Nikole Hannah-Jones: 2021 showed steps toward racial progress always met with ‘intensive backlash’

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Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, the creator of The New York Times’s 1619 Project, said the events of the past year showed that “steps toward racial progress are always met with an intensive backlash.”

“We are a society that woefully does not want to deal with the anti-blackness that is at the core of so many of our institutions — and really our society itself,” Hannah-Jones told the Associated Press in an interview published Thursday. “We are seeing a backlash, we are seeing efforts to subvert democracy, to make it harder … for Black people to vote, to protest.”

Hannah-Jones, a correspondent for the New York Times Magazine, won national recognition in 2019 when she and her colleagues published The 1619 Project, a series of essays and stories reframing the founding of America and its institutions around slavery.

The New York Times and Hannah-Jones won a Pulitzer Prize for the project, but it has proved controversial.

State legislatures in states including Florida and Texas are attempting to ban schools from teaching the project as part of an effort to restrict the teaching of critical race theory, which posits that racism is embedded in U.S. history, laws and institutions.

Hannah-Jones told the Associated Press she was proud of the 1619 Project and called the efforts to prevent it from being taught a “disappointment.”

She also called attention to recent voting restrictions and gerrymandering efforts, comparing them to restrictive measures implemented during the Jim Crow era following Reconstruction — though, she acknowledged, “It’s not exactly the same, of course.”

“We are in a very frightening time,” she said. “What we are seeing is what we saw after the period of reconstruction with this slow rollback of the rights of Black voters, working-class voters and voters of color, with laws that are making it more difficult to vote, with hyper-gerrymandering that ensures a white minority can maintain power no matter what.”

Asked about the lessons of the past year, she said, “This year is just reflective of what I have always understood about this country. And that is that steps forward, steps towards racial progress, are always met with an intensive backlash.”

Tags 1619 project Critical race theory Journalism New York Times Nikole Hannah-Jones racial equity racial justice voting restrictions

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