Posted on May 26, 2021

UNC Disputes That 1619 Project Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones Was Ever Offered Tenured Position

Elaina Athans, WTVD, May 20, 2021

Faculty members of a North Carolina university want an explanation for the school’s reported decision to back away from offering a tenured teaching position to journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, whose work on the country’s history of slavery has drawn the ire of conservatives.

Those faculty members met at the Carolina Inn on Thursday morning in a show of solidarity for Hannah-Jones.

“To think that the ignorance of North Carolina would overrule a MacArthur Genius fellow and a Pulitzer Prize winner, and say we don’t even want that thought in our state, it’s shameful. It’s embarrassing,” said Chapel Hill activist Anna Richard.

Hannah-Jones was offered a position as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the school announced last month. Hannah-Jones is an investigative journalist who won the Pulitzer Prize for her work on The 1619 Project for The New York Times Magazine.


The journalist was not offered a tenured position, according to the journalism school’s dean, Susan King, who supported her tenure application.{snip}


King told our newsgathering partners at The News & Observer that she was informed that the university’s board of trustees, who have final say on tenure, did not want to grant it to someone who came from a background outside of academia.

“She was qualified before the 1619 project,” said UNC Associate Professor Tori Ekstrand. She said she voted in favor of tenure.


Alberto Ibargüen, President of The Knight Foundation, which funds the University of North Carolina professorship offered to Hannah-Jones, issued a statement noting that while the foundation respects the independence of the universities where it endows chairs, he hopes UNC will reconsider its decision to offer Hannah-Jones a contract position instead of tenure. {snip}


The 1619 Project is an initiative of The New York Times Magazine that began in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. The magazine describes the project as one which is designed to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans “at the very center of our national narrative.”