Nikole Hannah-Jones Discusses New 1619 Book With Howard Students

Award-Winning Author Holds First Event As New Professor

By Sarah Jones-Smith, NewsVision

Howard University students joined award-winning author Nikole Hannah-Jones for a candid discussion about her new top-selling book , “The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story.” Hannah-Jones, the new Knight Chair in Race and Journalism and founder of the Center for Journalism and Democracy, also shared her goals as she begins teaching students at the renowned HBCU. NewsVision reporter Sarah Jones-Smith has the story.


Nikole Hannah-Jones Discusses the Importance of Giving Back

By Alecia Taylor

Howard University News Service

To many people, 2019 was another year of witnessing the height of the Black Lives Matter protest. But to Nikole Hannah-Jones, she knew August 2019 marked the 400th year that slavery was brought to, what we now know as, America.

Since 2019, Nikole Hannah-Jones has become a household name in many Black homes. Her heightened popularity started when her long-form journalism endeavor, “1619 Project,” was published in the New York Times Magazine in August of 2019. While Hannah-Jones has become a household name, the name may be even more popular among the Howard University community.

The author shook academia this past summer when she declined a tenured position at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Instead, she accepted the Knight Chair in Race and Journalism at Howard University. Professor Hannah-Jones sat down with senior journalism major Micah Washington on Monday for a book talk about “The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story.” The book, an anthology of essays and poetry, expands on the work featured in the New York Times Magazine.

The Cathy Hughes School of Communication distributed free copies of the book to attendees, thanks to singer John Legend and One World/Random House. Legend donated $16,190 toward the project and “has been a supporter since the beginning,” Hannah-Jones said.

This event is one of many ways that Hannah-Jones has given back to her community. Throughout the nearly hour and half long event, she emphasized the importance of paying it forward. When acknowledging the privilege of being able to publish one of the “Blackest [books] from the New York Times,” she had a message for aspiring Black scholars and aspiring journalists.

“If you make it, it is a moral obligation to not be the only one in the room,” she advised. “If you are not opening doors and pulling other people through with you, why are you there?”

As the Knight Chair, the professor teaches a class focused on the 1619 project in the Department of Media, Journalism and Film. She is also launching the Center for Journalism and Democracy at Howard.

While Hannah-Jones did not go to a historically black college or university during undergraduate studies, she wished she could have attended Howard.

“So much of my life is repayment,” she told the audience of mostly Howard students. “The part of what I am building is student support, building into a way to support students academically and financially. I hope students feel like they can come up to me.”

The author reflected on how she regrets not coming to Howard University sooner. She remembers all the Black journalists throughout her career who pulled her though the doors she now has entered. She hopes that she can do the same for students at “the Mecca.” Whether that be emotionally or financially, she aims to be the professor she once needed in her college years.

The Pulitzer Prize recipient mentioned that it is a two-way street. The campus “pours” into her, and it gives her a sense of wholeness, she said. Hannah-Jones is hoping to learn from her students as well.

“I need this.”

Alecia Taylor is a student at Howard University and contributor to HUNewsService.com.