one of the project’s authors is an opinion writer — New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie — and most are journalists and historians, well steeped in writing about America’s racial past and present.
A common complaint among many of the conservative critics was that the project struck them as an attack on President Donald Trump, as the Washington Examiner’s Byron York argued in a recent column.
Link: New goal for New York Times: 'Reframe" American history, and target Trump, too. https://t.co/2NnoS3Y87F
— Byron York (@ByronYork) August 18, 2019
In her interview, Hannah-Jones brushed aside such critiques as “ridiculous.”
“Anyone [who] would call this a propaganda tool or that somehow I’d spent, you know, since February working on this to commemorate the anniversary because we, the New York Times, wanted to ‘get’ Trump is, of course, ridiculous,” Hannah-Jones said.
“We didn’t plan the anniversary to happen in August of 2019, just so it would coincide with Trump’s issues with being called a racist.”
Instead, Hannah-Jones explained that The 1619 Project “excavates our true nature and is in direct opposition to our founding myths.”
And, she said, that is why there has been such a negative reaction among many white conservatives who want to cling to a version of American history that places them at the exclusive center of the story.
“I think what a lot of conservatives want is they want to choose which parts of our path we remember and which parts of our path we forget,” she said.
“And I don’t understand why people are so afraid of, we’re simply revealing the truth about our country.”