Boarding School Scrubs Nikole Hannah-Jones Speech Over Backlash Fears

The head of the elite Middlesex School in Massachusetts said it canceled the Pulitzer-winner's speech over concerns about how outsiders might react.
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Nikole Hannah-Jones , the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and creator of the 1619 Project, said she was disinvited from speaking at a private boarding school in Massachusetts during Black History Month next February over concerns about how people outside the school might react.

Nikole Hannah-Jones was disinvited from speaking at the Middlesex School in Massachusetts over concerns about how people outside the school may react.
Nikole Hannah-Jones was disinvited from speaking at the Middlesex School in Massachusetts over concerns about how people outside the school may react.
Marcus Ingram via Getty Images

Hannah-Jones tweeted Monday that the elite Middlesex School in Concord had canceled her speech, and shared a statement saying she had been disinvited over concerns of 鈥渘oise鈥 associated with her being a speaker.

鈥淭hey were likely afraid that by having me 鈥 a [New York Times] journalist & college professor 鈥 there, they鈥檇 invite backlash & another of the 鈥榳oke鈥 people are ruining America鈥 stories,鈥 Hannah-Jones tweeted. 鈥淚鈥檓 good. I鈥檓 done fighting my way in. But the lack of courage in these times is so very sad.鈥

Middlesex School representatives did not immediately respond to HuffPost鈥檚 requests for comment on Wednesday, but in a statement to the Boston Globe, the school鈥檚 head, David Beare, confirmed that Hannah-Jones had been disinvited to speak at the school.

鈥淲hile we are confident that her insights would have been valued by our students, we were concerned that individuals from outside our community might inadvertently distract from the insights and perspective that she intended to share,鈥 Beare said, going on to apologize for not reaching out to Hannah-Jones 鈥渋n a more formal way鈥 about her revoked invitation.

Hannah-Jones told HuffPost on Wednesday that Beare had still not contacted her directly about the decision.

Ironically, just days earlier, Beare and Middlesex School鈥檚 board of trustees had sent out a 鈥渓etter to the community鈥 that expressed a commitment toward diversifying the school鈥檚 student body and faculty and supporting debate and disagreement, even when 鈥渢hat discourse may become uncomfortable.鈥

鈥淎s an educational institution, we believe an open exchange of viewpoints is vital to student development and intellectual excellence. We believe that respectful debate and disagreement are not only healthy, but the very ground upon which a learning community thrives,鈥 the letter read.

Middlesex School alumni have meanwhile expressed disgust and outrage at the decision to cancel Hannah-Jones鈥 speech, with some telling The Daily Beast that it鈥檚 not unusual for the school to suppress Black voices.

鈥淢iddlesex is definitely a place that has a lot of milquetoast racism,鈥 said 2019 graduate Alexandra Jones. 鈥淭hey often censor these kinds of conversations.鈥

Hannah-Jones has faced intense backlash over The 1619 Project, which examines the ongoing legacy of slavery in the U.S. Conservatives accuse the long-form journalism project, first published in The New York Times Magazine before expanding to include a podcast, live events and school curriculum, of promoting racial divisiveness.

Hannah-Jones鈥 alma mater, the University of North Carolina, initially refused to grant her tenure as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism earlier this year, reportedly due to political objections to her work presented to the school鈥檚 board of trustees.

The school reversed its decision after widespread protests, but Hannah-Jones ultimately rejected UNC鈥檚 offer and instead accepted a role at the historically Black school Howard University.

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