CHARLOTTE, NC (AP) — Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones is returning to North Carolina as a keynote speaker for the annual Writers Week event at UNC Wilmington in November.
Hannah-Jones will discuss her award-winning work on The 1619 Project, a New York Times Magazine project that reframes the legacy of slavery and places the contributions of Black Americans at the forefront of the country’s history.
“The story she tells is both familiar and also absolutely groundbreaking,” UNCW creative writing associate professor Rebecca Lee said. “It surprised me that something that felt so intimate could also be telling the story of the nation.”
Lee helped organize the creative writing department’s annual Writers Week events and worked to bring Hannah-Jones to campus.
“Many of our students are eager to hear her thoughts on writing, particularly writing that thinks so personally and so politically with such ease and power,” Lee said.
Hannah-Jones is a staff writer at The New York Times Magazine focused on racial injustice and is the Knight Chair in Race and Journalism at Howard University. She was recently recognized as one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people and earned a MacArthur Fellowship, known as the “genius” grant.
Hannah-Jones and her work on The 1619 Project brought national attention to North Carolina this summer through her controversial tenure case at UNC-Chapel Hill. Hannah-Jones was set to join the UNC-CH faculty as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism this fall. However, she turned down the job after a delayed vote by the UNC-CH Board of Trustees that some argued was rooted in conservative politics, particularly regarding The 1619 Project.
The project is also frequently cited in the local, state and national debate over Critical Race Theory and how the country’s history is taught in schools.
Hannah-Jones’ work and ramifications of her tenure case will be discussed in her conversation with writer John Jeremiah Sullivan at the Wilmington event. Sullivan is a writer whose work for The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker and other publications is often focused on Black history.
Sullivan is also involved with the UNCW Office of Community Engagement and Applied Learning, which is helping host and pay for the event.
The speaking event will shine another spotlight on race, politics and academic freedom at a UNC System campus.
UNCW has faced its own racial and political issues on campus in recent years. UNCW Chancellor Jose Sartarelli, who’s retiring after this year, was censured by faculty and criticized for his response to the nationwide social justice movement during the summer of 2020.
Members of the university’s Board of Trustees have also debated issues of free speech surrounding political social media posts and the high-profile death of conservative UNCW professor Mike Adams.
Hannah-Jones’ visit also comes during the commemoration of the 123rd anniversary of the 1898 Wilmington Massacre, when a white supremacist campaign led to the violent overthrow of Wilmington’s elected government. Leaders of the racist insurrection “murdered at least 60 Black residents, torched the Black-owned local newspaper, sent thousands of Black people into hiding in swamps and woods and changed the city forever,” The News & Observer previously reported.
Lee said Hannah-Jones’ “agile and brilliant vision into the past will be a blessing to this city” as it attempts to grapple with, understand and atone for that time.
Hannah-Jones will be speaking on Tuesday, November 2nd at 7:30 in Kenan Auditorium on UNCW’s campus.
The free event is open to the public and masks will be required. Tickets are available online and the event will also be streamed on Zoom.