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University of North Carolina paid 1619 Project’s Nikole Hannah-Jones $16,670 to speak for 40 MINUTES


The University of North Carolina paid 1619 Project founder Nikole Hannah-Jones almost $17,000 for a 40-minute speech on Tuesday night, it has emerged.

Hannah-Jones, whose controversial work for The New York Times won a Pulitzer, spoke at the Wilmington site as part of the university’s Writer’s Week.

She tweeted on Tuesday a photo of a gift basket in her hotel suite, containing a bottle of Bulleit Bourbon, apples, salted caramel chocolate and a copy of an 1860 book, The American Negro: His History and Literature, written by America’s most famous fugitive slaves, Ellen and William Craft.

‘Just got to Wilmington, NC, for @UNCWilmington Writers Week, checked into my room, and I have to say, y’all know how to treat a gal,’ she said.

On Wednesday, Fox News obtained her contract, showing she was paid $16,670 for the appearance. The event consisted of a 40-minute speech from the 45-year-old and a 15-minute Q&A period. 

The contract lists a 15-minute meet and greet with students but is crossed out in the signed version of the contract. 

Nikole Hannah-Jones, pictured during a July interview, was paid almost $17,000 for a speech and Q&A at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, on Tuesday night

The university was also responsible for her airfare, transportation, meals, and lodging for up to two nights. 

The 45-year-old won a Pulitzer for her 2019 work, but also fired up critics

The 45-year-old won a Pulitzer for her 2019 work, but also fired up critics

‘In the shadow of Wilmington’s annual reckoning with its violent past as demonstrated in the bloody events of 1898, John Jeremiah Sullivan will be in conversation with Nikole Hannah-Jones, one of Time Magazine’s most Influential People of 2021, named for her ability to shine a bright searchlight over American history,’ the university said, publicizing her speech. 

‘In her light,’ Barry Jenkins wrote in September’s issue, ‘the wounds of America’s original and subsequent sins are laid bare.”

She argues that inadequate attention is paid to how America is built in part from slave labor, and how the story of America’s founding has been sanitized and distorted, celebrating 1776 instead, and brushing over the past. Critics say she is labeling the United States as a racist country, and trying to make people hate their homeland.  

Hannah-Jones spoke on Tuesday at the University of North Carolina's Kenan Auditorium, for a sold-out event

Hannah-Jones spoke on Tuesday at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan Auditorium, for a sold-out event

The Wilmington campus of the University of North Carolina is pictured

The Wilmington campus of the University of North Carolina is pictured

A spokesperson for the University of North Carolina Wilmington told Fox News that the event was paid through a ‘donor-supported fund managed by the department.’ 

Yet the head of a conservative think tank that deals with economic policy in the state, The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, said the fee would have been better spent on supporting local students.

Jenna Robinson pointed out that the fee would have covered two years’ worth of tuition and fees for a student to study in the department. 

‘I’m glad it didn’t come out of student fees, which is often where speaker fees come out of. I’m really glad it wasn’t student fees,’ Robinson told Fox. 

‘It was not the best use of funds. There are other writers available to talk about the same topic at a much lower cost. 

‘And I think the university would have been better served going to some other writer if they really wanted to talk on this topic.

Hannah-Jones speaks on stage during the 137th Commencement at Morehouse College on May 16 in Atlanta

Hannah-Jones speaks on stage during the 137th Commencement at Morehouse College on May 16 in Atlanta

New York Times’ 1619 Project 

In August 2019 the New York Times Magazine published the 1619 project, a collection of essays, photo essays, short fiction pieces and poems aimed to ‘reframe’ American history based on the impact of slaves brought to the US.

It was published to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of enslaved Africans in the English colonies.

It argues that the nation’s birth was not 1776 with independence from the British crown, but in August 1619 with the arrival of a cargo ship of 20 to 30 enslaved Africans at Point Comfort in the colony of Virginia, which inaugurated the system of slavery.

The project argues that slavery was the country’s origin and out of it ‘grew nearly everything that has truly made America exceptional.’

That includes economic might, industry, the electoral system, music, public health and education inequities, violence, income inequality, slang, and racial hatred. 

However, the project is debated among historians for its factual accuracy.

In March 2020 historian Leslie M. Harris who served as a fact checker for the project said authors ignored her corrections, but believed the project was needed to correct prevailing historical narratives.

One aspect up for debate is the timeline. 

Time Magazine said the first slaves arrived in 1526 in a Spanish colony in what is now South Carolina, 93 years prior to the landing in Jamestown. 

Some experts say slaves first arrived at present-day Fort Monroe in Hampton, instead of Jamestown. 

Others argue the first Africans in Virginia were indentured servants as laws on lifetime slavery didn’t appear till 17th century and early 18th century, but worked essentially as slaves. 

Hannah-Jones was previously considered for a tenured position at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, but after the board of trustees offered her the position in June without tenure, she turned it down and accepted a tenured position at Howard University.

Hannah-Jones referenced the controversy in a tweet ahead of her speech, pointing out that she was invited to a different campus of the same university that rejected her.

‘I’ll be speaking at *another* UNC tonight,’ she said. ‘Thank you for welcoming me.’ 

Hannah-Jones’s job offer at UNC Chapel Hill was withdrawn, it emerged afterwards, because a millionaire megadonor objected to her hiring and questioned her objectivity as a journalist – claiming she was ‘trying to push an agenda’.

Millionaire newspaper tycoon Walter Hussman Jr., 75, complained when he learned that they were thinking of hiring the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter.

Hussman donated $25 million to his alma mater in 2019, and UNC renamed their journalism department after him.

‘I worry about the controversy of tying the UNC journalism school to the 1619 project,’ he wrote to Susan King, dean at the Hussman School of Journalism, in December 2020.  

Hussman worried in the email sent in December, and obtained by The Assembly that many would believe that Hannah-Jones was, ‘trying to push an agenda,’ through the 1619 Project, and that, ‘they will assume she is manipulating historical facts to support it. 

‘My hope and vision was that the journalism school would be the champion of objective, impartial reporting and separating news and opinion, and that would add so much to its reputation and would benefit both the school and the University,’ he wrote. 

‘Instead, I fear this possible and needless controversy will overshadow it.’ 

Hussman expressed in the emails that he preferred the work of other Pulitzer Prize-winning historians such as James McPherson and Gordon Wood over Hannah-Jones’s.

In particular, he disagreed with a part of her introductory essay to the 1619 Project, in which she wrote that black Americans had largely fought alone during the civil rights struggle after World War II. 

‘I think this claim denigrates the courageous efforts of many white Americans to address the sin of slavery and the racial injustices that resulted after the Civil War,’ he wrote.

‘Long before Nikole Hannah Jones won her Pulitzer Prize courageous white southerners risking their lives standing up for the rights of blacks were winning Pulitzer prizes, too,’ he wrote, referring to southern journalists of the era.

Private emails reveal that UNC Chapel Hill megadonor Walter Hussman  had objected to the university's hiring of New York Times reporters Nikole Hannah-Jones as a Knight Chair professor at the school

Hussman donated $25 million to the school in 2019, and questioned Hannah-Jones' objectivity

Private emails reveal that UNC Chapel Hill megadonor Walter Hussman (right) had objected to the university’s hiring of New York Times reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones as a Knight Chair professor at the school

After a $25 million donation to the college, UNC named its journalism school after Hussman

After a $25 million donation to the college, UNC named its journalism school after Hussman 

In response to what he has seen as a perceived loss of objectivity in modern mainstream journalism, in 2017 Hussman reiterated a commitment to impartiality in a statement of core values reprinted every day on Page 2 of all 10 of his newspapers. 

King initially decided to hire Hannah-Jones anyway, as a Knight Chair professor at the Hussman School, and the decision was announced in April 2021.

But the school rescinded its offer of a tenured position a month later, confirming that Hannah-Jones would instead join its faculty this summer with a five-year contract. 

The offer of a tenured teaching position was resubmitted to the board of trustees at a North Carolina university after outrage and campus protests when her tenure application was halted. 

She would have been the first black person to hold the job – and the first person not to be tenured. 

Although the school hired Hannah-Jones, it declined to give her tenure in the position, sparking backlash and claims of racism

Although the school hired Hannah-Jones, it declined to give her tenure in the position, sparking backlash and claims of racism  

In July she announced she would be teaching at Howard, not UNC. 

Hussman was not the only person to criticize the hiring of Hannah-Jones.

How fight over appointment of 1619 Project founder unfolded  

August 2019 – The New York Times begins its 1619 project which aims to ‘reframe the country’s history’ on slavery, but faces criticism over historical inaccuracies and generalizations

May 2020 – Nikole Hannah-Jones is awarded the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for her introductory  essay to the project

Summer 2020 – UNC start considering hiring Hannah-Jones to its journalism faculty. 

December 2020 – In an email, Arkansas newspaper publisher Walter Hussman – a top donor to UNC – expresses his fears that Hannah-Jones was, ‘trying to push an agenda,’ through the 1619 Project, and that, ‘they will assume she is manipulating historical facts to support it.’

April 2021 – UNC announces that Hannah-Jones would be joining the journalism school’s faculty as Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism, traditionally a tenured professorship.

May 2021 – Following criticism of the appointment, UNC u-turns and instead says she would take up the position on a five-year contract. This sparks a torrent of criticism, including from black students who claimed they had been neglected. 

June 30, 2021 – The trustees ultimately approved tenure last week, voting 9-4 to accept her application at a special meeting with a closed-door session that was invaded by her supporters, sparking an ugly brawl. 

July 6, 2021 – Hannah-Jones announces she has turned down the tenure offer and will go to Howard University instead. 

The news was swiftly condemned by conservative political groups with links to the UNC Board of Governors which oversees the state university’s 16-campus system, according to NC Policy Watch.  

Hannah-Jones received her masters in journalism from UNC in 2003 and got her start covering education for the Raleigh News & Observer. She then wrote for the Oregonian and later ProPublica before becoming a reporter for the Times in 2015.

Taking a different approach to Hussman’s, Hannah-Jones has expressed skepticism to journalistic objectivity, telling NPR last June that: ‘We really need to understand that all of our racialized experiences as journalists lead us to cover things a certain way.’ 

Hannah-Jones became a household name in journalism with the 1619 Project – which was slammed by former president Donald Trump as ‘totally discredited’ and part of the ‘twisted web of lies’ that has caught fire in American universities that teach American is a ‘wicked and racist nation.’ 

Trump formed a ‘1776 Commission’ in response to teach ‘patriotism.’ 

It released a report this year before being ended by President Joe Biden.

The series ‘reframed’ American history to have it start in 1619, when the first slaves from Africa arrived to Virginia, instead of 1776, when the founding fathers declared independence from Britain. 

In her essay, Hannah-Jones wrote that slaves laid the foundations of the US Capitol and built founding fathers’ plantations. 

She said the ‘relentless buying, selling, insuring and financing of their bodies’ made Wall Street and New York City the financial capital of the world.

‘Before the abolishment of the international slave trade, 400,000 enslaved Africans would be sold into America. Those individuals and their descendants transformed the lands to which they’d been brought into some of the most successful colonies in the British Empire,’ Hannah-Jones wrote. 

‘But it would be historically inaccurate to reduce the contributions of black people to the vast material wealth created by our bondage,’ she said. 

‘Black Americans have also been, and continue to be, foundational to the idea of American freedom. More than any other group in this country’s history, we have served, generation after generation, in an overlooked but vital role: It is we who have been the perfecters of this democracy.’

The project heralded by some and criticized by others, including a number of historians and Trump, who adamantly opposed the idea that it should be taught in classrooms. 

Princeton historian Sean Wilentz criticized the 1619 Project, and some of Hannah-Jones’s other work, in a letter sent to top Times editors and the publisher, The Atlantic reported in December 2019. 

The letter, which was signed by other scholars James McPherson, Gordon Wood, Victoria Bynum, and James Oakes refers to ‘matters of verifiable fact’ that ‘cannot be described as interpretation or “framing”’ and says the project reflected ‘a displacement of historical understanding by ideology,’ The Atlantic reported. 

Wilentz and the other signatories demanded corrections.

Trump called it ‘revisionist history’ and threatened to withhold federal funding from public schools that used it.  

Republican lawmakers in a handful of states, including Iowa and Missouri, are continuing his fight to ban it from schools. 

The 1619 Project won the Pulitzer Prize in 2019. It was praised by some as shining a light on untold history, but lambasted by others, including former President Donald Trump, for what he said was a jaundiced view of the US

The 1619 Project won the Pulitzer Prize in 2019. It was praised by some as shining a light on untold history, but lambasted by others, including former President Donald Trump, for what he said was a jaundiced view of the US

Bills were introduced in those state legislatures that would punish school districts that use the ‘1619 Project’ by cutting federal funding.  

A major critic of the project has been The Heritage Foundation, which says it ‘has been tireless in its efforts to debunk the radical and anti-American positions taken by The New York Times and the 1619 Project. 

One of The Heritage Foundation’s articles pointed out post-publication edits that the Times made, including changing a in Hannah-Jones’ leading article in the series to say that ‘some of’ the colonists fought the American Revolution to defend slavery.

‘The editors called this a ‘small’ clarification, and it was indeed very small, although considering that the 1619 Project’s full-throated commitment to demonstrating that American history can only be explained through the lens of slavery, this correction appears nothing short of essential,’ Heritage policy expert Jonathan Butcher, a senior policy analyst for Heritage’s Center for Education Policy, wrote. 

One of the project’s supporters, Seth Rockman, an associate professor of history at Brown University, wrote in an op-ed for the Washington Post that the project ‘is a testament to patriotism, not a repudiation.’

Rockman wrote that history is ‘an ongoing conversation in which trained professionals and multiple publics wrestle with the meaning of the past’ and disagreement is desirable ‘as it shows us that something important is at stake.’ 

He said there are warranted criticisms that ‘we should spend our time debating,’ for example the project was ‘insufficiently attentive’ about how the Native Americans lost their land.   

Trump suggested, however, that the project’s teachings were dangerous.



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