We Stand in Solidarity With Nikole Hannah-JonesRoundup
tags: University of North Carolina, academic freedom, 1619 Project, Nikole Hannah-Jones
Ta-Nehisi Coates, Writer; Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore, Peter V. & C. Vann Woodward Professor of History Emerita, Yale University; and Martha S. Jones, Society of Black Alumni Presidential Professor, Professor of History and the SNF Agora Institute, The Johns Hopkins University are the authors of this letter which has been signed by other scholars, writers, athletes, entertainers and others concerned with the actions of the UNC Board of Trustees.
We, the undersigned, believe this country stands at a crucial moment that will define the democratic expression and exchange of ideas for our own and future generations. State institutions across the country are attempting to ban frank and rigorous conversation about our history in the classroom. Few single works have been threatened with more restrictions than the 1619 Project, a landmark exploration of America’s deep roots in enslavement. And now, the 1619 Project’s founder, Nikole Hannah-Jones, has had her appointment as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill with tenure blocked by its Board of Trustees.
Hannah-Jones’ accolades are numerous: three National Magazine awards, one Peabody award, two Polk awards, a Pulitzer and a MacArthur Fellowship. Hannah-Jones has been elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Society of American Historians. Because of her extraordinary achievements, the Hussman School recruited Hannah-Jones, one of the school’s most notable alumni, intending to appoint her a professor with tenure. Hannah-Jones underwent the university’s rigorous tenure review process, which included enthusiastic support from the Hussman School faculty, her journalistic peers among them. The failure of courage on the part of the Board of Trustees to follow the recommendation of Hannah-Jones’ peers is almost certainly tied to Hannah-Jones’ creation of the 1619 Project.
While the denial of tenure is egregious, it is not an isolated incident. The same anti-democratic thinking that blocked Hannah-Jones’ appointment at her alma mater has also fueled efforts in state and local legislatures to ban the teaching of histories of slavery and its legacies through the 1619 Project. We call on all people of conscience to decry this growing wave of repression and to encourage a recommitment to the free exchange of ideas in our schools, workplaces, legislatures, and communities.
We are called to action by the example Hannah-Jones herself has set during her nearly twenty-year career as a journalist committed to shedding light on inequality and injustice through an examination of one of democracy’s fundamental building blocks, education. Writing first for outlets in Durham, North Carolina, and Portland, Oregon, Hannah-Jones joined the New York Times Magazine in 2015 as a staff reporter. Throughout her life, she has unflinchingly unearthed the blueprints of racism, its latticework of law, policy and custom, and how it undergirds our everyday lives. Her work is a call to conscience and a call to action for all Americans who remain committed to a democracy premised in unrestricted opportunity and unbridled attainment in public education for all.
The complete text of the letter and the list of signatories can be viewed at The Root.
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