Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones has been at the center of some “good trouble” lately. After much controversy and public debate, the award-winning journalist turned down a long-awaited offer for tenure at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill journalism school. Instead, she announced that she will be the inaugural Knight Chair in Race and Reporting at Howard University.
“Instead of fighting to prove I belong at an institution that until 1955 prohibited Black Americans from attending, I am instead going to work in the legacy of a university not built by the enslaved but for those who once were,” she said in a statement.
Hannah-Jones initially accepted the UNC journalism school’s tenure offer. After successfully completing a rigorous tenure process, everything came to a halt. Her tenure was held up for months, with the UNC board of trustees refusing to vote twice, in November and January.
At the center of the controversy was Hannah-Jones’ Pulitzer Prize winning work with the New York Times on “The 1619 Project.” The project takes a critical look into the role of slavery in the birth of the United States and has amassed a number of critics. Though UNC never made an official statement to explain their delay, various reports named conflict around “The 1619 Project” and disapproval from politically conservative trustees as the reasons.
“I think it showed that there was not a respect for what Black faculty go through on campus. We know that the University of North Carolina lost some recruits over this, other Black faculty are considering leaving the university,” she told interviewers. “If they were able to do this to me — I work at the New York Times. I have a huge megaphone. I have a huge platform — what do they think they could get away with when it came to lesser-known scholars?”
Following weeks of public outrage and threats of student protests, the board of trustees finally voted and approved Hannah-Jones’ tenure in a split vote – an offer she refused. “I hope that other universities who might find it easy to point at the board of trustees in North Carolina and say, ‘They’re just backwards,’ will do some real, internal introspection on the way that they are also blocking so many other talented Black faculty who dedicated their life to academia.”
HBCUs are not only essential for Black students but Black academics as well. The Ivy Times is thrilled to watch Nikole begin her tenure as the Inaugural Knight Chair in Race and Reporting at the Mecca.