- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Nikole Hannah-Jones will join the faculty at Howard University in Washington with tenure, the school announced Tuesday, a notable twist after a rocky debate over the journalist’s status at the University of North Carolina following her New York Times project that reexamined U.S. history through the lens of slavery.

UNC at Chapel Hill granted Ms. Hannah-Jones tenure in recent days, but it appears the long-running saga inflicted too much damage, prompting her to walk away.

Ms. Hannah-Jones will be the inaugural Knight Chair in Race and Reporting at Howard and join high-profile writer and intellectual Ta-Nehisi Coates, who also was appointed Tuesday by the historically Black university.

“It is my pleasure to welcome to Howard two of today’s most respected and influential journalists. 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,” said Wayne A. I. Frederick,  president of Howard University. “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.”

UNC at Chapel Hill announced in April that Ms. Hannah-Jones would join the public university in July as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at the Hussman School of Journalism and Media.

But the board of trustees did not act on a recommendation that she be provided tenure, setting off a public and bitter debate about her appointment and role in the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1619 Project for The New York Times.

Critics of the project said it undermined America’s inspiring story and was inaccurate in places, prompting a clarification over the role of slavery in the colonies’ desire to declare independence from Britain.

Ms. Hannah-Jones said the controversy around the project and pushback from a major donor caused the upheaval at UNC.

“It’s pretty clear that my tenure was not taken up because of political opposition because of discriminatory views against my viewpoint and I believe my race and my gender,” she told CBS’ “This Morning.”

Trustees decided to grant Ms. Hannah-Jones tenure less than a week ago, though it couldn’t prevent a breakup.

Ms. Hannah-Jones called the decision to walk away from UNC, where she received a master’s degree in journalism, a “very difficult decision” and not one she wanted to make.

She said UNC granted her tenure “after threat of legal action, after weeks of protest, after it became a national scandal.”

SEE ALSO: History As It Happens: The 1619 Project in America’s schools

“It’s just not something that I want anymore,” she said.

In a lengthy statement, Ms. Hannah-Jones thanked UNC faculty and students who supported her and told the university to make a series of changes. 

She wants the school to apologize to student protesters who were “treated so disrespectfully” at the Board of Trustees meeting last week; set targets for hiring Black faculty; make sure the Board of Trustees and the Board of Governors reflect the demographics of the state; and “provide transparency around the tenure debacle that led us here.”

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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