Bob Woodson: Honoring Nikole Hannah-Jones for ‘free speech’ is like firefighters honoring an arsonist

Civil rights veteran Bob Woodson condemned the Roosevelt Institute, an organization dedicated to furthering former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s vision, for celebrating 1619 Project founder Nikole Hannah-Jones for free speech. The institute honored Hannah-Jones for “freedom of speech and expression” and Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., for “freedom of worship” in an awards ceremony Wednesday night.

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


Woodson noted that when vandals last year spray-painted “1619” on a toppled statue of George Washington, Claremont McKenna College professor Charles Kesler wrote of the destructive riots in the summer of 2020, “Call them the 1619 riots.” Hannah-Jones responded with a tweet saying she would be “honored” by the moniker. She later deleted the tweet.

“That seems like a strange thing for someone who’s being honored for free speech to have this happen,” Woodson noted. He also cited many examples of 1619 Project supporters who shut down free speech. He noted that a Loudoun County, Virginia, advisory board recommended that teachers who oppose equity training be fired.

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

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

Historians have faulted the 1619 Project for twisting history, in particular for claiming that the American Revolution aimed to protect slavery, a claim The New York Times later retracted. The Times later stealth-edited the website to remove the claim that 1619 represented the “true founding” of America. Citing numerous such errors, scholars have demanded that the Pulitzer Prize board retract the award it gave to Hannah-Jones.

Yet Woodson warned that the 1619 Project – and critical race theory, the view that a latent racism pervades American society despite civil rights laws forbidding discrimination – is “most detrimental to the Black community.”

He accused Hannah-Jones of “fostering anti-American sentiment,” 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,” he said. He noted that many jurisdictions – most recently New York City – have moved away from “gifted and talented” programs in the name of equality.


“It is very very insulting to Black America,” Woodson said. He said 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 claimed. Citing the Woodson Center’s book “Red, White, and Black: Rescuing American History from Revisionists and Race Hustlers,” Woodson noted that at the beginning of the 1900s, five high-performing Black high schools in five major cities outperformed White schools despite systemic barriers like less funding.

Bob Woodson is the founder and president of The Woodson Center.

Bob Woodson is the founder and president of The Woodson Center.

“Nikole Hannah-Jones, Warnock, 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 charged.

Woodson also faulted Warnock for choosing “to associate himself with this race grievance mantra.”

Despite the criticism the 1619 Project has received from Woodson, historians and others, The Roosevelt Institute stood by its decision to honor Hannah-Jones.


“Our decision to honor Ms. Hannah-Jones speaks for itself,” RI spokesperson Ariela Weinberger told Fox News in a brief email statement.

Warnock did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment on the event or on the criticism of the 1619 Project. The New York Times also declined to respond to the criticism, and Hannah-Jones could not be reached for comment.

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