Home > Essays > UNC Get’s Muddied and Howard University Gains a Star… Make That TWO Stars!

UNC Get’s Muddied and Howard University Gains a Star… Make That TWO Stars!

July 8, 2021

Here, in its entirety, is AP reporter Tom Forman Jr.’s report on Nikole Hannah-Jones’ victory at gaining tenure at UNC and her decision to abandon her alma mater for Howard University:

A Black investigative journalist who won a Pulitzer Prize for her groundbreaking work on the bitter legacy of slavery in the U.S. announced Tuesday that she will not join the faculty at the University of North Carolina following an extended tenure fight, and instead will accept a chaired professorship at Howard University.

The dispute over whether North Carolina’s flagship public university would grant Nikole Hannah-Jones a lifetime faculty appointment has prompted weeks of outcry from within and beyond its Chapel Hill campus. Numerous professors and alumni voiced frustration, and Black students and faculty questioned during protests whether the predominantly white university values them. “These last few weeks have been very dark. To be treated so shabbily by my alma mater, by a university that has given me so much and which I only sought to give back to, has been deeply painful,”Hannah-Jones said in a written statement.

Hannah-Jones — who won the Pulitzer Prize for her work on The New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project focusing on America’s history of slavery — said Tuesday that her tenure application had stalled after political interference by conservatives and objections by a top donor at the journalism school.She lamented the “political firestorm that has dogged me since The 1619 Project published,” with conservatives including former President Donald Trump criticizing the work. Hannah-Jones will instead accept a tenured position as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at Howard, a historically Black university in Washington, D.C., which also announced Tuesday that it had recruited award-winning journalist and author Ta-Nehisi Coates to join its faculty.

Ms. Hannah-Jones richly deserves the appointment to the tenured position at Howard. More importantly, though, UNC needs to make it clear to the doubting black students and faculty members that they are valued at the college despite the efforts of “conservatives and… a top donor at the journalism school” to send a contrary message. The debate on reparations often boils down to money… but as this case indicates it is the repeated messages from “conservatives and… top donors”  and supporters of the former President that are far more painful that the lack of money.

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