1619 Project creator Nikole Hannah-Jones has tenure offer revoked by UNC: report

Nikole Hannah-Jones
The New York Times magazine journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones speaks at the 137th Commencement of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, on May 16, 2021.

  • The New York Times journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones had a tenure offer revoked at UNC-Chapel Hill, according to NC Policy Watch.
  • Hannah-Jones was set to teach at the school as a Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism.
  • She is the creator of the 1619 Project, which has drawn a wave of criticism from conservatives.
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According to NC Policy Watch, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill reversed its plans to offer a tenured teaching position to Nikole Hannah-Jones, the New York Times Magazine journalist and creator of the 1619 Project.

Last month, the university offered Hannah-Jones a position as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism.

However, after Hannah-Jones went through an extensive tenure process with the backing of faculty and the tenure committee, her application hit a roadblock with the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees, according to NC Policy Watch.

The board of trustees is tasked with reviewing and approving tenure applications, and it declined to move forward with authorizing tenure for Hannah-Jones, who earned a master’s degree in journalism and mass communications from the university.

Instead, the school has altered its offer from a tenured position to a “fixed-term position,” which would afford her the chance to be considered for tenure after five years.

“It was a work-around,” a UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees member informed NC Policy Watch this week.

After the news broke of the university hiring Hannah-Jones last month, conservative critics, who have slammed the 1619 Project as “propaganda” in its examination of race and racism in the United States, blasted the move.

Susan King, the dean of the University of North Carolina Hussman School of Journalism and Media, told NC Policy Watch of her dismay with the board’s decision.

“It’s disappointing, it’s not what we wanted, and I am afraid it will have a chilling effect,” she said.

She added: “Investigative journalists always are involved in controversies. They dig deep, and they raise questions that demand answers. Part of what they do is raise uncomfortable questions for people, institutions and systems.”

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Following today’s news, over 20 faculty members of the journalism school have signed a public statement asking for the university to reconsider its decision.

“We call on the university’s leadership to reaffirm its commitment to the university, its faculty, and time-honored norms and procedures, and its endorsed values of diversity, equity, and inclusion,” the statement read. “The university must tenure Nikole Hannah-Jones as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism.”

Through the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigate Reporting, Hannah-Jones has sought to cultivate and retain reporters and editors of color in the field of investigative reporting, which has long had a dearth of minority journalists in its ranks in major American newsrooms.

She has garnered widespread recognition for the 1619 Project – published by The New York Times Magazine in 2019.

The project examines the legacy of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans throughout the nation’s history. It drew the ire of Republicans who have objected to the project’s historical context and have sought to ban the body of work from being taught in schools. The 1619 Project is also said to have inspired former President Donald Trump’s push for the 1776 commission, which was established to promote “patriotic education.”

In 2017, Hannah-Jones received the highly-coveted MacArthur Fellowship, and in 2020, she won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for the 1619 Project, among other awards.

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