by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Nikole Hannah-Jones went on Twitter Monday night to respond to our issue looking at American slavery and the 1619 Project. Those familiar with how she typically responds to engagement with her work — engagement that typically appears only on Twitter, and not in any edited publication — will be unsurprised to see that she reacted with a lot of sneering and ad hominem argumentation and nothing of substance.
Naturally, her opening bid was to complain that we “couldn’t find any women, apparently, and only one Black person, apparently, to write about a slavery project created by a Black woman.” This sort of racial essentialism — in which the race and gender of the writer is more important than the writer’s facts or evidence — has been endemic to efforts by Hannah-Jones to dismiss critiques by the nation’s leading historians in areas of their own, but not her, expertise. Her response in 2019 to mentions of the work of James McPherson, for example, was “LOL. Right, because white historians have produced truly objective history.” That is the same McPherson, of Princeton, who wrote Battle Cry of Freedom, described by Ta-Nehisi Coates as “arguably among the greatest single-volume histories in all of American historiography.” Hannah-Jones had a similar reaction to an ad in National Review for an edition of the works of American Revolutionary–era historian Gordon Wood, known to most students of American history as — in David Hackett Fisher’s words — “almost an American institution. Of all the many teachers and writers of history in this Republic, few are held in such high esteem.” But Wood has sharply criticized the 1619 Project, so he, too, must be problematic. …
… She has no basis to dispute anything I wrote, which is why she did not dispute anything I wrote.