Nikole Hannah-Jones, the creator of The New York Times’ “1619 Project,” said she is considering legal action against the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill after she wasn’t offered tenure for her new position with the school.
“I had no desire to bring turmoil or a political firestorm to the university that I love, but 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 said in a statement Friday.
UNC announced in April that the prolific Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist would join the university’s Hussman journalism school as the Knight chair in race and investigative journalism, a position held by someone recognized as a highly respected news leader who brings “insights about journalism and [supports] elevating it in the academy.” Hannah-Jones previously created the “1619 Project,” which examined anti-Black racism and the legacy of slavery in America today. She is also the co-founder of the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting, a trade organization dedicated to supporting journalists of color.
Despite the prestigious appointment, the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees did not offer her a tenured position. Backlash was swift among supporters of Hannah-Jones and faculty at UNC.
“This failure is especially disheartening because it occurred despite the support for Hannah-Jones’s appointment as a full professor with tenure by the Hussman Dean, Hussman faculty, and university,” read a statement from 40 members of the Hussman School’s faculty released last week.
The faculty also pointed out that two previous Knight chairs received tenure upon their appointments.
Hannah-Jones said in her Friday statement she will be represented by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.