EXCLUSIVE: Contracts reveal Nikole Hannah-Jones's lucrative speaking engagements at public universities

Campus Reform obtained contracts signed between the 1619 author and Georgia Tech, the University of Michigan, and the University of South Carolina.

Campus Reform continues to cover Hannah-Jones in higher education and the media.

Nikole Hannah-Jones has been a controversial public figure since the publication of the 1619 Project. 

Since the 2019 publication of the project, it has attracted criticism that charges the project with pushing a heavily-slanted and dishonest retelling of America’s history. Additionally, the 1619 Project has come under even more intense scrutiny after several state legislatures banned the teaching of the work in schools. 

Despite the increasing pressure on universities to introduce students to a wide variety of viewpoints, several universities have moved forward with inviting Nikole Hannah-Jones to their campus for events ranging from speeches to fireside chats. 

[RELATED: UNC Board of Trustees grants tenure to Nikole Hannah-Jones]

Like any high-profile speaker, Nikole Hannah-Jones has received a significant amount of pay for her appearances. 

Campus Reform acquired documents that showed how much she received to attend events on several campuses. 

After placing numerous Freedom of Information Act requests, Campus Reform was able to receive payment information for events at Georgia Tech University, the University of Michigan, and the University of South Carolina. 

Speaking Fees

Nikole Hannah-Jones spoke at the University of Michigan in January 2020 for a fee of $16,000.

According to the documents, Jones participated in a conversation about the 1619 Project with invited students, gave a Keynote address with a Q&A, and had dinner at the Wallace House with a cohort of invited fellows.

A year later, Jones’s fame apparently grew, as she commanded even higher speaking fees from universities. 

Documents acquired from Georgia Tech show that Nikole Hannah-Jones was paid $25,000 to speak at the 2021 MLK Day Celebration Lecture in January. For that event, Jones gave a 40-minute moderated conversation followed by a 20-minute question-and-answer session. 

Interestingly, the document suggests that the university initially agreed to a $18,000 appearance fee, which is more aligned with her fees in previous years. However, the document shows that number crossed out in favor of $25,000. The document also shows that a 40-minute keynote speech was changed to a moderated conversation. 

Georgia Tech did not respond to Campus Reform’s request for comment on why the speaking fee was increased or why the event activities 

The University of South Carolina paid Jones $25,000 as well for two events in March 2021. 

The 2021 Media & Civil Rights History Symposium and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Research Symposium were held virtually. Jones served as the Keynote speaker of the Media & Civil Rights History Symposium, in which she engaged in a “dialogue about race, social justice, and media.”

A Controversial Public Figure

Hannah Nikole Jones has not been a stranger to controversy. 

Since the 1619 Project has become a touchstone of liberal culture, it has sparked a broader discussion of how our society should go about reckoning with America’s legacy of chattel slavery and Jim Crow. 

The energy surrounding this discussion picked up even more steam after the killing of George Floyd by officer Derek Chauvin. With this, Jones’s work gained even more cultural clout in the public’s eye.

Although the project has been repeatedly criticized as inaccurate. The New York Times allegedly ignored claims made by fact checkers they employed which disputed provocative claims such as slavery being the main reason for the American Revolution. 

Despite the controversy, the 1619 Project remains popular. The New York Times produced a magazine, podcasts, and a newspaper section dedicated to the project. 

In 2020, Jones won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary. The National Association of Scholars responded with an open letter requesting that the Pulitzer Prize Board rescind the award.

Furthermore, Jones has appeared alongside Ibram X. Kendi in various events. 

In December 2019, they appeared on a podcast to speak about the legacy of American racism. In March 2020, they gave a joint appearance on a podcast with MSNBC host Chris Hayes. In November 2020, she and Kendi gave a lecture to the Association of American Medical Colleges on systemic racism in academic medicine

[RELATED: Was Nikole Hannah-Jones ‘happy’ with non-tenured offer? Emails reveal confusion, conflicting opinions at UNC.]

Jones has been handsomely rewarded for her efforts. The 1619 Project currently sits at #1 on the New York Times Best Sellers list. A docuseries based on the project co-produced by Oprah Winfrey is currently in the works to debut on the Hulu streaming service.

Campus Reform reached out to the individuals and schools referenced in the piece, but did not receive comment in time for publication of this article.