Nikole Hannah-Jones and Ta-Nehisi Coates Headed to HU

(Tuesday, July 6, 2021) – Big gains today for Howard University. Two heavy hitters are bringing their gifts and talents to the historically black university announcing today their plans to join the faculty.  Investigative journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones says she will not teach at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill following an extended fight over tenure. Hannah-Jones announced her decision today on “CBS This Morning” saying instead she will take up tenure at Howard University as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism.

Also joining Howard is award-winning author Ta-Nehisi Coates. He will be a writer-in-residence in the university’s College of Arts and Sciences. Coates is well known for his work on topics including race and white supremacy.

One week ago, trustees at UNC-Chapel Hill approved tenure for Hannah-Jones, capping weeks of tension that began when a board member halted the process over questions about her teaching credentials.


The appointments are supported by nearly $20 million donated by Knight Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Ford Foundation, as well as by an anonymous donor, to support Howard’s continued education of and investment in Black journalists.

“It is my pleasure to welcome to Howard two of today’s most respected and influential journalists,” said Wayne A. I. Frederick, M.D., MBA, president of Howard University. “At such a critical time for race relations in our country, it is vital that we understand the role of journalism in steering our national conversation and social progress. Not only must our newsrooms reflect the communities where they are reporting, but we need to infuse the profession with diverse talent. We are thrilled that they will bring their insights and research to what is already a world-class, highly accomplished team of professors.

“Further, we are grateful to the Knight, MacArthur and Ford foundations, as well as to an anonymous donor, for their support in our continued efforts to train the next generation of journalists and to provide a diverse pipeline of talent to America’s newsrooms,” said President Frederick.

Hannah-Jones, the creator of the 1619 Project, will be the inaugural Knight Chair in Race and Journalism and will begin her faculty role this Summer. Award-winning author Coates will hold the Sterling Brown Chair in the Department of English and will begin this position following completion of several current obligations.

“I am so incredibly honored to be joining one of the most important and storied educational institutions in our country and to work alongside the illustrious faculty of the Cathy Hughes School of Communications and the brilliant students it draws in,” Hannah-Jones said. “One of my few regrets is that I did not attend Howard as an undergraduate, and so coming here to teach fulfills a dream I have long carried. I hope that the decision that Ta-Nehisi and I made to bring our talents to an HBCU will lead others to make a similar choice.

“We are at a critical juncture in our democracy, and yet our press does not reflect the nation it serves and too often struggles to grasp the danger for our country as we see growing attacks on free speech and the fundamental right to vote,” Hannah-Jones continued. “In the storied tradition of the Black press, the Center for Journalism and Democracy will help produce journalists capable of accurately and urgently covering the challenges of our democracy with a clarity, skepticism, rigor and historical dexterity that is too often missing from today’s journalism. I am so grateful to the Ford, Knight and MacArthur foundations for the initial funding to launch the center and hope to very quickly meet the center’s $25 million fundraising goal.”

“I heard a wise man once say, ‘A man who hates home will never be happy.’ And it is in the pursuit of wisdom and happiness that I return to join the esteemed faculty of Howard University. This is the faculty that molded me. This is the faculty that strengthened me,” Coates said. “Personally, I know of no higher personal honor than this.”

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