Nikole Hannah-Jones starts 1619 Freedom School in home state of Iowa

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Journalist and academic Nikole Hannah-Jones is starting an after-school program for students in her home state of Iowa focusing on literacy and Black History. 

Hannah-Jones announced the creation of the 1619 Freedom School, which will be located in Waterloo, on her Twitter page on Tuesday. 

“It’s not enough to succeed if your community is struggling. You have to try to pull people up with you. I am so proud to announce the launch of the 1619 Freedom School in my hometown of Waterloo, Iowa, labeled in 2018 the worst place in U.S. to be Black,” she said. “I used many lessons learned from years of reporting on segregated, high-poverty schools to found the 1619 Freedom School, a free, after-school program that infuses intensive literacy instruction with a Black history curriculum.”

The school’s motto will be “Liberation Through Literacy,” Hannah-Jones said. 

The program will be free and run five days a week, providing “culturally responsive curriculum to bridge the academic opportunity gap among low-income public school students in Waterloo, Iowa,” according to its website

It will serve primarily fourth grade students from Walter Cunningham Elementary, the city’s highest-poverty and most-segregated school. 

“We have partnered with educators from Georgetown University and the University of Missouri to design a literacy curriculum built around Black history,” the school says, noting that expansion could be possible as it looks to make the curriculum available “for communities across the country.”

Hannah-Jones has become a leading figure on issues regarding race among progressives. A journalist at The New York Times Magazine, her efforts on the 1619 Project — a work dedicated to outlining America’s history rooted in slavery and oppression of minorities — won the Pulitzer Prize last year. 

She rejected an offer to serve as the chair of the journalism department at the University of North Carolina, accepting a similar position at Howard University after backlash at UNC and from conservatives across the country who often criticize her work and public statements. 

Tags Iowa Iowa Literacy The 1619 Project University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
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