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‘1619 Project’ creator Nikole Hannah-Jones claims she faced racial discrimination at UNC, considering lawsuit

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Nikole Hannah-Jones, the creator of the highly controversial and discredited “1619 Project,” sent a letter to her alma mater threatening a lawsuit for their recent decision to deny her tenure.

“I am obligated to fight back against a wave of anti-democratic suppression that seeks to prohibit the free exchange of ideas, silence Black voices, and chill free speech,” Hannah-Jones wrote in a statement from her legal team which includes the NAACP Legal Defence and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF).

“As a Black woman who has built a nearly two-decades-long career in journalism, I believe Americans who research, study, and publish works that expose uncomfortable truths about the past and present manifestations of racism in our society should be able to follow these pursuits without risk to their civil and constitutional rights,” she wrote.

The board responsible for making a decision on her tenure was accused of succumbing to criticism over Hannah-Jones and her “1619 Project” which aims to “reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.”

In other words, the “1619 Project” claims the country was founded in 1619 on the backs of slaves and that systemic racism is inherent in American institutions and culture.

Although the University of North Carolina (UNC) allegedly initially intended to offer her tenure last summer, they changed the offer to a five-year contract with a $180,000 salary, partially funded by taxpayer dollars in a March offer letter. The appointment letter indicated she would be the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism and Professor of the Practice in the Hussman School of Journalism and Media, effective July 1, 2021.

According to NC Policy Watch, Hannah-Jones submitted a package in what they called a “rigorous” tenure process. Although she apparently had faculty support, the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees put the kibosh on her application when they ultimately decided not to take action on it.

“This is a very political thing,” one trustee said. “The university and the board of trustees and the Board of Governors and the legislature have all been getting pressure since this thing was first announced last month. There have been people writing letters and making calls, for and against. But I will leave it to you which is carrying more weight.”

The UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media seemed upset by the about-face decision to not grant tenure, calling Hannah-Jones a “once-in-a-lifetime journalist.”

However, not everyone feels that way. Many were supportive of the board’s decision and rejected the idea that racism had anything to do with it. It’s entirely possible that Hannah-Jones is the only one promoting racism.

Although Hannah-Jones blames the board’s rejection of her tenure on racism, one Tweet points out that maybe the reason behind the decision was much more simple.

Maybe she just wasn’t good enough.

Ashley Hill


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