By Danielle Sanders
Nikole Hannah-Jones is a Pulitzer-Prize-winning staff writer and investigative journalist for the New York Times, who covers Civil Rights in the US. In 2020, Nikole Hannah-Jones was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her essay in the New York Times on the history of slavery.
The 1619 Project was created to “reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the center of the United States National Narrative.” Her 1619 project was at the center of criticism by conservatives, including the former president, Donald Trump. Hannah-Jones is an alumnus of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
Last month, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill announced that Hannah-Jones would join the Hussman School of Journalism and Media as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative journalism. However, it was learned that her position was not tenured.
Instead, the University offered Nikole Hannah-Jones, a five-year teaching contract. Typically, all Knight Chairs were hired with tenure. The University of North Carolina has not commented on the issues, saying, “Details of individual faculty hiring processes are personal protected information.”
The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting and the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) have called on the UNC-Chapel Hill board of trustees to reconsider its decision.
“SPJ was proud last year to recognize Nikole Hannah-Jones as an SPJ Fellow, our highest honor in the profession. UNC should be no less proud to have her as its Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism,” said Matthew T. Hall, SPJ national president. “SPJ urges the university to offer her tenure so it can demonstrate that it is treating her the same way it treated two people in the position before her, by which I mean treating her with respect.”
“NABJ has reached out to the university to determine their reason for failing to grant tenure to Nikole,” said NABJ President Dorothy Tucker. “If the speculations are true, then we denounce any decision to deny a distinguished journalist tenure because she simply did her job by reporting facts about slavery in America. The University would be sending a message to its students that it does not support press freedom and that seeking the truth and reporting it is not a pillar it believes should be a part of our profession, and that the work of Black journalists, or any journalist, to expose the ills of slavery and its impact on America is unmerited.”
Nikole Hannah-Jones has not directly addressed the matter but said on Twitter, “I have been overwhelmed by all of the support you all have shown me. It has truly fortified my spirit and my resolve. You all know that I will be ok, but this fight is bigger than me, and I will try my best not to let you down”.The New York Times, said, “her hiring brought a backlash from conservatives about her involvement in the Times Magazine 1619 project, which examined the legacy of slavery in America.”