UNC board grants tenure to Nikole Hannah-Jones amid outcry from Black faculty and students.
The Dr. Edna B. McKenzie Branch was on the right side of history in advocating and supporting Dr. Nikole Hannah Jones in her battle for tenure. It appears that the Black community did not stand up and protest when the distinguished Dr. Julian Lewis was denied tenure and was forced to leave the University of Chicago. However, in 2021 we do have the capacity, resources, determination and fortitude to address the denial of tenure to the highly gifted scholar, Dr. Nikole Hannah-Jones.
Dr. Lutitia Clipper: An ASALH Member’s Reflection on the UNC at Chapel Hill Decision to Deny Tenure to
Dr Nikole Hannah Jones
The Dr Edna B McKenzie Branch of ASALH has had a banner year, even during these
extraordinary times of the pandemic, with stimulating discussions, conducted virtually, by educators, researchers, some ASALH members informing fellow members via their research, to expand the knowledge of our own rich history and heritage. Korey Brown ASALH’s online organization history, summarizes Carter G Woodson’s purpose for founding ASALH, to advance the evolving awareness of the true place of blacks in history.
106 years later researchers and educators continue to combat the dearth of information on the accomplishments of blacks and also to battle the prejudices of those unwilling to allow the accurate historical accounts to be taught.
Motivated by the review of the outstanding work of ASALH colleagues at the Dr Edna B
McKenzie Pittsburgh Branch Book Festival, May 2021, in celebration and observance of the birthday of Malcolm X, I was compelled to solicit reaction of the authors to the University of North Carolina’s rejection of tenure to Nikole Hannah Jones, a renown, qualified professor and inquire if there was any way that ASALH, an organization whose mission is to promote, research, preserve, interpret and disseminate information about Black life, history and culture to the global community, could act as an advocate .
Nikole Hannah Jones becomes another of recent examples of the impact of racist belief systems and behaviors encouraging systemic racism through the institutional strongholds of oppression. Following the UNC announcement that she was offered a position as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism, it became known that Dr Jones had not been offered a tenured position as have been the previous appointees to date, according to the school’s dean, Susan King. Dean King stated support for Dr Jones’ tenure.
Dr Nikole Hannah-Jones’ credentials are outstanding; she is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, and the recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship ‘Genius Grant’. She has covered civil rights and racial injustice for the New York Times Magazine, is renown for her extraordinary research on the 1619 Project and was just elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. As part of the tenure process, typically accompanying the appointment, Hannah-Jones work was sent out for
review to comparable institutions’ experts in the field. Dr Jones’ work received unanimous glowing reviews.
The Knight Chairs are professional journalists around the country who hold professorships endowed by the Knight Foundation. Their purpose is to bring our years of industry knowledge and experience into the classroom, foster innovation and contribute thought leadership to the academy. They have publicly noted their opposition in a statement to the decision of the Board of Trustee to deny tenure Dr Nikole Hannah-Jones. Excerpts from the Statement of the Community of Knight Chairs are as follows:
“The fact that UNC’s trustees chose to withhold tenure from Hannah-Jones speaks volumes about the pettiness of those who would try to diminish her 20-year track record of award-winning journalism. We believe independence is at the heart of journalism in a free society, and freedom of inquiry the heart of a research university. These principles allow citizens and scholars to ask questions that move society closer to the truth. Without them, journalists and researchers become tools of the government. Tenure is designed specifically to protect those rights for faculty members. That is why the signatories below are concerned. In denying tenure to Hannah-Jones, UNC’s Board of Trustees is putting politics before academic integrity ”.
The Statement continues, “The Board of Trustees appear to be uncomfortable with
Hannah-Jones’ body of work, including the view of American history she painstakingly
documented and beautifully presented in the 1619 Project. You can agree or disagree with honestly held interpretations of history, but to sanction someone for her point of view is the opposite of freedom of speech.”
Kiesow, 2021, https://dkiesow.medium.com/statement-from-