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University Of North Carolina Moves Against CRT, 1619 Project And Pulitzer Winner Nikole Hannah-Jones, Nixes Tenure

University Of North Carolina Moves Against CRT, 1619 Project And Pulitzer Winner Nikole Hannah-Jones, Nixes Tenure

University of North Carolina

University Of North Carolina Moves Against CRT, 1619 Project And Pulitzer Winner Nikole Hannah-Jones, Nixes Tenure Photos: Nikole Hannah-Jones, a Pulitzer winner for the "1619 Project", attends the 34th Brooklyn Tribute to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, Jan. 20, 2020 in Brooklyn, New York City. Credit: mpi43/MediaPunch /IPX Manning Hall at the University of North Carolina. Photo: benuski / Flickr / CC

Conservatives have forced the University of North Carolina (UNC) to deny a tenured professorship to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, the writer behind The New York Times “1619 Project.”

The collection of essays and poems in the award-winning project re-frames U.S. history by taking a critical look at slavery and acknowledging the contributions of Black Americans to the building of the country, 400 years after the first slave ship arrived in the Virginia colony.

Hannah-Jones was slated to become UNC’s Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism, a job that in the past came with a tenured professorship. 

The UNC-Chapel Hill’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media will instead offer Hannah-Jones a fixed five-year contract starting July 1, with an option to be reviewed for tenure at the end of that time, NC Policy Watch reported.

“The 1619 Project” is long-form journalism undertaking that, as the Pulitzer Center described, “challenges us to re-frame U.S. history by marking the year when the first enslaved Africans arrived on Virginia soil as our nation’s foundational date.” Several schools have adopted a “1619 Project” curriculum.

UNC’s decision not to offer Hannah-Jones tenure came as North Carolina recently became the seventh state to introduce a bill that would ban critical race theory in its schools.

Critical race theory (CRT) focuses on institutional racism in the U.S. and is an academic movement of civil rights scholars and activists that aims to critically examine the law as it intersects with issues of race.


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“CRT challenges us to see that racial injustice in America is not, and has never been, just a problem of isolated instances of individual bias and private prejudice which we can solve by enacting ‘color-blind’ laws and policies,” said Kendall Thomas, a law professor at Columbia University and co-editor of “Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings That Formed the Movement,” in a Newsweek interview.

Hannah-Jones went through the rigorous tenure process at UNC, said Susan King, dean of the UNC school of journalism. Her application was as well-reviewed as any King had ever seen, NC Policy Watch reported. “Hannah-Jones had enthusiastic support from faculty and the tenure committee, with the process going smoothly every step of the way — until it reached the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees.”

Some Twitter users questioned why UNC allowed the school’s trustees to influence the decision.

“The principle that faculty, not trustees, should decide is in fact a bedrock of academic freedom. It’s one of the principles that tenure was built to protect,” tweeted Jeet Heer @HeerJeet, a columnist for the Nation magazine. “This is not a minor matter, unless you are a hypocrite only wants free speech for your own side.”

Twitter user @7PillarWisdom agreed. “UNC Chapel Hill is a first rate University with a faculty who would not seek to offer tenure to an unworthy candidate. For the Trustees to act in this way is immensely damaging to the school’s reputation. Academic excellence is hard to build and so easy to ruin.”

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Some scholars say the decision by UNC isn’t about one hire. “It’s bigger than that,” wrote veteran journalist Issac J. Bailey, a former member of the Charlotte Observer editorial board. “It’s the latest sign that everyone serious about issues of diversity, inclusion, and equality best steel their spins.

“Their aim is clear,” Bailey continued: “to silence any and everyone who refuses to give in to their demands that we only see, write or talk about this country in the way that comforts them…they are coming for you, too.”

Photos: Nikole Hannah-Jones, a Pulitzer winner for the “1619 Project”, attends the 34th Brooklyn Tribute to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, Jan. 20, 2020 in Brooklyn, New York City. Photo: mpi43/MediaPunch /IPX. Photo of Manning Hall at the University of North Carolina:  benuski / Flickr / CC