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Nikole Hannah-Jones shares lessons from ‘hurtful’ attacks

Associated Press/John Minchillo

Journalist and academic Nikole Hannah-Jones, whose reporting has placed slavery at the center of United States history, said her work has come at a steep personal cost. 

“The last two years I have become a symbol, whether a symbol for people who like me and respect my work or a symbol for people who revile me and hate my work, and that’s been a really hard adjustment for me to make,” Hannah-Jones said in a Los Angeles Times column published Sunday.

“I have to be careful of everything that I say in a public sphere,” she added. 

Hannah-Jones was at the center of controversy earlier this year after her alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, declined to grant her tenure due to backlash from conservatives over her “1619 Project,” a New York Times series and subsequent book examining the role of slavery in U.S. history.

The university’s board of trustees reversed its decision after public outrage, but Hannah-Jones turned down the school’s offer and accepted a tenured position with Howard University instead.

“I have learned that power doesn’t flash what it’s going to do,” Jones told the L.A. Times. “It moves silently behind the scenes and makes impact and then once everything is figured out announces itself.”

Hannah-Jones also described the “hurtful” experience she went through at her alma mater and the various public attacks on her. 

“What I went through with the University of North Carolina, what I’ve gone through with the attacks on my career, it’s not enjoyable. It can be hurtful,” she said. “But it’s nothing, right? My life is great compared to so many people.” 

She said she was encouraged to see polls showing more white people are understanding how racial inequality is rooted in the country’s history, following the social unrest and racial justice protests of 2020.

Hannah-Jones will join L.A. Times executive editor Kevin Merida for a community discussion on Nov. 30, the newspaper noted.

Tags California Los Angeles Nikole Hannah-Jones Nikole Hannah-Jones The 1619 Project The Los Angeles Times UNC
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