1619 Project creator Nikole Hannah-Jones joins UNC faculty

The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist will join UNC-Chapel Hill’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media in July.

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Award-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones has been named as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at University of North Carolina’s Hussman School of Journalism.

Read More: Hulu acquires ‘1619 Project’ docuseries produced by Oprah

An official press release, revealed the news which takes Hannah-Jones back to UNC Hussman. She earned her master’s degree from the institution in 2003 and credits former UNC Hussman professors like Harry Amana and Chuck Stone with giving her valuable guidance as she prepared for a career in journalism.

“I see classrooms as democratic institutions, where all students should be encouraged to participate, but where the instructor must understand that not all students feel equally empowered to do so,” Hannah-Jones said. “I think it is critical that professors encourage students in their varied talents and experiences and give them equal weight within the classroom.”

Nikole Hannah-Jones poses with award during The 75th Annual Peabody Awards Ceremony at Cipriani Wall Street on May 21, 2016 in New York City.

“My courses will examine the big questions about journalism,” She continued, “But they will also bring the practical experiences and advice of someone who covered daily beats, who had to fight to be in a position to do big projects, who can speak to the rigors of academic and accumulated knowledge, but also the practicalities of how you build a career, navigate the industry and deal with setbacks.”

Hannah-Jones began her career as an education reporter with The Chapel Hill News. She went on to cover school equity and the racial achievement gap in the Durham public school system at The Raleigh Observer, which resulted in school board action to improve education access and quality.

She continued to build her career as an enterprise reporter at The Oregonian and became an investigative reporter covering civil rights, discrimination, housing, and school segregation at ProPublica before joining The New York Times in 2015.

“This is a full-circle moment for me as I return to the place that launched my career to help launch the careers of other aspiring journalists.,” she wrote on Twitter. “I’m so excited to continue mentoring students from the classroom and for all I will learn from them.”

Read More: Iowa GOP lawmakers push for budget cuts for schools that teach ‘1619 Project’

Faculty at UNC shared their excitement at Hannah-Jones’ return to campus as an educator.

“This is the story of a leader returning to a place that transformed her life and career trajectory,” said Susan King, dean of UNC Hussman. “Giving back is part of Nikole’s DNA, and now one of the most respected investigative journalists in America will be working with our students on projects that will move their careers forward and ignite critically important conversations.”

Over her career, Hannah-Jones has earned several distinguished awards and recognitions, including the National Association of Black Journalists’ Journalist of the Year award in 2015; Peabody and Polk Awards for radio reporting in 2016; the Hillman Prize for magazine reporting and the National Magazine Award in 2017 and again in 2020; a MacArthur Fellowship in 2017; Columbia University’s John Chancellor Award for Distinguished Journalism in 2018; and a second Journalist of the Year award in 2019.  She also earned a Pulitzer Prize in 2020 for “The 1619 Project.”

This combination photo shows cover art for “The 1619 Project: Born On the Water” based on a student’s family tree assignment, with words by Hannah-Jones and Renee Watson and illustrations by Nikkolas Smith, left, and “The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story”. (Kokila/One World via AP)

As theGrio reported, two books have been created based on the “1619 Project.” Both will be released this fall, with contributions from Jesmyn WardJason ReynoldsIbram X. Kendi, and dozens of others authors and journalists.

“When we published ‘The 1619 Project’ in 2019, none of us could have imagined all that it would become,” Hannah-Jones said in a statement on the books. “The historic events that have since taken place in our country have only affirmed the thesis of, and necessity for, a project that grapples with how slavery, oppression and the struggle for Black liberation created the country we live in today.”

“The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story” expands upon the New York Times magazine publication and “Born On the Water” is a volume for young people, based on a student’s family tree assignment,

“Together, the 18 essays in the book and the 36 creative works come together to show how the inheritance of 1619 reaches into nearly every part of contemporary American society, from politics, music, diet, traffic, and citizenship, to capitalism, religion and our very democracy,” said publisher Penguin Random House of the origin story.

“Born On the Water” was described by Hannah-Jones as “a story of affirmation for every Black child, and a story of America that will speak to every child no matter their race.”

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