By: Alyssa Wilson
Acclaimed journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones has declined to accept tenure at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill after public controversy. According to NC Policy Watch, she has accepted a tenured position at Howard University, where she will teach about race and journalism.
In May, Hannah-Jones was not offered tenure at the institution. Instead, she was offered a five-year teaching contract by the Hussman School of Media and Journalism. She was brought on as the Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism, and she was the first person in the role to be denied tenure.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist created the 1619 Project for the New York Times. The report detailed the country’s founding in 1619 when the first enslaved Africans were brought to the United States. Although she received accolades for her work, many conservatives heavily criticized the project. Former President Donald Trump even called the 1619 Project “warped” and “distorted,” according to NBC News.
After months of controversy and protests, her tenure was approved by the board of trustees in a 9-4 vote on June 30. Before the vote, protesters were removed from the meeting room. Taliajah Vann, President of the Black Student Movement at UNC, told Marc Lamont Hill that they were peacefully standing in the board meeting when the police proceeded to attack them.
Hannah-Jones and award-winning journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates will launch a new Center for Democracy and Journalism at Howard University. Support for the two in their new roles has already brought $20 million to the university as foundations pledge their support to the new center.
To the esteemed journalist and professor, the decision to leave UNC was not an easy one, but the lack of support from the institution left her no choice. While there, she co-founded the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Journalism and kept close ties to the school, her alma mater. “I still wanted to come to Carolina,” she said. “It’s my alma mater. I love this place.”
The journalism school is named after Walter Hussman, a mega-donor who gave the school $25 million. Hannah-Jones said once she learned of the political pressure from conservatives, including Hussman, staying at UNC made less sense.
“Once the news broke and I started to see the extent of the political interference, particularly the reporting on Walter Hussman, it became really clear to me that I just could not work at a school named after Walter Hussman,” she said. “To be a person who has stood for what I stand for and have any integrity whatsoever, I just couldn’t see how I could do that.”
Hannah-Jones’ journey to Howard, which she calls “the crown jewel of HBCUs,” was intentional. “Historically Black colleges have always had to punch above their weight,” Hannah-Jones told NC Policy Watch. “They produce a disproportionate number of Black professionals with disproportionately low funds. It’s very hard for them to attract someone like me.”
Howard University’s president, Wayne A.I. Frederick, said “At such a critical time for race relations in our country, it is vital that we understand the role of journalism in steering our national conversation and social progress. Not only must our newsrooms reflect the communities where they are reporting, but we need to infuse the profession with diverse talent. We are thrilled that they will bring their insights and research to what is already a world-class, highly accomplished team of professors.”
Hannah-Jones will begin her role as the inaugural Knight Chair this summer, according to Howard University.
Howard University is proud to announce Nikole Hannah-Jones & Ta-Nehisi Coates will join the HU faculty to help educate the next generation of black journalists. The appointments are supported by nearly $20 million donated by four donors.
— Howard University (@HowardU) July 6, 2021