1619 Project Creator Nikole Hannah-Jones Turned Down UNC's Tenure Offer

Nikole Hannah Jones speaks on the stage at the 137th Commencement of Morehouse College, May 16, 2021 in Atlanta. After a contentious tenure dispute, Nikole Hannah Jones, a journalist, has declined a tenure offer by the University of North Carolina and will instead join Howard University's faculty. Hannah-Jones was denied tenure in May as Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journal by the UNC board. This unusual decision sparked protests and national outrage from the student body. Last week, the board granted her tenure in a 94 vote. This was just days before she was due to begin her new position at the university. In a Tuesday interview, she said that "Look at what it took for tenure to be granted." "I went through the tenure procedure and received unanimous approval from faculty to be granted tenure. It was a terrible feeling to be denied tenure and to have it denied at the last moment after protests, weeks of protests, and after a national scandal, this is not what I want. Knight Chairs were established at UNC's Hussman School of Journalism and Media during the 1980s. They have been tenured positions that bring professional journalists into academia. Hannah-Jones' tenure application was denied by school administrators and faculty despite her approval. Instead, she was offered a five year contract with no tenure. Hannah-Jones stated that she believes she was denied tenure because of "political opposition, because discriminatory views were against my viewpoint and I believe in my race and gender." The Assembly reported that Walter Hussman Jr., a mega-donor to the university, had privately voiced discomfort with Hannah Jones' Pulitzer Prizewinning 1619 Project about how slavery shaped America. Hussman sent an email to the chancellor, journalism school dean, and stated that "based on her own words many will conclude that she is trying to push a agenda, and they will assume that she is manipulating historical facts in support of it." Hussman, a white man, was furious at Hannah-Jones writing that Black enslaved persons fought against slavery "for most of the time." According to the Assembly, he added that "long before Nikole Hannah was awarded her Pulitzer Prize," other emails showed that he had written another email. Hussman denied that he withheld donations or influenced the school's decision over Hannah-Jones. Republican legislators have also opposed the 1619 Project. They have used their power to fuel and exploit the anger surrounding efforts to educate students about how the US was built upon a legacy of racism, white supremacy, and other forms of oppression. The majority Republican North Carolina state legislature has some control over the UNC board of trustees. It appoints four of its thirteen members.

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