In honor of Ladies’s Historical past Month, Macalester just lately welcomed acclaimed investigative journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones to a Zoom speak and Q&A session. Hannah-Jones spoke about her expertise reporting on race and responses to The 1619 Mission, an investigation on the legacy of slavery that Hannah-Jones produced for The New York Occasions Journal, and her e book by the identical title increasing on that work.
Media and cultural research professor Tia-Simone Gardner moderated the occasion. Greater than 350 folks registered to attend the webinar for college students, school and employees. Later within the afternoon, professor and chair of the historical past division Walter Greason moderated an occasion for alumni and neighborhood members.
Hannah-Jones fielded a number of questions on her work on The 1619 Project, a venture that began as a difficulty of The New York Occasions Journal comprised of investigative reporting, photographs, poetry and fiction concerning the legacy of slavery in the US. The piece traced the historical past of slavery’s impression on in the present day’s U.S., from the jail techniques to music to medication.
The 1619 Mission earned Hannah-Jones a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary and made waves throughout the nation. Nevertheless it additionally infected conservative commentators and lawmakers, receiving backlash for its evaluation of the U.S.’s roots in slavery. For the reason that publication of the venture, a number of states have attempted to ban The 1619 Mission and Hannah-Jones’ e book that expands on it.
Provost Lisa Anderson-Levy, who helped introduce the occasion, posed the primary query, bringing Hannah-Jones’ consideration to that backlash.
“I’ve spent quite a lot of time within the final 12 months actually making an attempt to get my arms across the specific backlash towards the 1619 Mission, after which… what I think about to be a really profitable propaganda marketing campaign that we’re calling anti-critical race principle, however that’s actually, in fact, anti-history and anti-memory legal guidelines,” Hannah-Jones stated.
Hannah-Jones credited the backlash to the shifting views that got here with the wave of the Black Lives Matter motion after the homicide of George Floyd in Could 2020.
“We noticed, with George Floyd’s homicide, the biggest mass protest for Black lives within the historical past of the world, however what’s extra essential about that [was] the character of the protests,” Hannah-Jones stated. “They have been multi-racial, multi-generational, and occurring from huge cities to all white rural cities… You really have been seeing quite a lot of motion in how folks have been understanding racial inequality.”
The protests, she stated, began to change the narrative of American exceptionalism that had lengthy been accepted each by the general public and in coverage.
“Narrative impacts coverage,” Hannah-Jones stated. “You need to have the narrative first to ensure that folks to vote for sure insurance policies, and if most individuals suppose we’re a basically equal society and Black folks’s struggles are merely their very own fault, they will assist insurance policies with that in thoughts.”
“If, nonetheless, you imagine that we aren’t an equal society, that the anti-Blackness and this legacy of financial exploitation is what has led to this inequality and it’s structural, you’ll move insurance policies and assist insurance policies for structural change,” she continued.
Hannah-Jones pointed to President Joe Biden’s win within the 2020 election and Democratic victories in Georgia as proof for that change.
“We see these seismic shifts across the understanding of racial equality — and The 1619 Mission is a main textual content of that — after which we knew there was going to be a backlash, as a result of if we examine historical past we perceive any perceived beneficial properties on behalf of Black People or marginalized communities is seen as a loss by those that have held energy,” Hannah-Jones stated.
Hannah-Jones introduced consideration to the truth that after that preliminary surge of assist for the Black Lives Matter motion, momentum subsided again. Requires police and jail abolition light from the headlines, she famous; in Minnesota, multiple Black males have died by the hands of the police since Floyd’s homicide.
“You don’t deconstruct a 400-year-old system in a single 12 months of protests,” Hannah-Jones stated. “If we actually wish to be transformative, it’s going to take much more work that many people don’t appear keen to do.”
Hannah-Jones herself has confronted backlash for her work on The 1619 Mission. Final April, the board of trustees at College of North Carolina declined to offer her tenure regardless of the tenure committee’s advice. After protest, the board prolonged her a tenure provide; Hannah-Jones opted as a substitute to simply accept a place at Howard College.
Although her fame has include extra scrutiny, Hannah-Jones stated it hasn’t inhibited her work.
“I don’t really feel, creatively, my freedom is being inhibited in any respect, and I’ve definitely had that all through my profession,” Hannah-Jones stated. “[In] my early profession… I used to be punished for wanting to put in writing about Black folks, for wanting to put in writing about racial inequality. I used to be advised I’d not achieve success, that that was an indication of my bias, that that beat was too small, it will pigeonhole me, all of these issues.
“Nobody is saying that now,” Hannah-Jones stated. “I’ve taken quite a lot of pleasure proving all of them improper. You may produce one of many greatest works of American journalism and solely concentrate on Black folks.”