Nikole Hannah-Jones and Ta-Nehisi Coates Will Join Howard University Faculty

From a Washington Post story by Lauren Lumpkin and Nick Anderson headlined “Nikole Hannah-Jones to join Howard faculty after UNC tenure controversy”:

Journalists Nikole Hannah-Jones and Ta-Nehisi Coates are joining Howard University’s faculty, school officials announced Tuesday in a major recruiting victory for the private institution in the nation’s capital. It was a simultaneous setback for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to lose Hannah-Jones after a long and remarkably contentious effort to recruit her.

The surprising development came less than a week after trustees for UNC-Chapel Hill voted to award tenure to Hannah-Jones. Initially, the public university hired her as a professor without the job-protection status. But its board of trustees approved tenure for her on Wednesday, after faculty members and students at Chapel Hill protested that she had been mistreated.

In an interview Tuesday on “CBS This Morning,” Hannah-Jones said she would not join the UNC faculty. “Very difficult decision,” she told Gayle King. “Not a decision I wanted to make.” The Pulitzer Prize winner said she believed a decision about tenure for her at UNC was delayed because of political opposition to her work and discrimination against her as a Black woman….

Susan King, dean of the UNC-Chapel Hill journalism school, who had championed tenure for Hannah-Jones, said she was disappointed to lose her to another university. “We wish her nothing but deep success and the hope that UNC can learn from this long tenure drama about how we must change as a community of scholars in order to grow as a campus that lives by its stated values of being a diverse and welcoming place for all,” King said.

Now Hannah-Jones will have tenure at Howard in the new position of Knight chair in race and journalism, starting this summer at the historically Black university….

Hannah-Jones will also found a Center for Journalism and Democracy at Howard. She said it will aim to train journalism students from historically Black schools to “accurately and urgently [cover] the challenges of our democracy with a clarity, skepticism, rigor and historical dexterity that is too often missing from today’s journalism.”

Coates, an award-winning author known for his work on topics including race and white supremacy, will be a writer-in-residence in the university’s College of Arts and Sciences, and hold the Sterling Brown chair in the English department. He said that he plans to teach a class in creative writing next year….

Coates also has plans to finish his bachelor’s degree, which he started at Howard in 1993….

Both appointments are supported by nearly $20 million from an anonymous donor, as well as the Knight Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Ford Foundation, officials said….

The twin hires represent an extraordinary coup for Howard. Coates and Hannah-Jones are highly regarded writers who have each produced high-impact work on urgent questions about race in America. Each, too, has received a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant.

Coates won a National Book Award in 2015 for the nonfiction work “Between the World and Me,” an exploration of violence against Black people and white supremacy in the United States written in the form of a letter to his son….

Hannah-Jones, a writer for the New York Times, won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary last year for her essay in the 1619 Project about slavery and history. She was the driving force behind the Times Magazine project, which sought to reexamine American history and the consequences of slavery starting with the arrival four centuries ago of enslaved African people in colonial Virginia. Hannah-Jones holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and a master’s degree in journalism from UNC-Chapel Hill….

The appointments come at a moment of heightened visibility for historically Black universities. Vice President Harris is a Howard graduate. The university, founded two years after the end of the Civil War, and other historically Black colleges and universities have also been creating new programs and academic centers, making high-profile hires and drawing an influx of donations. Many of the gifts have set records and signaled to other potential donors that a sector of higher education long disenfranchised and marginalized is worthy of investment.

Lauren Lumpkin is a reporter at The Washington Post covering local colleges and universities.

Nick Anderson covers higher education and other education topics for The Washington Post. He has been a writer and editor at The Post since 2005.

Speak Your Mind