Nikole Hannah-Jones Awarded Tenure in Controversial Decision

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill granted a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist tenure after initially denying this request. Nikole Hannah-Jones was awarded tenure by the Board of Trustees at UNC-Chapel Hill after they met in a closed session on Wednesday.

Hannah-Jones’ Story

As a journalist for The New York Times, Hannah-Jones won a Pulitzer Prize in 2020 for her writing on the 1619 Project. She was originally denied tenure in her position of Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism after criticism from various conservative groups. However, Wednesday’s decision reversed that denial.

Opposition to Tenure

According to sources at NPR, some of the opposition to Hannah-Jones originated with Walter Hussman, a major donor at UNC, a newspaper publisher, and namesake of the university’s journalism school. The UNC alum said that he voiced his opposition after listening to criticism by scholars that alleged that Hannah-Jones distorted history in her piece.

In the award-winning work, Hannah-Jones argued that the Founding Fathers were inspired to win independence from Great Britain so that they could protect the principles of slavery. The article also maintained that plantation slavery was the precursor for the ideals of American capitalism today.

Contentious Meeting

The Board of Trustees meeting was not without conflict. Video shows students clashing with police officers outside of the meeting room as the board debated the merits of Hannah-Jones’ tenure.

Hannah-Jones had the support of the dean of the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media. Dean Susan King wrote that she was “deeply appreciative” of the board for voting to restore tenure to Hannah-Jones.