Nikole Hannah-Jones declines UNC tenure for similar position at Howard

July 6 (UPI) -- Nikole Hannah-Jones declined a last-minute tenure offer from the University of North Carolina to take a similar position at Howard.

Instead of taking the UNC tenure, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist announced Tuesday on "CBS This Morning" with Gayle King that she would take a position as the inaugural Knight Chair in race and reporting at Howard, a historically Black university in Washington, D.C.


Hannah-Jones won the Pulitzer Prize for her work on the The New York Times' 1619 project, which examines U.S. history from the date when enslaved people first arrived on American soil.

The University of North Carolina system's board of trustees initially declined to offer her the position after conservative criticism of her work. After weeks of national controversy and protests over the initial rejection, the board of trustees reversed its decision on June 30.


The tenure offer was pulled in November and neither the chancellor, nor the provost, nor the board of trustees ever told her the reason, Hannah-Jones said in the interview with King.

"To be denied it and to only have that vote occur on the last possible day, at the last possible moment, after threat of legal action, after weeks of protest, after it became a national scandal, it's just not something that I want anymore," Hannah-Jones told King on "CBS This Morning."

Hannah-Jones added that she was a Knight Chair at UNC, which is a position designed for professional journalists to come into academia.

"This was a position that since the 1980s, came with tenure," Hannah-Jones said. "Every other chair before me, who also happened to be White, received that position with tenure."

She said that she struggled with the decision in a statement to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and in February accepted a teaching position at UNC to work there for five years and then be re-considered for tenure because she was embarrassed by the situation.

"I did not want to face the humiliation of letting everyone know that I would be the first Knight Chair at the university to be denied tenure," she said in the statement. "I did not want to wage a fight with my alma mater or bring to the school and to my future colleagues the political firestorm that dogged me since The 1619 Project published. So, crushed, I signed the five-year contract in February, and I did not say a word about it publicly."


Along with the political backlash, the "school's largest donor," was "willing to disparage me publicly," Hannah-Jones added in the statement.

"I have to stand up. And I won the battle for tenure," she continued. "But I also get to decide what battles I continue to fight. And I have decided that instead of fighting to prove I belong at an institution that until 1955 prohibited Black Americans from attending, I am instead going to work in the legacy of a university not built by the enslaved but for those who once were."

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