Nikole Hannah-Jones Launching Literacy Program With 1619 Freedom School

By: Alyssa Wilson

Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones is launching a free community-based school literacy program with her 1619 Freedom School in Waterloo, Iowa. 

According to the Associated Press, the 1619 Freedom School will have a soft launch in October at the Dr. Walter Cunningham School for Excellence. A small number of students will begin the program in October before it is opened for more participants in January. 

RELATED: UNC Denies Tenure for ‘1619 Project’ Creator Nikole Hannah-Jones, Prompting Backlash 

The program is for fourth and fifth-grade students who attend Waterloo Community Schools. The journalist says despite test scores showing the overwhelming need for literacy assistance in Black students, the program is open to all. “We will accept any student who has a need up to our capacity. We don’t discriminate based on students’ race,” Hannah-Jones said. 

RELATED: UNC Approves Tenure for Award-Winning Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones 

She rose to fame after creating the “1619 Project” for The New York Times, which examined the history of slavery in the United States, focusing on racial equity. Her work on the project led to controversy over her tenure at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After initially being denied, many protested the decision from university officials. Once the institution changed their mind to save themselves from backlash, Hannah-Jones rejected the offer to accept a more powerful leadership role at Howard University. 

The 1619 Freedom School is privately funded and has no relation to the literacy program. Hannah-Jones emphasized that the program does not teach critical race theory. “The 1619 Freedom School is built on the understanding that for a people for whom it was once illegal to learn to read and write, education is a revolutionary act,” she said. “A quality education has been the key to my success, and I wanted to give back to the community that raised me and to the children whose opportunities may be limited but who have potential that is limitless.” 

RELATED: Nikole Hannah-Jones Heading to Howard University After Declining UNC Tenure 


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