1619 Project founder, and New York Times reporter, Nikole Hannah-Jones, was at the center of a tenure controversy at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Instead of staying at UNC, she chose to go to historically black institution Howard University to found a new journalism center to allegedly train aspiring journalists how to defend American democracy.
As NPR reported, she will be the Knight Chair in Race and Journalism at Howard University, which tenure position was funded to the tune of close to $20 million by the left-wing Knight Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and an anonymous donor.
The position will allow her to train journalists in the newly-established Center for Journalism and Democracy. She will also be joined by controversial author Ta-Nehisi Coates, a black writer who often writes about white supremacy, racism, and dogma related to critical race theory.
Hannah-Jones said she chose Howard University because she regretted not choosing to go there as an undergraduate. In comments to CBS, she said, “I’ve spent my entire life proving that I belong in elite white spaces that were not built for Black people.” She continued, “I decided I didn’t want to do that anymore. That Black professionals should feel free, and actually perhaps an obligation, to go to our own institutions and bring our talents and resources to our own institutions and help to build them up as well.”
This past May, UNC’s board of trustees gave her a contract earlier, though it came without tenure. But, the board reversed the decision this week, under internal and public pressure, in a closed-doors meeting by a 9-4 vote. Feeling disrespected by her alma mater, Hannah-Jones declined the tenure offer.
Much of the opposition of granting her tenure came from non-academics, while most of her support resided in UNC academics and administrators.
Walter Hussman, a UNC alumnus who donated $25 million to the journalism school that bears his name, expressed his opposition to Hannah-Jones’ hiring. He “was given pause by some prominent scholars’ criticism that Hannah-Jones distorted the historical record in arguing that the protection of slavery was one of the Founding Fathers’ primary motivations in seeking independence from the British.”
Yet Hussman’s reasonable objections were overruled by the politically-correct academic class, which said they would protest the initial decision to not grant Hannah-Jones tenure by leaving UNC altogether.
Hannah-Jones’s 1619 Project contends that the founding of the United States of America was based on slavery when the first African slaves arrived in the U.S. colonies in 1619. As Hussman referenced, Hannah-Jones’s work ignored scores of supporting, primary-source documents that highlighted the Founding Fathers’ reasons to declare independence from the British crown, none of which were based in preserving the practice of slavery in the colonies. The project has since been integrated into civics curriculum and approved by many school districts nationwide, despite many of its claims being debunked by conservative scholars. Several states have begun the process to ban critical race theory dogma to be taught in their school systems, such as Oklahoma, Idaho, North Carolina, and other states which have a Republican majority in the state legislature.
The New York Times scrubbed parts of the project’s controversial language without issuing an editor’s note or explanation. It removed a reference to the project’s fight to expose the country’s “true founding” in an attempt to neutralize the controversial language. The Times also reworded an article that falsely claimed that “some” American colonists fought the British crown in order to preserve slavery. The project also misconstrued the Constitution’s phrasing and claimed that it was written to preserve slavery, instead of recognizing that concepts enshrined in the Constitution would eventually pave the way for the end of slavery. It ignored the arguments of several key figures in the Constitutional Convention against slavery, such as Gouverneur Morris’s statement that slavery is “a nefarious institution.”
If one read the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the U.S. Constitution, or the Federalist Papers, a rational academic could conclude that slavery was not high on the priority list of grievances against the British crown. Hannah-Jones’s 1619 Project, which was rife with inaccuracies and multiple secretive edits, failed to produce concrete evidence to support its claims about America’s allegedly-racist origins.