Nikole Hannah-Jones brags about tricking audience into thinking MLK quotes were her words

Nikole Hannah-Jones, creator of the 1619 Project, was booked to give a speech on MLK day at a prestigious social club in Chicago.

Jones altered her speech in an attempt to disprove the criticism levied by members of the club.

The Union League Club of Chicago, a highly selective private civic and social club in the windy city, invited Nikole Hannah-Jones to give a keynote speech in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. 

Jones, a professor at Howard University, is notable for having authored the New York Times’ 1619 Project, a long-form journalistic work that falsely argues America’s true foundation is in the institution of slavery.

Prior to Jones’ speech, a series of emails were leaked in which club members voiced their opposition to hosting Jones at their club. In one email Brian Daley, a Public Affairs Committee member for the club, pointed out that Jones’ 1619 Project had been criticized by historians and that the New York Times issued a “humiliating update” following widespread criticism of her work, according to reporting by Chicago City Wire.

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“It will be interesting to hear what Ms. Hannah-Jones has to say,” Daley said in the email obtained by the outlet. “Though whatever else her remarks might contain, we all should hope they do not attempt to resurrect or re-frame the demonstrated and divisive falsehoods promulgated in the 1619 Project.”

He also criticized Jones for being “inflammatory and divisive.”

Chris Robling, another club member who disapproved of Jones’ having been invited, called her a “discredited activist.”

“Ms. Hannah-Jones’ (implicit) theory must be that King, for the layered nuances of his understanding, depiction and use of the Founding, was ignorant of history,” Robling stated. “One needn’t be a student of dialectical and historical materialism — or speculative philosophy of history — to see clearly that Ms. Hannah-Jones, in fact, seeks not to STRENGTHEN our polity but to use false references to exacerbate remaining differences, thus WEAKENING it, for ideological purposes.”

According to the emails, Jones was paid to give her speech which is not typical for individuals invited to speak at the club.

Per Jones’ Twitter account, she was aware of the leaked emails prior to giving her speech. In an attempt to prove her detractors wrong, Jones scrapped her original speech and instead opted to read bits and pieces of MLK’s speech under the illusion that they were her own words. To accomplish this, she says she replaced the word “negro” in her MLK excerpts with “black” as to not arouse suspicion. Jones’ goal in doing this was to demonstrate that her ideas and goals are similar to those held by Martin Luther King Jr.

[RELATED: ANALYSIS: Critical Race Theorist Nikole Hannah-Jones should not be headlining an MLK event]

The MLK quotes read by Jones included “The problems of racial injustice and economic injustice cannot be solved without a radical redistribution of political and economic power. A nation that continues year after year to spend more $ on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death” and “Ever since the birth of our nation, White America has had a Schizophrenic personality on the ? of race, she has been torn between selves. A self in which she proudly professes the great principle of democracy and a self in which she madly practices the antithesis of democracy.”

She also read a line that referenced the year 1619, the namesake of her signature work.

“It was in the year 1619 that the first BLACK slave was brought to the shores of this nation. They were brought here from the soils of Africa and unlike the Pilgrim fathers who landed here at Plymouth a year later, they were brought here against their will.” Jones quoted “For more than 200 years Africa was raped and plundered, a native kingdom disorganized, the people and rulers demoralized and throughout slavery the BLACK slaves were treated in a very inhuman form.”

According to Jones, attendees were “SHOOK” after she revealed she had been reading MLKs words the whole time.

Oh, the uncomfortable silence as I read Dr. King’s words at a commemoration of Dr. King’s life when people had no idea that these were his words. When I revealed that everything I said to that point was taken from his speeches between ’56 and 67... Can you say SHOOK,” Hannah-Jones later tweeted regarding the event.”

“Then I read all the names that white Americans called King: charlatan, demagogue, communist, traitor -- and brought out the polling showing more than three-quarters of Americans opposed King at his death while 94 percent approve of him now,” she added

“People who oppose today what he stood for back then do not get to be the arbiters of his legacy,” went on. “The real Dr. King cannot be commodified, homogenized, and white-washed and whatever side you stand on TODAY is the side you would have been back then.”

Jones went on to claim that the 1619 Project is necessary because past scholars have tried to “co-opt” MLK to support their agendas. She also argues that Ronald Reagan, whose name she spelled wrong, had ulterior racist motives when he made MLK day a national holiday.

Campus Reform reached out to the Chicago Union League Club to verify whether Jones account of events on Twitter is accurate. Hannah-Jones was also contacted for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.