More than 250 public figures and advocates have signed a letter in support of Nikole Hannah-Jones
, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist
and creator of "The 1619 Project
," who has yet to be offered tenure
at the University of North Carolina
's Hussman School of Journalism
The letter was signed by many well-known academics, writers, athletes, and other public figures, including political activist Angela Davis, author Ta-Nehisi Coates, director Ava DuVernay, and former NBA
star Dwyane Wade, and was published Tuesday in The Root, a site focused on Black news
The letter accuses UNC of caving in to conservative pressure against “The 1619 Project,” an effort Hannah-Jones oversaw at The New York
Times Magazine to reshape the telling and teaching of American history
and investigate the consequences of enslaving Black people
on American soil.
We, the undersigned, believe that this country is at a critical juncture that will define democratic expression and exchange of ideas for our own and future generations. State institutions across the country are attempting to prohibit frank and rigorous discussion of our history in the classroom. Few single works have been threatened with greater restrictions than the 1619 Project, a landmark exploratory project.
The full letter can be found here.
Hannah-Jones was named the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at UNC last month, and her application for tenure, which would have given her permanent employment at the university, was well-reviewed by other faculty and the tenure board, but the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees decided not to take action on it.
It was the first time the board of trustees at UNC's main campus did not immediately offer tenure to a Knight Chair, one of the most prestigious positions at a journalism school; instead, Hannah-Jones was given a five-year appointment, which stunned other faculty members.
Last week, one of the trustees admitted to NC Policy Watch
, speaking anonymously, that the board bowed to political pressure.
“This is a very political thing,” the trustee explained. “The university, the board of trustees, the Board of Governors, and the legislature have all been under pressure since this thing was first announced last month. There have been people writing letters and making calls, for and against, but I will leave it to you to determine which is carrying more weight.”
The letter published on Tuesday highlights how vocal Republican
lawmakers have been in their opposition to "The 1619 Project":
Proposed bills like South Dakota's vague "act to prohibit the use of curricular materials that promote racial divisiveness" quickly appeared, but Arkansas' HB1231 is more literally named, "To Prohibit the Use of Public School Funds to Teach the 1619 Project." Senate
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
singled out the 1619 Project in a scathing letter condemning the Biden administration
's proposal t
Hannah-Jones spoke out earlier this month against efforts to censor her project, claiming that her opponents are “trying to prohibit the teaching of ideas they don’t like” while claiming to be merely promoting pride
in American history.
In addition to Tuesday's letter, 40 Hussman School faculty members and more than 50 from other UNC schools
issued a statement calling the board's decision "concerning" and "disheartening." The Society for Professional Journalists has also urged UNC to grant Hannah-Jones tenure.