Nikole Hannah-Jones, the founder of The New York Times‘ “1619 Project,” showed her true colors in a racist letter to the editor of the Notre Dame University student newspaper, The Observer, in 1995. That letter condemned Christopher Columbus as “no different” from Adolf Hitler and demonized the “white race” as the true “savages” and “bloodsuckers.”
Hannah-Jones wrote to condemn a November 9, 1995 op-ed by sophomore Fred Kelly entitled “Natural law over multiculturalism: God bless Columbus.”
“What responsible editor would print an article that applauds and dignifies the white race’s rape, plunder, and genocide of a whole race of people? I find it hard to believe that any member of the white race can have the audacity and hypocrisy to call any other culture savage. The white race is the biggest murderer, rapist, pillager, and thief of the modern world,” Hannah-Jones wrote in her letter, published November 21, 1995.
“Europeans have colonized and destroyed the indigenous populations of every continent of this planet. They have committed genocide against cultures that have never offended them in their greed and insatiable desire to control and dominate every non-white culture,” Hannah-Jones, then a sophomore at Notre Dame, added.
“Christopher Columbus and those like him were no different then [sic] Hitler. The crimes they committed were unnecessarily cruel and can only be described as acts of the devil,” she alleged.
Hannah-Jones argued that “Africans had been to the Americas long before Columbus or any Europeans.” She advanced the theory that African cultures had crossed the Atlantic and influenced Native Americans, from the “pyramids of the Aztecs” to the “great stone heads of the Olmecs.”
“It was not enough for whites to come to the Americas and learn, they looked upon the native people as inferior and a people to be annihilated. Their lasting monument was the destruction and enslavement of two races of people,” she claimed. “Using Christianity as their excuse, the white race denied the native people their humanity.”
Hannah-Jones appears oblivious to the fact that Christians among the Spanish Scholastics and the Scottish Enlightenment condemned the mistreatment of Native Americans and blacks. She also attributed European diseases to “filth and uncleanliness,” apparently overlooking the dark history of the Black Death that decimated Europe in the Middle Ages.
“Even today, the descendants of these savage people pump drugs and guns into the Balck [sic] community, pack Black people into the squalor of segregated urban ghettos, and continue to be bloodsuckers in our communities,” she added. “Yes, it was Columbus that set the platforms for these racist American institutions. A devil calling someone a savage is like the pot calling the kettle black.”
Hannah-Jones concluded her letter by insisting on her own virtue and suggesting that the “descendants” of “these barbaric devils” “need to constantly prove their superiority.”
“But after everything that these barbaric devils did, I do not hate them or their descendants. I understand that because of some lacking, they need to constantly prove their superiority,” Hannah-Jones wrote. Addressing Kelly, the author of the November 9 article, she added, “Fred Kelly, I pity you for feeling that just because you are white and Christian, you can celebrate the destruction of another human being.”
Then, in a telling preview of the core of the “1619 Project,” she quoted Rodney King, the black man whose vicious beating from members of the Los Angeles Police Department triggered riots in 1992. “In closing, a famous American, who was beat down by members of the christian society, once said ‘why can’t we all just get along?’ Why? Because white America’s dream is colored America’s nightmare. To Kelly I say: It does not feel good to have your culture put under a microscope, does it?”
Is it any surprise that the Notre Dame sophomore who wrote that “white America’s dream is colored America’s nightmare” would later go on to lead The New York Times in a project to redefine American history, centering the founding on the arrival of the first black slaves in 1619, rather than on the Declaration of Independence in 1776? The woman who called “the white race” a group of “bloodsuckers” and “barbaric devils” helped launch a project that demonized white people as oppressors and fanned the flames of race riots.
After the horrific police killing of George Floyd, protests devolved into looting, vandalism, and arson across America that destroyed black lives, black livelihoods, and black monuments. At least 20 Americans have died in the riots.
When Claremont’s Charles Kesler wrote in The New York Post, “Call them the 1619 riots,” Hannah-Jones, responded (in a since-deleted tweet) that “it would be an honor” to claim responsibility for the destructive riots and the defamation of American Founding Fathers like George Washington.
This racist letter to the editor from 1995 — first reported by the Federalist’s Jordan Davidson — helps shine a light on why Hannah-Jones spread a false claim about the American Revolution, namely that “one of the primary reasons” the Founders revolted from Britain was to preserve the institution of slavery. In reality, the American Revolution disrupted slavery, as many of the American colonies armed black people to fight the British, offering their freedom.
Hannah-Jones, who had mocked and debased the many academics who criticized her bogus statement, later insisted that she meant to say only “some of” the colonists fought to preserve slavery.
Perhaps one day she will acknowledge that only “some” members of the “white race” are “barbaric devils.” Ultimately, however, her claim that “white America’s dream is colored America’s nightmare” might be the most dangerous and subversive. Contrary to Hannah-Jones’s 1995 letter and to the “1619 Project,” the American dream is open to all, and the powerful combination of limited government and free markets opens the door to opportunity for all people. Even America’s poor have a standard of living utterly unimaginable 200 years ago.
Hannah-Jones’ “1619 Project” risks that real progress by stoking the grievances behind the 1619 riots. Americans need to unite against her destructive vision before it becomes too late.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.