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Architect of the 1619 Project Moving to North Carolina.

New York Times Nikole Hannah-Jones to become Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at UNC.

By Sloan Rachmuth

Nikole Hannah-Jones

Nikole Hannah-Jones will join University of North Carolina’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media in July as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism according to a statement from UNC's Hussman School of Journalism and Media which read:

Since earning her master’s degree at UNC Hussman in 2003, Hannah-Jones has become one of the country’s leading voices in journalism covering housing and school segregation, civil rights and racial injustice in the U.S.

In 2020, Hannah-Jones was awarded a Pulitizer Prize for her 1619 Project, which attempts to recenter U.S. history around white supremacy, black slaves, and their legacies, and makes the following claims:

  • Racism is embedded in America's DNA

  • America's wealth and its “uniquely severe and unbridled” form of capitalism are due to slavery

  • History is deliberately mistaught in public schools, by failing to focus almost exclusively on slavery and its impact, and that students are not taugt to recognize that the American Revolution was motivated by a desire to defend slavery and Abraham Lincoln regarded Blacks as a “troublesome presence”

The 1619 Project's use of cynical fabrications has been repudiated by serious historians and academics. In a letter published in The New York Times in December 2019, Gordon S. Wood, James M. McPherson, Sean Wilentz, Victoria Bynum, and James Oakes expressed "strong reservations" about the project and requested factual corrections, accusing the project of putting ideology before historical understanding. In response, without announcement or explanation, The New York Times abandoned the main claim of the 1619 Project: that 1619, the year the first slaves were brought to Colonial Virginia—and not 1776—was the “true founding” of the United States.

Historians central complaints about the 1619 Project, which embodies tenants of Critical Race theory, are:

  • Its racial essentialism, refusing to acknowledge the biracial struggle against slavery and discrimination.

  • Its reoudiation of the revolutionary ideals of liberty and equality, and failure to recognize that U.S. history has involved an ongoing, incomplete struggle about whether this country will live up to its founding ideals.

  • Its demonization of the motives of the American revolutionaries and of Abraham Lincoln’s attitudes toward slavery and racial equality.

  • Its reliance of slavery’s role as the sole cause for America's wealth accumulation and economic growth.

  • It's eschewing of Enlightenment, minimizing the importance and beauty of change and struggle over time.

Hannah-Jones willingness to abandon journalistic ethics like honesty and objectivity to achieve a political end should have given UNC's Hussman School of Journalism and Media pause, yet that is not the case. When asked about becoming the newest UNC Knight Chair, Hannah-Jones said, “I’ve spent my entire career trying to mentor young journalists. I try to be for them what I needed when I was trying to make it and become successful."

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