Nikole Hannah-Jones is the inaugural Knight Chair of Race and Reporting at Howard University in Washington D.C.
Hannah-Jones is best known as one of the primary authors of The 1619 Project. Published in July of 2019 by The New York Times Magazine, The 1619 Project is a series of reports and essays that purport to document the origins of and lingering effects of racism in America. The stated intent for the project is to establish 1619–the first year that slaves were brought to the British Colonies in America–as the true founding of the United States, rather than 1776. The project’s central thesis alleges that slavery and racism are the basis out of which the United States was created. Hannah-Jones was awarded The Pulitzer Prize for her work on the project. Since its publication, The 1619 Project and its authors have faced a myriad of problems, including accusations of controversial hiring tactics, false claims, and shoddy research.
Hannah-Jones elicited controversy for the publication and retraction of false information in her articles and unearthed racially incendiary remarks.
- Shortly after the publication of the report, Hannah-Jones admitted that hiring almost exclusively black staff was a “non-negotiable” aspect when beginning to work on the 1619 issue of The New York Times Magazine.
- One of Hannah-Jones’ central claims—“that one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery”—was retracted by the paper in early 2020.
- In January 2020, numerous historians, scholars, and commentators—both conservatives and socialists— as cited by The Atlantic, criticized The New York Times and The 1619 Project for publishing false information about American history and slavery.
- In October 2020, accomplished professors and intellectuals penned an open letter calling on “the Pulitzer Prize Board to rescind the 2020 Prize for Commentary awarded to Nikole Hannah-Jones for her lead essay in The 1619 Project” because “… the article itself was false when written, making a large claim that protecting the institution of slavery was a primary motive for the American Revolution, a claim for which there is simply no evidence.”
Bret Stephens, a columnist for The New York Times and colleague of Hannah-Jones, rebuffed the 1619 Project, writing in October 2020 that “Journalists are, most often, in the business of writing the first rough draft of history, not trying to have the last word on it. We are best when we try to tell truths with a lowercase t, following evidence in directions unseen, not the capital-T truth of a pre-established narrative in which inconvenient facts get discarded.”
By late 2020, both Hannah-Jones’ claims and The 1619 Project as a whole began receiving scrutiny–from both the Left and Right–on a near-daily occurrence. Hannah-Jones then falsely stated that The 1619 Project never claimed that 1619 was America’s true founding, despite the fact that the allegation was printed on the front pages of the issue and was repeated numerous times in televised and print interviews.
Hannah-Jones attracted further scrutiny over a racially explicit op-ed that she had written as a student at Notre Dame University in 1996. As reported by The Federalist, Mrs. Hannah-Jones described white people as “bloodsuckers” and accused the white race of being the “biggest murderer, rapist, pillager, and thief, of the modern world.” She alleges in the same article that Africans arrived in the Americas “long before Columbus or any Europeans,” and that Christopher Columbus was “no different than Hitler.”
Hannah-Jones was originally offered the position of Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism and Professor of the Practice at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Activists and later Hannah-Jones accused the university of racism for withholding tenure. When the University finally bowed to the pressure and offered to meet her demands, Jones refused and accepted a similar position at Howard University.
Parents and Students may contact Howard University at (202) 806-6100
Updated – July 2021
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