1619 Project creator Nikole Hannah-Jones considers suit against UNC for 'anti-democratic suppression'

1619 Project creator Nikole Hannah-Jones considers suit against UNC for 'anti-democratic suppression'

May 28, 2021

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Nikole Hannah-Jones, creator of the 1619 Project, announced Thursday she is considering legal action against the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and its board of trustees over what she believes is “anti-democratic suppression.”

Earlier this month, The New York Times Magazine writer was denied tenure after being appointed as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at UNC’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media.

In a statement Thursday, legal counsel to Hannah-Jones said that despite a recommendation by the journalism department and senior university officials, she was denied the same tenure allotted to previous UNC Knight Chairs.

Hannah-Jones is being represented by three organizations, including Levy Ratner PC and Furgeson, Chambers & Sumter P.A., and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

“We are evaluating all available legal recourse to fully vindicate Ms. Hannah-Jones’ rights, including possibly initiating a federal action against UNC, the Board and/or affiliated entities and individuals,” her legal team said in a letter to state lawmakers Thursday obtained by The News and Observer.

Fox News could not immediately reach the university for comment on why the board denied the journalist tenure.

Hannah-Jones said in a statement she was “obligated to fight back against a wave of anti-democratic suppression that seeks to prohibit the free exchange of ideas, silence Black voices, and chill free speech.”

The New York Times’ 1619 Project is a long-form collaboration that seeks to “reframe the country’s history” by bringing slavery and racism to the forefront of the national narrative. While the project has been championed by Democratic audiences, it has been rejected by some as an inaccurate representation of history. 

In a statement Thursday, Hannah-Jones suggested her tenure denial was a consequence of partisan objection to her project. 

“As a Black woman who has built a nearly two-decades-long career in journalism, I believe Americans who research, study, and publish works that expose uncomfortable truths about the past and present manifestations of racism in our society should be able to follow these pursuits without risk to their civil and constitutional rights,” she said. 

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund echoed Hannah-Jones’ comments, saying the legal team is in “lockstep with the political, conservative and race-based backlash across the country.”

The group alleged Hannah-Jones’ tenure rejection is a result of partisan efforts to “revise the truth of racism” and “to censor honest conversations about race in America.”

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