Nikole Hannah-Jones

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Nikole Hannah-Jones
Hannah-Jones in 2018
Nikole Sheri Hannah

(1976-04-09) April 9, 1976 (age 48)
EducationUniversity of Notre Dame (BA)
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (MA)
Years active2003–present
Known forInvestigative journalism, activism
SpouseFaraji Hannah-Jones
AwardsMacArthur Fellowship (2017)
Pulitzer Prize (2020)

Nikole Sheri Hannah-Jones (born April 9, 1976)[1][2] is an American investigative journalist, known for her coverage of civil rights in the United States. She joined The New York Times as a staff writer in April 2015, was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2017, and won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2020 for her work on The 1619 Project. Hannah-Jones is the inaugural Knight Chair in Race and Journalism at the Howard University School of Communications, where she also founded the Center for Journalism and Democracy.[3][4][5]

Early life and education[edit]

Hannah-Jones was born in Waterloo, Iowa, to father Milton Hannah, who is African-American, and mother Cheryl A. Novotny, who is white and of Czech and English descent.[6] Hannah-Jones is the second of their three daughters.[7] She was raised Catholic.[8]

Hannah-Jones and her sister attended predominantly white schools as part of a voluntary program of desegregation busing.[9] She attended Waterloo West High School, where she wrote for the high-school newspaper and graduated in 1994.[10]

After high school, Hannah-Jones attended the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and African-American studies in 1998.[citation needed]

In 1995, in response to an article published in the Notre Dame student newspaper that called American Indians "savages", Hannah-Jones replied with an article titled "Modern Savagery." She stated: "I find it hard to believe that any member of the white race can have the audacity and hypocrisy to call any other culture savage. The white race is the biggest murderer, rapist, pillager and thief of the modern world....The crimes they committed were unnecessarily cruel and can only be described as acts of the devil."[11]

She graduated from the University of North Carolina Hussman School of Journalism and Media with a master's degree in 2003, where she was a Roy H. Park Fellow.[12][13]


Hannah-Jones with attendees after giving a talk in Rochester, New York

In 2003, Hannah-Jones began her career covering education, which included the predominantly African-American Durham Public Schools, for the Raleigh News & Observer, a position she held for three years.[9]

In 2006, Hannah-Jones moved to Portland, Oregon, where she wrote for The Oregonian for six years. During this time, her assignments included feature work, demographics, and then government and census beats.[6]

In 2007, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the 1965 Watts riots, Hannah-Jones wrote about the impact on the community of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, also known as the Kerner Commission.[14]

From 2008 to 2009, Hannah-Jones received a fellowship from the Institute for Advanced Journalism Studies which enabled her to travel to Cuba to study universal healthcare and Cuba's educational system under Raul Castro.[15][16][17]

In 2011, she joined the nonprofit news organization ProPublica, which is based in New York City, where she covered civil rights and continued research she had started in Oregon on redlining and in-depth investigative reporting on the lack of enforcement of the Fair Housing Act for minorities.[18] Hannah-Jones also spent time in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where the decision in Brown v. Board of Education had little effect.[19]

Hannah-Jones was elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2021.[20]

In January 2022, Hannah-Jones and teacher Sheritta Stokes launched the 1619 Freedom School in Waterloo Iowa, inspired by the 1960s Freedom Schools of the civil-rights movement.[21] The program is a five-day-a-week, two-hour literacy enrichment for the Waterloo school district for grade-school students.[21]

The New York Times[edit]

In 2015, Hannah-Jones became a staff reporter for The New York Times.[22]

Hannah-Jones has written about topics such as racial segregation, desegregation and resegregation in American schools[23][24] and housing discrimination, and has spoken about these issues on national public radio broadcasts.[25][26]

She writes to discover and expose the systemic and institutional racism that she says are perpetuated by official laws and acts.[27]

Her work on racial inequalities has been particularly influential and is cited widely.[28] Hannah-Jones reported on the school district where teenager Michael Brown had been shot, one of the "most segregated, impoverished districts in the entire state" of Missouri.[29][30] Reviewer Laura Moser of Slate praised her report on school resegregation, which showed how educational inequality may have been a factor in the death of Brown.[31]

Hannah-Jones was a 2017 Emerson Fellow at the New America Foundation,[32] where she worked on a book on school segregation.[33] The book, The Problem We All Live With, was due out in June 2020 from Random House's One World imprint.[citation needed]

Hannah-Jones is a 2017 recipient of the MacArthur Foundation fellowship.[34] The award cited her "Chronicling the persistence of racial segregation in American society, particularly in education, and reshaping national conversations around education reform."[35]

1619 Project[edit]

In 2019, Hannah-Jones launched a project to fundamentally change the way slavery in the United States was viewed, timed for the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in Virginia.[36] Hannah-Jones produced a series of articles for a special issue of The New York Times Magazine titled The 1619 Project.[37] The ongoing initiative began August 14, 2019, and "aims to reframe the country's history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative."[38] The project featured essays by a combination of staff writers and academics including Princeton historian Kevin M. Kruse, Harvard-trained lawyer Bryan Stevenson, Princeton sociologist Matthew Desmond, and SUNY historian Anne Bailey. In the opening essay, Hannah-Jones wrote: "No aspect of the country that would be formed here has been untouched by the years of slavery that followed." The project also included poems, short fiction, and a photo essay. Originally conceived of as a special issue, it was soon turned into a full-fledged project, including a special broadsheet section in the newspaper, live events, and a multi-episode podcast series.

In 2020, Hannah-Jones won a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for her work on the 1619 Project.[39] The award cited her "sweeping, provocative and personal essay for the ground-breaking 1619 Project, which seeks to place the enslavement of Africans at the center of America's story, prompting public conversation about the nation's founding and evolution."[40] Her paper was criticized by historians Gordon S. Wood and Leslie M. Harris, specifically for asserting that "one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery."[41][42][43] The article was "clarified" in March 2020 to read "for some of the colonists".[44] There was also debate around whether the project suggested the nation was founded in 1619 with the arrival of enslaved Africans rather than in 1776 with the Declaration of Independence.[45] Speaking to New York Times opinion writer Bret Stephens, Hannah-Jones said the suggestion of considering 1619, as a jumping-off point for interpreting US history had always been so self-evidently metaphorical that it went without saying.[46]

New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute named the 1619 Project as one of the 10 greatest works of journalism in the decade from 2010 to 2019.[47] In 2022, Hannah-Jones was nominated at the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work – Nonfiction and was recognized with the Social Justice Impact Award.[48]

University of North Carolina[edit]

In April 2021, the University of North Carolina announced that Hannah-Jones would join the Hussman School of Journalism and Media in July 2021 as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism.[49] Following criticism, particularly from conservative groups who expressed disagreement with the 1619 Project and questioned Hannah-Jones's credentials, the University Board of Trustees, presented with the tenure committee's recommendation to approve her application for tenure, instead took no action.[50][51] Unable to offer tenure without approval by its trustees, UNC announced they would instead offer a fixed five-year contract with an option for tenure review—terms to which Hannah-Jones agreed.[52]

Outraged, more than 40 Hussman faculty members signed a statement criticizing the board's inaction, noting that the previous two Knight Chairs were given tenure and claiming that UNC "unfairly moves the goal posts" by not offering Hannah-Jones the same.[53][54] The school's Black Caucus also condemned the terms of her contract, and students joined faculty in protests.[55][56][57] Hannah-Jones stated: "It's pretty clear that my tenure was not taken up because of political opposition, because of discriminatory views against my viewpoint and, I believe, [because of] my race and my gender."[58] In late June 2021, Hannah-Jones, via a letter from her lawyers, said she will not take a faculty position with the university unless it is offered as a tenured position.[52] On June 30, 2021, the Trustees for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill voted in a closed session to include tenure in the position offer.[59][60]

Howard University[edit]

Hannah-Jones refused the position at North Carolina and decided to accept a tenured position at Howard University instead, where she will be the inaugural Knight Chair in Race and Journalism.[58][61][62] Hannah-Jones said, "Once the news broke and I started to see the extent of the political interference, particularly the reporting on Walter Hussman, it became really clear to me that I just could not work at a school named after Walter Hussman. To be a person who has stood for what I stand for and have any integrity whatsoever, I just couldn't see how I could do that."[63]

Ta-Nehisi Coates will join Hannah-Jones at Howard as the Sterling Brown Chair in the English Department.[64] Hannah-Jones also brings $20 million to Howard to support her work there, $5 million each from the Knight Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Ford Foundation and an anonymous donor.[62]

Controversies and criticism[edit]

Criticism of the 1619 Project (2019, 2022)[edit]

Five historians wrote to The New York Times Magazine to ask the creators of its 1619 Project to issue corrections, including for Hannah-Jones's assertions on the American Revolution and on Lincoln. The correction request was signed by Victoria Bynum of Texas State University, James M. McPherson and Sean Wilentz of Princeton University, James Oakes of the City University of New York, and Gordon S. Wood of Brown University.[65] Historian Leslie M. Harris, who was consulted for the Project, wrote in Politico that she had warned that the idea that the American Revolution was fought to protect slavery was inaccurate, and that the Times made avoidable mistakes.[43]

In the May 2022 issue of the libertarian magazine Reason, reporter Phillip W. Magness criticized the 1619 Project as "junk history".[66]

Fireworks tweet (2020)[edit]

In June 2020, Hannah-Jones apologized for retweeting a conspiracy theory claiming that fireworks were being set off by "government agents" to dampen the Black Lives Matter movement.[67][68][69][70]

Free Beacon reporter (2021, about a tweet from 2016)[edit]

A Washington Free Beacon reporter highlighted a tweet from Hannah-Jones from May 2016 in which she quoted someone using a racial slur. After being asked for comment, Hannah-Jones posted the reporter's inquiry, which contained his work phone number, on Twitter.[71] In an interview with Slate, Hannah-Jones said: "I didn't realize I was tweeting out his phone number, and when someone mentioned it, I should have deleted it. So absolutely. I did not intend to do that, and I wish that I hadn't."[71]

Middlesex School (2021)[edit]

In October 2021, the Middlesex School in Concord, Massachusetts rescinded a speaking invitation to Nikole Hannah-Jones for February 2022, claiming "the 'noise' associated with having Nikole as the speaker would take away from the overall experience."[72]

Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting[edit]

In early 2015, Nikole Hannah-Jones, along with Ron Nixon, Corey Johnson, and Topher Sanders, began dreaming of creating the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting.[73] This organization was launched in Memphis, Tennessee, in 2016, with the purpose of promoting investigative journalism, which is the least common type of reporting.[73] Following in the footsteps of Ida B. Wells, this society encourages minority journalists to expose injustices perpetuated by the government and to defend people who are susceptible to being taken advantage of.[73] This organization was created with support from the Open Society Foundations, Ford Foundation, and CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.[73]

Personal life[edit]

Hannah-Jones lives in the Bedford–Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn with her husband, Faraji Hannah-Jones,[74] and their daughter.[75]



  • Hannah-Jones, Nikole. Fields of Lost Dreams: How Race and Racism Have Contributed to the Overrepresentation of Blacks in the Iowa Prison System. 2003. Print.[88]
  • Hannah-Jones, Nikole. Living Apart. ProPublica, 2012. Internet resource.[89]
  • Hannah-Jones, Nikole. Segregation Now: Investigating America's Racial Divide. 2014. Print.[90]
  • Hannah-Jones, Nikole, and Allyson Johnson. The Burden: African Americans and the Enduring Impact of Slavery. Minneapolis, Minn: Highbridge Audio, 2018. Internet resource.[91]
  • Hannah-Jones, Nikole, Mary Elliott, Jazmine Hughes, and Jake Silverstein. The 1619 Project: New York Times Magazine, August 18, 2019. 2019. Print.[92]
  • Hannah-Jones, Nikole. The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story. 2021. Print.[93]
  • Hannah-Jones, Nikole, Renée Watson, and Nikkolas Smith. The 1619 Project – Born on the Water. 2021. Print.[94]


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  88. ^ Hannah-Jones, Nikole (2003). Fields of lost dreams: how race and racism have contributed to the overrepresentation of blacks in the Iowa Prison System (Thesis). OCLC 52891388.
  89. ^ Hannah-Jones, Nikole; TotalBoox; TBX (2012). Living Apart. ProPublica. ISBN 978-1-4532-5444-8. OCLC 969068432.
  90. ^ Hannah-Jones, Nikole; American Bar Association Gavel Awards Archive; ProPublica; Gavel Awards Competition (2014). Segregation now: investigating America's racial divide. OCLC 953141562.
  91. ^ Hannah-Jones, Nikole; Johnson, Allyson; HighBridge Audio (Firm) (2018). The burden: African Americans and the enduring impact of slavery. Minneapolis, Minn.: Highbridge Audio. ISBN 978-1-68441-393-5. OCLC 1056242804.
  92. ^ Hannah-Jones, Nikole; Elliott, Mary, Hughes, Jazmine; Silverstein, Jake; New York Times Company; Smithsonian Institution; 1619 Project (2019). The 1619 project: New York Times magazine, August 18, 2019. OCLC 1113869362.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  93. ^ Nikole Hannah-Jones (2021). The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story. Random House Publishing. ISBN 978-0-593-23057-2. OCLC 1272087963.
  94. ^ Hannah-Jones, Nikole; Watson, Renée; Smith, Nikkolas (2021). The 1619 Project - born on the water. Penguin. ISBN 978-0-593-30735-9. OCLC 1276781311.

External links[edit]