‘1619 Project’ author given tenure at UNC Chapel Hill

In this May 21, 2016, file photo, Nikole Hannah-Jones attends the 75th Annual Peabody Awards Ceremony at Cipriani Wall Street in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

CHAPEL HILL – Nikole Hannah-Jones, the writer behind the largely debunked ‘1619 Project,’ was awarded tenure at a June 30 meeting of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill board of trustees.

In a 9-4 vote Hannah-Jones’ campaign for tenure proved successful, with the trustees apparently bowed to public pressure.

Earlier this year, The Knight Foundation, which funds the role at the university, said that the position began as a professorship in 1984 to teach advertising and subsequently converted to the Knight Chair in Digital Advertising and Marketing, and then to the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Reporting. The statement said it was the university’s idea to change the area of focus and hire Hannah-Jones.

Some media outlets had reported that tenure for the position was denied or revoked; however, the offer of tenure is a decision made by the UNC-CH Board of Trustees — not the journalism school.

In the weeks following the initial uproar, Hannah-Jones retained legal counsel, and the threat of lawsuits quickly followed.

In one instance, state legislators received a letter to preserve any related communications regarding Hannah-Jones.

Senate Leader Phil Berger’s deputy chief of staff and communications director, Pat Ryan, told NSJ that, “Attacking Republican legislators without evidence would get them some more media coverage, and, ‘They were right.’” Ryan also added that some reporters fell for an evidence-free theory about nefarious conduct by legislators.

The battle also encompassed Walter Hussman Jr., who the UNC-CH journalism school is named after. In news reports, Hussman expressed concerns over Hannah-Jones, specifically due to her numerous inaccuracies in reporting and the ‘1619 Project’ series.

After yesterday’s vote, Hannah-Jones is expected to take the position and begin her role imminently. She celebrated the decision, posting a picture sipping a drink on Wednesday evening.