Nikole Hannah-Jones, the New York Times journalist, MacArthur “genius grant” recipient, The Root 100 honoree and creator of The 1619 Project, has finally been granted tenure at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill after a prolonged, unnecessary saga.
According to NPR, trustees at the university voted in favor of giving Hannah-Jones tenure during a closed door session on Wednesday afternoon. “We welcome Nikole Hannah-Jones back to campus,” Richard Stevens, the UNC’s board chairman, said after the three-hour special session of the trustees. “Our university is not a place to cancel people. Our university is better than that. Our nation is better than that.”
Lol, what country has this guy been in?
If you were unaware, Critical Race Theory has become the cause célèbre for conservatives nationwide. Hannah-Jones has found herself at the center of this controversy, as The 1619 Project has been cited as “revisionist history” for having the audacity to outline the horrors of the slave trade and how its ripple effects are still being felt to this day. Conservatives have been so pressed by Hannah-Jones just doing her job, that they have engaged in the same kind of “cancellation” that they’ve repeatedly said is ruining this country.
In May, the trustees initially caved into conservative pressure and refused her tenure. For her part, Hannah-Jones said she wouldn’t take a teaching position at the university if she wasn’t offered tenure. The reason tenure is so important is that it essentially provides professors with a lifetime position provided they don’t abdicate their duties, or abuse their position of power. This allows them to teach however they see fit without having to bow to public or political pressure.
Protesters had demonstrated at the Carolina Inn on Wednesday afternoon, where the meeting was held, and were confronted inside before its start by campus police. They relented, heading outside, after being informed that Hannah-Jones had asked for a private meeting.
Months earlier, board members asked for more information about her credentials when originally declining to take up her proposed tenure. However, it soon became clear that opposition had focused on her work on “the 1619 Project,” a New York Times initiative she conceived on the legacy of slavery on U.S. society today.
Some of that opposition came from Walter Hussman, a UNC donor and Arkansas newspaper publisher whose name adorns UNC’s journalism school. Hussman, who is also an alumnus, told NPR he was given pause by criticism of prominent scholars that Hannah-Jones distorted the historical record in arguing that the protection of slavery was one of the primary motivations of the Founding Fathers in seeking independence from the British. (Hannah-Jones has recently tweeted that she will be able to back up that contention in her forthcoming book.)
He spoke to a trustee and administrators about his concerns, while saying it is the university’s choice to make.
So yeah y’all, this has been an unnecessarily long saga, and is yet another example of the hurdles Black women have to go through for jobs they are more than qualified for. Hannah-Jones celebrated the decision on Twitter by posting a picture with a much deserved drink.
“It has taken longer than I imagined, but I am deeply appreciative that the board has voted in favor of our school’s recommendation to tenure Nikole Hannah-Jones as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism,” UNC Dean Susan King wrote in a statement sent to The Root.
“She is a journalist’s journalist, a teacher’s teacher and a woman of substance with a voice of consequence. Hannah-Jones will make our school better with her presence. She will deepen the University’s commitment to intellectual integrity and to access for all.”