Today, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones has officially announced her rejection of a tenure offer from the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. Instead, she will be joining the top-ranking HBCU Howard University as a professor. This morning, Hannah-Jones released a statement submitted to ESSENCE on behalf of herself, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., and co-counsel Levy Ratner, PC and Ferguson, Chambers & Sumter P.A.
“I will always be a Tar Heel. I remain grateful for all the university has given me and am committed to a lifetime of paying it forward,” Hannah-Jones said in an official statement. “And I am so excited to now call myself a Bison as well as join the Howard family of which I have long desired to belong.”
Before announcing that she would join Howard, Hannah-Jones expressed her displeasure with her alma mater’s handling of the matter and the unprecedented influence of one of its trustees, Walter E. Hussman, Jr., in denying her tenure.
“I cannot imagine working at and advancing a school named for a man [Walter Hussman, Jr.] who lobbied against me, who used his wealth to influence the hires and ideology of the journalism school, who ignored my 20 years of journalism experience, all of my credentials, all of my work, because he believed that a project that centered Black Americans equaled the denigration of white Americans,” she said.
She also critiqued the school’s leadership, adding, “Nor can I work at an institution whose leadership permitted this conduct and has done nothing to disavow it. How could I believe I’d be able to exert academic freedom with the school’s largest donor so willing to disparage me publicly and attempt to pull the strings behind the scenes? Why would I want to teach at a university whose top leadership chose to remain silent, to refuse transparency, to fail to publicly advocate that I be treated like every other Knight Chair before me?”
In her statement, Hannah-Jones announced her new position as the inaugural Knight Chair in Race and Reporting at Howard University. While her role officially begins this summer, the “1619 Project” creator will be leading the Center for Journalism and Democracy, an initiative focused on training aspiring Black journalists “to cover the crisis of our democracy and bolstering journalism programs” across other historically Black institutions across the country.
The Center for Journalism and Democracy will “help produce journalists capable of accurately and urgently covering the perilous challenges of our democracy with a clarity, skepticism, rigor, and historical dexterity that is too often missing from today’s journalism,” Hannah-Jones described in her statement.
Hannah-Jones has already assisted in efforts to secure $15 million with the help of grants from Ford, Knight, and MacArthur foundations and has a set goal of $25 million.
Not only will Hannah-Jones be joining the Bison gang, but another literary powerhouse will be right by her side. As reported by HuffPost, Ta-Nehisi Coates will also join Howard’s faculty, which he attended in the ’90s. The ‘Between The World And Me’ author will become the Sterling Brown Chair in the Department of English at Howard’s College of Arts and Sciences.
“This is the faculty that molded me,” Coates said according to the MacArthur Foundation site. “This is the faculty that strengthened me. Personally, I know of no higher personal honor than this.”
According to the MacArthur Foundation website, both Coates and Hannah-Jones are recipients of the MacArthur “genius” grant, an exceptional five-year fellowship honored by those “who show exceptional creativity in their work.”
Check out some of Twitter’s reactions to this literary flex link-up going down at Howard: