Nikole Hannah-Jones will not be joining the faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill—despite the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist finally being granted tenure at the school following a long, white tears-infused drama that should never have been entertained by the school’s board of trustees. Instead, Hannah-Jones and famed author Ta-Nehisi Coates will both be starting jobs at Howard University, a renowned HBCU and a school that didn’t force the creator of The 1619 Project into a Hannah-Jones-vs-white-fragility battle all because conservatives get all in their feelings over Blackness being centered in American history.
Howard University announced in a press release Tuesday that “Hannah-Jones will be a tenured member of the faculty of the Cathy Hughes School of Communications, filling the newly created Knight Chair in Race and Journalism.” She will also lead the university’s newly created Center for Journalism and Democracy, which will “focus on training and supporting aspiring journalists in acquiring the investigative skills and historical and analytical expertise needed to cover the crisis our democracy is facing.”
In a statement, Hannah-Jones expressed joy and excitement in joining the faculty, saying that one of her biggest regrets is that she “did not attend Howard as an undergraduate.” She also said that she hopes that in her new position she will help Howard University bring something to media that she believes it sorely lacks—a wealth of Black journalists.
“We are at a critical juncture in our democracy, and yet our press does not reflect the nation it serves and too often struggles to grasp the danger for our country as we see growing attacks on free speech and the fundamental right to vote,” Hannah-Jones said, referencing Republican efforts to restrict voter access and the white fragility war against Critical Race Theory. “In the storied tradition of the Black press, the Center for Journalism and Democracy will help produce journalists capable of accurately and urgently covering the challenges of our democracy with a clarity, skepticism, rigor and historical dexterity that is too often missing from today’s journalism. I am so grateful to the Ford, Knight and MacArthur foundations for the initial funding to launch the center and hope to very quickly meet the center’s $25 million fundraising goal.”
Meanwhile, Coates, who did attend Howard U, will be starting his new job as the Sterling Brown Chair in the Department of English at the university’s College of Arts and Sciences.
“I heard a wise man once say, ‘A man who hates home will never be happy.’ And it is in the pursuit of wisdom and happiness that I return to join the esteemed faculty of Howard University,” Coates said, according to the press release. “This is the faculty that molded me. This is the faculty that strengthened me. Personally, I know of no higher personal honor than this.”
Hannah-Jones and Coates are both recipients of the MacArthur “genius” grant, which, according to the MacArthur Foundation’s website, is awarded to those “who show exceptional creativity in their work.” The foundation is also one of the organizations that helped to donate more than $20 million to fund the two positions along with the Knight Foundation, the Ford Foundation and anonymous donors.
As for UNC-Chapel Hill, on Tuesday, 24 of the school’s professors and other faculty members signed a statement in response to the news of Hannah-Jones going to Howard titled, “Racism and Reactionary Politics Kept Nikole Hannah-Jones from Joining UNC.”
From the statement:
While disappointed, we are not surprised. We support Ms. Hannah-Jones’s choice. The appalling treatment of one of our nation’s most-decorated journalists by her own alma mater was humiliating, inappropriate, and unjust.
We will be frank: It was racist.
Our school highly regards Ms. Hannah-Jones’s work, ability, and achievements. We regret that the top echelons of leadership at UNC-Chapel Hill failed to follow established processes, did not conduct themselves professionally and transparently, and created a crisis that shamed our institution, all because of Ms. Hannah-Jones’s honest accounting of America’s racial history. It is understandable why Ms. Hannah-Jones would take her brilliance elsewhere.
It’s an unexpected end to the saga between Hannah-Jones and UNC-Chapel Hill, but it’s also one that warms the heart. What better place for Hannah-Jones and Coates to take their talents and brilliance to than an HBCU where they will undoubtedly help to prepare and inspire future generations of Black journalists, scholars and thinkers?
It’s a good look and we congratulate Hannah-Jones and Coates on their new positions as well as Howard University for adding these two geniuses in journalism and activism to its faculty.