Creator of the New York Times’ 1619 Project Nikole Hannah-Jones has dramatically rejected the University of North Carolina‘s offer of tenured position and will be accepting a role at Howard University instead.
Hannah-Jones announced Tuesday she will become a member of the historically black university’s Cathy Hughes School of Communication and will also lead its newly created Center for Journalism and Democracy to train the next generation of African-American reporters.
One week ago, trustees at UNC-Chapel Hill approved Hannah-Jones’ tenure, capping weeks of tension that began when her application was halted because she did not come from a ‘traditional academic-type background’.
An ugly brawl erupted as a small group of protesters stormed into the session and refused to leave the area when police attempted to usher them out. They regathered just outside the room, using a bullhorn to shout their frustrations at police who they said pushed them out of the room.
It came a week after she refused to teach at the school and claimed ‘powerful donor’ had blocked her from lifetime role.
Speaking on Gayle King on CBS This Morning, she said: ‘We are at a critical juncture in our democracy, and yet our press does not reflect the nation it serves and too often struggles to grasp the danger for our country as we see growing attacks on free speech and the fundamental right to vote.
‘In the storied tradition of the Black press, the Center for Journalism and Democracy will help produce journalists capable of accurately and urgently covering the challenges of our democracy with a clarity, skepticism, rigor and historical dexterity that is too often missing from today’s journalism.’
Hannah-Jones told CBS This Morning on Tuesday that she will become a member of the historically black university’s Cathy Hughes School of Communication
Hannah-Jones announced Tuesday she will become a member of the historically black university’s (pictured) Cathy Hughes School of Communication
One week ago, trustees at UNC-Chapel Hill approved Hannah-Jones’ tenure, capping weeks of tension that began when a board member halted the process over over concerns about her teaching credentials because she did not come from a ‘traditional academic-type background’
Faculties of the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media said Tuesday they were ‘disappointed, but not surprised’ at Hannah Jones’s decision to turn down the school’s offer.
The school’s board of trustees at had gone into a closed-door session to discuss her appointment soon after the meeting began, which is a standard practice when discussing personnel matters, according to The Daily Tar Heel.
Officials had reportedly not communicated the process with the public – which frustrated the demonstrated who were asked to leave the room.
Hannah-Jones wrote in a tweet that the confusion led to black students getting ‘shoved and punched’ instead of attempts to de-escalate the situation.
‘It should have been communicated how this meeting would go, that tenure proceedings are always held in closed session, and an attempt made to de-escalate. Instead Black students were shoved and punched because they were confused about the process. This is not right,’ Hannah-Jones tweeted.
Demonstrators are removed from a closed session meeting of the UNC-Chapel Hill trustees Wednesday as the board prepared to discuss and vote on tenure for distinguished journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones
They regathered just outside the room, using a bullhorn to shout their frustrations at police who they said pushed them out of the room
Officials had reportedly not communicated the process with the public – which frustrated the demonstrated who were asked to leave the room
The students who had protested outside of the meeting had chanted ‘No Justice! No Peace’
Police are seen confronting protesters who descended on Wednesday’s closed-door meeting
She added: ‘To be clear: My legal team did not request the closed session. The closed session is the normal procedure for tenure votes and our desire was, for the first time in this process, to be treated by the [board of trustees] like every other tenure candidate.’
The students who had protested outside of the meeting had chanted ‘No Justice! No Peace,’ The State reported.
Julia Clark, the vice president of the UNC Black Student Movement, told the outlet that an officer who told her to move back had ‘felt threatened.’
‘Be afraid,’ Clark said. ‘Be afraid. I want you to be scared, because we are scared on this campus every day.’
The organization’s president Taliajah ‘Teddy’ Vann told The State she was frustrated that the board went into closed session and would not vote in public.
‘What are you hiding?’ Vann said, according to the outlet.
She added: ‘Y’all think y’all are safe hiding behind those doors? You’re not. Because our voices will be heard regardless.’
Protesters and interested parties gather outside the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill on Wednesday where the University of North Carolina Board of Trustees voted on tenure for Nikole Hannah-Jones
A small group of protesters refused to leave the meeting room and police attempted to usher them out
Deborah Dwyer, a doctoral candidate, holds a sign while gathered with fellow students and alumni on the steps of Carroll Hall, where the UNC-Chapel Hill Hussman School of Journalism and Media is located
The protesters only reportedly calmed down when Lamar Richards, the school’s student body president and a member of the Board of Trustees, called one of the protesters and explained why the tenure discussion would not be in public.
Richards tweeted shortly after the phone call: ‘The reason for this is crucial because depending on any outcome of this meeting we do not want there to be any contest made that could potentially impact/ interfere w/ stuff in the future surrounding this issue.’
‘Our fight is for her to be treated the same as every other candidate,’ he added.
Hannah-Jones wrote in a tweet that the confusion led to black students getting ‘shoved and punched’ instead of attempts to de-escalate the situation
The university announced in April that Hannah-Jones, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her work on the New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project that focused on the country’s history of slavery, would be joining the journalism school´s faculty as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism in July with a five-year contract.
Before Wednesday, the school had said little about why tenure was not offered, but a prominent donor revealed he had emailed university leaders challenging her work as ‘highly contentious and highly controversial’ before the process was halted.
Hannah-Jones attorneys announced last week that she would not report for work without tenure, prompting a call from Student Body President Lamar Richards, who’s also a trustee, for the board to convene a special meeting.
Earlier in the year, Hannah-Jones´ tenure application was halted because she did not come from a ‘traditional academic-type background,’ and a trustee who vets the lifetime appointments wanted more time to consider her qualifications, university leaders had said.
The school has said little about why tenure was not offered, but a prominent donor revealed he had emailed university leaders challenging her work as ‘highly contentious and highly controversial’ before the process was halted.
Some conservatives have complained about The 1619 Project, which focused on the country’s history of slavery.
The meeting comes a day before Hannah-Jones was to start at the journalism school. Her attorneys announced last week that she would not report for work without tenure.
Last week, Richards requested that the board convene a special meeting no later than Wednesday to vote on tenure for Hannah-Jones. Six board members must agree to a request for a special meeting to take place, according to Richards.
The decision by trustees earlier this year to halt Hannah-Jones´ tenure submission sparked a torrent of criticism from within the community. It ultimately revealed a depth of frustration over the school´s failure to answer longstanding concerns about the treatment of Black faculty, staff and students.
Several hundred UNC students gathered near the chancellor’s office last Friday to demand that trustees reconsider tenure for Hannah-Jones.
Behind the New York Times’ hotly-contested 1619 Project: Critics claim the series was riddled with inaccuracies because authors ignored fact-checker’s notes
The 1619 Project won the Pulitzer Prize in 2019. It was praised by some as shining a light on untold history, but lambasted by others, including former President Donald Trump, for what he said was a jaundiced view of the US
In August 2019 the New York Times Magazine published the 1619 project, a collection of essays, photo essays, short fiction pieces and poems aimed to ‘reframe’ American history based on the impact of slaves brought to the US.
It was published to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of enslaved Africans in the English colonies.
It argues that the nation’s birth was not 1776 with independence from the British crown, but in August 1619 with the arrival of a cargo ship of 20 to 30 enslaved Africans at Point Comfort in the colony of Virginia, which inaugurated the system of slavery.
The project argues that slavery was the country’s origin and out of it ‘grew nearly everything that has truly made America exceptional.’
That includes economic might, industry, the electoral system, music, public health and education inequities, violence, income inequality, slang, and racial hatred.
However, the project is debated among historians for its factual accuracy.
In March 2020 historian Leslie M. Harris who served as a fact checker for the project said authors ignored her corrections, but believed the project was needed to correct prevailing historical narratives.
One aspect up for debate is the timeline.
Time Magazine said the first slaves arrived in 1526 in a Spanish colony in what is now South Carolina, 93 years prior to the landing in Jamestown.
Some experts say slaves first arrived at present-day Fort Monroe in Hampton, instead of Jamestown.
Others argue the first Africans in Virginia were indentured servants as laws on lifetime slavery didn’t appear till 17th century and early 18th century, but worked essentially as slaves.
Princeton historian Sean Wilentz criticized the 1619 Project’s ‘cynicism,’ according to the Atlantic magazine.
He distributed a letter signed by historians that asked the newspaper to correct what it said were factual errors.
The letter said the series was ‘ displacement of historical understanding by ideology.’
Newt Gingrich in a 2019 USA Today article said the project was a lie and that ‘there were several hundred thousand white Americans who died in the Civil War in order to free the slaves.’
In March 2020, the New York Times wrote a seemingly half-hearted ‘clarification’ to part of the 1619 project on a part of the series that said one of the primary reasons the colonists fought in the American Revolution was to protect slavery.
The clarification read: ‘We recognize that our original language could be read to suggest that protecting slavery was a primary motivation for all of the colonists. The passage has been changed to make clear that this was a primary motivation for some of the colonists. A note has been appended to the story as well’
Also that month, a professor, Leslie M. Harris, who helped fact-check the project wrote in Politico, said that she’d repeatedly argued against Hannah-Jones against the idea that the people who fought in the American Revolution to preserve slavery.
‘I vigorously disputed the claim,’ she wrote in the Politico op-ed. ‘Although slavery was certainly an issue in the American Revolution, the protection of slavery was not one of the main reasons the 13 Colonies went to war.’
Despite the expert’s advice, the Times published the story without changing the inaccuracy, something that ‘stunned’ Harris, she wrote.
‘In addition, the paper’s characterizations of slavery in early America reflected laws and practices more common in the antebellum era than in Colonial times, and did not accurately illustrate the varied experiences of the first generation of enslaved people that arrived in Virginia in 1619,’ Harris said, listing another inaccuracy.
Harris did contend that slavery was ‘central to’ the United States’ story, but that it was ‘not, in fact, founded to protect slavery.’