The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and creator of the “1619 Project” called out Republican-backed efforts across the U.S. to ban critical race theory, while accepting the honor at the 53rd award show, which was hosted by “Black-ish” star Anthony Anderson.
“As I receive this award tonight, our history is being attacked,” she said at the event, which featured a number of virtual appearances on BET. “In state after state, as of now, some 36 states have passed or are considering bills to make it harder to teach about racism and inequality.”
“Politicians are using the power of the state to whitewash an already whitewashed history,” she continued. “Books and ideas about the Black experience, about the LGBTQ community, are being banned. These anti-history laws go hand-in-hand with regressive policies that aim to restrict our civil and voting rights.”
Hannah-Jones added that a “healthy society does not ban ideas” and that “attacks on books are an attack on democracy.”
The journalist joins a list of other honorees who were selected to receive special honors at the NAACP Image Awards this year. Samuel L. Jackson was given the Chairman’s Award and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are recipients of the President’s Award.
The NAACP established the Social Justice Impact Award to recognize someone who is “on the frontlines impacting civil and social justice change.”
Hannah-Jones notably helmed The New York Times Magazine’s “1619 Project,” which explored anti-Black racism and sought to recenter the historical narrative around slavery to underline how its legacy still plagues America today.
Her commentary in her introductory essay for the project earned her the 2020 Pulitzer Prize.
Hannah-Jones announced that she was accepting a tenured teaching position at Howard University in July. She had publicly turned down an offer for a tenured position at the University of North Carolina after the school withheld tenure from her initial appointment to the faculty.
In November 2021, she published two books: “The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story,” and a children’s book she co-authored with Renée Watson, “The 1619 Project: Born on the Water.”
Hannah-Jones’ work has incensed many conservative legislators and pundits, who have sought to censor and ban teachings derived from “The 1619 Project” in schools.
“These anti-CRT laws are anti-history laws. They’re memory laws,” she said. She later added, “Critical race theory is about trying to understand why, 60 years outside of the civil rights movement, Black Americans still fall at the bottom of every indicator of well-being in our society.”
“It has nothing to do with making white children feel like victims,” she continued. “It’s actually not concerned with individuals. It’s about systems.”
Elsewhere in her speech on Saturday night, Hannah-Jones shared a call to action, encouraging viewers to “fight for the country that we think we deserve.”