When Nikole Hannah-Jones accepted a tenured position as the inaugural Knight Chair in Race and Journalism at Howard University in July 2021, she called it a "dream job."
But it probably would have never happened if the Pulitzer Prize winning faculty member had her tenure promotion denied at the University of North Carolina, where she earned her master's degree, because Conservative donors objected to her presence. Hannah-Jones won the Pulitzer for her work on "The 1619 Project" when she was on staff at The New York Times. The project, released in August 2019 to commemmorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in the U.S., details how slavery shaped the nation's political, social and economic institutions. Conservatives argue its intent was to make white people feel guilty about the action of their ancestors, and the project's release sparked a nationwide backlash against critical race theory (which details how racism has shaped the nation's system) that has led to bills in 36 states, and counting, banning this more complete portrayal of racism in American history.
For her part, Hannah-Jones knows well the impact of that history. Her father was born to sharecroppers on a Mississippi plantation. He emigrated to Iowa as a young child, where Hannah-Jones and her sisters were bussed across town as part of the school desegregation effort. She started her career as a journalist covering the predominately Black Durham Public School System in North Carolina, where she repeatedly witnessed the disparities in the education system.
Young Students (K3-2nd Grade)
Have you ever told someone a story and left out important parts? Why did you do it? Has anyone ever told you or someone you know a story and left out important parts? How did it make you feel?
Middle Students (Grades 3-8)
The 1619 project examined "the idea of America," wrestling with the notion that the ideals of the Declaration of Independence and other founding documents of the United States were a contradiction when they were written. In fact, the same men who wrote "all men are created equal" lived on plantations built and staffed by enslaved people. African Americans, Native Americans, and women of any race didn't have rights. Imagine the United States was starting over as a country, and you were writing new founding documents. What values would you include as important for the new country? How would you work to make sure everyone was included and could equally experience those values?
High School Students (Grades 9-12)
Nikole Hannah-Jones has spent much of her career examining inequities in education and addressing school segregation, which is just as much a problem in 2022 as it was in 1954 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against separate but equal in Brown vs. Board of Education. Do you think racism has become less of a problem in America since the end of the Civil Rights Movement? Why or why not?
It is impossible for students to make text-to-self connections to texts in which they cannot see themselves. It is even worse when the text contradicts their lived experiences. In what ways are you working to make sure stuents see themselves and their experiences reflected in your classroom?
About the Series
A Black Child Can was founded to create a better world for students by empowering the adults around them with the knowledge they need to advocate on their behalf. The 2022 blog series builds on this foundation, encouraging educators to participate in the discussion and reflect on the ways they're showing up for their students.