The New York Times on Tuesday defended its Pulitzer Prize-winning “1619 Project” and creator Nikole Hannah-Jones as multiple Republican-led states seek to ban the historical project as well as so-called critical race theory from their schools.
“Like our colleagues across the industry, we are troubled by these bills and by the deeply vitriolic attacks that Nikole has faced because of her role in the project,” publisher A.G. Sulzberger, executive editor Dean Baquet and NYT Magazine editor in chief Jake Silverstein said in a statement. “The free exchange of ideas is crucial to expanding public understanding and is core to our role as an independent news organization. We stand behind ‘The 1619 Project’ and Nikole’s work, for which she won a Pulitzer Prize last year, and oppose any attempt to restrict access to our journalism or that of any other news organization.”
The statement referred to a letter from the American Society of Magazine Editors that outlined “the disturbing efforts by legislators and other public figures in several states to ban the teaching of ‘The 1619 Project,’ a series of feature stories published by an ASME member organization, The New York Times Magazine.”
“ASME writes today in support of the proposition that no federal, state or local government body should attempt to ban magazine articles or other forms of journalism from classrooms,” the letter said. “In numerous states, including Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi and Texas, legislators have attempted, or continue to attempt, to ban educators from assigning material from the 1619 Project to their students. ASME urges state legislators and other officials to reconsider any efforts to suppress ideas and materials with which they disagree. Legislation that attempts to censor school curricula violates principles of free thought and free expression and is at its core un-American.”
Published in August 2019 on the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in the United States, “The 1619 Project” examines the legacy of slavery in America and how it shaped nearly all aspects of society, from music and law to education and the arts, and including the principles of democracy itself. That description comes straight from Hulu and Lionsgate, which will be adapting the work from Hannah-Jones and The New York Times into a docu-series.
While the project has gotten a stamp of approval from Hulu and Lionsgate, among other companies and institutions, it’s also launched a major debate about “critical race theory,” with conservatives railing near-daily that reassessing American history through a racial lens will lead students to hate the country.
Hannah-Jones has been on the receiving end of a lot of vitriol, as the Times statement pointed out. Last month, she was denied tenure at her alma matter, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Instead, she was offered a different role with the option for a tenure review in five years.
The reversal from the university, which previously announced the MacArther Fellow would teach in the Knight Chair position that comes with the expectation of tenure, came after conservative pushback to the “1619 Project” but wasn’t supported by the faculty and tenure committee.