1619 Project head Nikole Hannah-Jones gets tenured UNC job after all

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All’s well that ends well for Nikole Hannah-Jones.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Board of Trustees voted 9 to 4 Wednesday to offer tenure to the Pulitzer Prize-winning “1619 Project” mastermind after initially declining to do so amid concerns about the historical accuracy of her work.

Hannah-Jones was not present for the closed board meeting, but did tweet a picture of her herself holding a drink after the board vote was made public.

North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper praised the board’s decision, saying in a statement that they “did the right thing.”

“Our students will benefit from exploring thought-provoking issues and our campus reputation will be enhanced helping us keep and attract a diverse array of acclaimed scientists, researchers, doctors and scholars,” Cooper added.

The saga began in April, when the school announced that Hannah-Jones would be joining the UNC journalism school’s faculty as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism in July on a five-year contract.

Then in May, the website NC Policy Watch reported that the university would not offer Hannah-Jones tenure over criticism of the “1619 Project” — most notably its central claim that the American Revolution was fought in part to preserve the practice of slavery — from distinguished historians.

University leaders said Jones’ application was halted because she did not come from a “traditional academic-type background,” and a trustee who vets tenure appointments wanted more time to consider her qualifications.

In the midst of the controversy, another website, The Assembly NC, reported that Arkansas Democrat-Gazette publisher Walter Hussman Jr., a major donor to UNC’s school of journalism, had advised university officials against offering a position to Hannah-Jones.

“I worry about the controversy of tying the UNC journalism school to the 1619 project,” Hussman wrote in a December 2020 email. “I find myself more in agreement with Pulitzer prize winning historians like James McPherson and Gordon Wood than I do Nikole Hannah-Jones.

“These historians appear to me to be pushing to find the true historical facts,” Hussman added. “Based on her own words, many will conclude she is trying to push an agenda, and they will assume she is manipulating historical facts to support it. If asked about it, I will have to be honest in saying I agree with the historians.”

Attorneys for Hannah-Jones said last week that she would not report for work without an offer of tenure, leading Student Body President Lamar Richards, who’s also a trustee, to call for the board to convene the special meeting.

With Post wires

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