1619 Project founder Nikole Hannah-Jones fired back at critics of her racial politics, claiming that the “backlash” against her was driven by special interests who benefit from division.
Hannah-Jones said her greatest honor was the “backlash” against the 1619 Project because “the truth makes powerful people in this country very scared. And I’m glad they’re scared.”
The “truth,” according to Hannah-Jones, is an America built on slavery.
“If we acknowledge what this country was actually built upon, if we acknowledge that the reason that black Americans live in the circumstances we do is not because of our pathology, but because of a country that was erected literally on extracting wealth from us, then we have to do something about it,” Hannah-Jones said at a town hall in New Orleans on Tuesday.
MSNBC hosted the event, calling it a “National Day of Racial Healing.”
MSNBC host Chris Hayes kicked off the meeting with a nod to the Native American tribes who lived in New Orleans.
“We want to acknowledge, thank and honor the indigenous peoples for whom this part of the world has long been home. Like the Chitimacha, the Choctaw, the Houma and so many others.”
He also claimed that MSNBC was “drawing on the indigenous practice of healing circles.” The event was conducted in a circular space.
The New York Times writer argued that racial divisions stemmed from bad history.
“The problem is we’re all taught this history so poorly,” she said, citing the racial history of Asian and African Americans.
“We do have these suspicions of each other,” she said.
But she ultimately blamed entrenched interest groups in the U.S. for dividing Asian and African Americans and keeping them from uniting.
“There are powerful interests that don’t want us to understand that history, that don’t want us to understand our common struggle. So we’re over here fighting for crumbs and respect while the hierarchy is maintained and stays in place.”
Hannah-Jones became a darling of the media after she started the controversial 1619 Project, tracing the origin of the United States to the 400th anniversary of the beginning of slavery, a claim that has been disputed by other journalists.
Hannah-Jones, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, also announced Dec. 15 that a Hulu adaptation of her work will soon be a “six-part docuseries.”
Hannah-Jones is partnering with talk show host Oprah Winfrey on the streaming project, according to Deadline.
Fox News’ Alexander Hall contributed to this report.