- The Washington Times
Thursday, December 2, 2021

Civil rights veteran Robert L. Woodson Sr. has been a national leader on community development for decades, but Nikole Hannah-Jones says the only reason he’s in demand is because of her.

Ms. Hannah-Jones, a New York Times Magazine writer and author of “The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story,” took a swipe Tuesday at Mr. Woodson after she was asked to comment on his upcoming Facebook live fireside chat on the nation’s future with Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican.

“The only reason anyone recently is talking about or to Bob Woodson is because he has been a Black critic of the 1619 Project. See how often his name was evoked in the year prior to publication,” tweeted Ms. Hannah-Jones.

She also called into question his credentials in response to his Nov. 22 critique of her newly released book, which expands on her Pulitzer-winning 2019 essay seeking to reframe America’s founding around slavery.

Mr. Woodson called the book “an overall improvement” from her original essay but said that it virtually ignores the achievements of Black Americans while “obsessing over slavery, Jim Crow and Black victimization,” prompting a retort from Ms. Hannah-Jones.

“Also, Woodson is not an historian,” she tweeted. “He makes a critique of a project that doesn’t exist because his critique argues something the project never does. Further, go look at the rigor of his 1776 Project and then tell me how he is a valid counter.”

Mr. Woodson responded Wednesday by inviting her to discuss 1776 Unites, an “unapologetically patriotic” initiative led by Black scholars that promotes America’s founding values as the key to Black achievement and success, and opposes efforts to “demoralize and demonize our country.”

“We’d love to discuss our initiative with you, as well as the work of our anti-poverty community leaders across the U.S.,” tweeted Mr. Woodson. “How about a virtual forum w/ #1619Project historians & @1776Unites scholars? Interested?”

Ms. Hannah-Jones has not yet responded publicly to the invitation.

The founder of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, now the Woodson Center, the 84-year-old Mr. Woodson has been in the public eye for decades for his work at the grassroots and national level on housing and poverty, including his tenure as a director of the National Urban League in the early 1970s.

He advised former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Jack Kemp and former House Speaker Paul Ryan, and was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal in 2008 by President George W. Bush.

He has also written numerous books, most recently “Red, White and Black: Rescuing American History from Revisionists and Race Hustlers,” which was released in May.

Both he and Ms. Hannah-Jones are recipients of MacArthur Foundation “genius” grants.

Mr. Woodson holds a bachelor’s degree from Cheyney University, a historically Black college, and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Pennsylvania.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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