UNC Board of Trustees grants tenure to Nikole Hannah-Jones

The author of the '1619 Project' will be the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism.

The Board of Trustees reversed its decision following Hannah-Jones' statement that she would not work at UNC unless she was granted tenure.

The University of North Carolina’s Board of Trustees voted on June 30 to grant tenure to Nikole Hannah-Jones, author of the “1619 Project,” who will be the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism. 

It is rare for a university to grant tenure to someone who has not climbed the academic ranks through teaching and research. Tenure, which virtually guarantees job security, is usually the result of a multi-year process, not a privilege granted before a professor teaches a single class.

Hannah-Jones’ major journalistic work is the “1619 Project,” which has roots in Critical Race Theory and has been widely criticized by historians and scholars. Chief among their many critiques is that the “1619 Project’s” assertion that the Revolutionary War was fought to preserve slavery, a baseless claim that the New York Times later partially walked back in an editor’s note.  

[RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Nikole Hannah-Jones UNC offer letter lists $180,000 yearly salary]

The 9-4 vote, reported by CNN, marks a reversal of the Board’s previous decision not to consider Hannah-Jones for tenure. The vote took place during a 3-hour meeting that was closed to the public, though not without pushback: A video emerged on social media of protesters being kept out of the meeting room.

According to NBC Newson June 25, protesters gathered at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill campus with signs stating “1619 … 2021. Same Struggle,” and “I can give you 1,619 reasons why Hannah-Jones should be tenured.”

In October 2020, 21 historians sent a letter to the Pulitzer committee asking that it revoke the Pulitzer Prize it had bestowed on the 1619 Project due to the stealth edits the New York Times had made to the work without “public explanation or acknowledgement of its actions.” 

The scholars wrote that the inaccuracies “were erased or altered with no explanation, and Hannah-Jones then proceeded to claim that she had never said or written what in fact she has said and written repeatedly.”

[RELATED: Oregon Dept of Education raided student absentee program funding to pay Nikole Hannah-Jones $50,000]

Despite the known issues with her work, UNC offered Hannah-Jones a five-year contract with an $180,000 annual salary, according to a document obtained by Campus Reform. But on June 21, Hannah-Jones’ lawyer issued a letter to UNC saying that she would not teach there unless she was granted tenure.

Colleges have embraced the “1619 Project” long before this tenure battle began. Hannah-Jones has said herself in now-deleted tweets that it “never pretended to be a history” and that the matching curriculum, also created at the New York Times, was “supplementary and cannot and was never intended to supplant U.S. history curriculum.”

Kevin M. Guskiewicz, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, read a statement at the meeting thanking the trustees for granting Nikole Hannah-Jones tenure.

“Ultimately, I am glad that the matter of tenure for Nikole Hannah-Jones has been resolved. Professor Hannah-Jones will add great value to our University. Our students are eager to learn from her and we are ready to welcome her to the Carolina faculty this fall,” Guskiewicz said.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AngelaLMorabito