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Civil rights veteran likens giving 1619 founder a free speech award to firefighters honoring arsonists

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Nikole Hannah-Jones, founder of the 1619 Project, was celebrated Wednesday night by the Roosevelt Institute for “freedom of speech and expression,” one of eight people honored in the Four Freedoms Awards.

The left-wing think tank said in an announcement in August that Hannah-Jones “will be honored for developing the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1619 Project, a visionary work that exposed the systemic and institutionalized racism embedded in our country’s laws and policies. She is also being recognized for her commitment to mentoring and training investigative reporters of color.”

Civil rights veteran Bob Woodson, 84, founder and president of The Woodson Center, is a vocal critic of the 1619 Project, arguing that it suggests black people cannot overcome adversity. He was highly critical of the Roosevelt Institute for recognizing Hannah-Jones.

“It’s kind of like an arsonist being honored at the firefighter’s convention,” Woodson, told Fox News.

At the same time, the Roosevelt Institute did not back down, with spokesperson Ariela Weinberger telling the network in a brief statement: “Our decision to honor Ms. Hannah-Jones speaks for itself.”

Hannah-Jones was gifted a Pulitzer Prize in 2020 for the 1619 Project, which is billed on the left as an accurate telling of U.S. history, but it’s anything but. Cherry-picking the facts and distorting at will, the theory is riddled with errors and points to 1619, the first year slaves were brought to the country, as the real founding of America. The belief requires accepting that the US was founded for the purpose of human bondage and that the American Revolution was fought to protect slavery.

In a discussion last year with Hillsdale College, Woodson spoke about race in America and expressed his views on the 1619 Project.

In speaking with Fox News, Woodson pointed to last year’s Black Lives Matter riots to say activists spray-painted “1619” on a toppled statue of George Washington, and that Claremont McKenna College professor Charles Kesler said, “Call them the 1619 riots.” All of which prompted Hannah-Jones to respond with a now-deleted tweet that she would be “honored” by the moniker.

“That seems like a strange thing for someone who’s being honored for free speech to have this happen,” Woodson said, noting the many examples of 1619 Project supporters shutting down free speech.

“People who advocate critical race theory and 1619 have been at the forefront of cancel culture,” he told Fox News. “It’s ironic that Nikole Hannah-Jones would be honored for freedom of speech.”

Woodson warned that much like critical race theory, the 1619 Project is “most detrimental to the black community.”

He accused Hannah-Jones of “fostering anti-American sentiment,” according to the network, claiming that “she has given aid and comfort to those who speak out against the founding principles of the country.”

“As a veteran of the civil rights movement myself, what I find most disheartening is their support of the dumbing down of standards,” Woodson said.

“It is very very insulting to black America,” he said, adding that he preferred “the old-fashioned bigotry” of outspoken racism over the “new progressive bigotry.”

“The new progressive bigotry masquerades as fighting for social justice for blacks. It masquerades as something promoting the interests of blacks while at the same time denigrating them,” he opined.

Woodson said Hannah-Jones, Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., “and the rest of them ignore that history of excellence and achievement against the odds and instead demand that the standards be lowered because blacks can’t compete,” he argued.

The Roosevelt Institute gave the hard-left Georgia Democrat an award Wednesday night for “freedom of worship.”

Warnock is a senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.

Tom Tillison

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