Nikole Hannah-Jones has grow to be one of the crucial recognizable journalists within the nation. The New York Times Magazine investigative reporter gained a Pulitzer in 2020 for her magnum opus The 1619 Project, which reframed the American story within the context of slavery’s ramifications and the continued contributions of Black Americans in shaping the nation. The groundbreaking piece was celebrated and led to a cope with Lionsgate, the Times and Oprah Winfrey to supply a plethora of tasks primarily based on 1619 (together with an upcoming Hulu docuseries); the newest installment is the anthology guide The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story, revealed in November. It additionally sparked a reactionary motion to ban literature that examines historical past and society via a racial lens — proof of its affect, as is the response from Americans who’ve embraced its revelatory energy. Hannah-Jones — who final summer time joined Howard University as Knight chair in race and journalism and to discovered its Center for Journalism and Democracy — is receiving the Social Justice Impact Award at this 12 months’s NAACP Image Awards, airing Feb. 26 on BET.
What are a few of the greatest impacts individuals have shared with you because of studying The 1619 Project?
Black schoolchildren have shared that it has given them a way of satisfaction, that they lastly see themselves as actors within the American story. I’ve heard from numerous readers who mentioned it modified the best way they see their nation. That they realized how a lot they by no means knew, how a lot they have been by no means taught and that the nation makes extra sense after having learn it. Then, clearly, there’s the influence that it has on plenty of conservative politicians who’re very upset and making an attempt to ban it from being taught to schoolchildren.
What are opponents of essential race principle misunderstanding or misrepresenting in regards to the idea?
What conservatives are doing is utilizing essential race principle as buzzwords of a propaganda marketing campaign. These anti-CRT legal guidelines are anti-history legal guidelines. They’re reminiscence legal guidelines. The undeniable fact that any of us exterior of academia or exterior of these whose work facilities on race are speaking about it speaks to the success of that marketing campaign. Critical race principle is about making an attempt to grasp why, 60 years exterior of the civil rights motion, Black Americans nonetheless fall on the backside of each indicator of well-being in our society. It has nothing to do with making white youngsters really feel like victims. It’s really not involved with people. It’s about techniques. I don’t assume the query may even be requested, “What are conservatives getting wrong?” They’re deliberately being deceptive. There’s nothing recognizable to essential race principle the best way that they’re describing it or utilizing it in legal guidelines which are in search of to ban it.
In your speech at THR‘s Women in Entertainment occasion in December, you referenced “sounding the alarm about the dangerous moment that we are all in.” What can the media and leisure industries do to answer the censorship tried in school rooms?
One, cease legitimizing it. If you have a look at the protection, it was taking what Republicans have been saying at face worth, which isn’t what reporters ought to do. Reporters needs to be skeptical. This was a political technique with a propaganda technique and may have been lined as such. Frankly, plenty of journalists and free speech teams have been silent final 12 months as a result of they have been solely in search of to ban The 1619 Project. I mentioned then that it was by no means going to cease at simply The 1619 Project. So now, after all, we have now the sweeping bans which are making an attempt to ban texts that deal in truth with the historical past of race and racism, that characteristic queer characters, that discuss in regards to the Holocaust in ways in which some individuals don’t like. This was very predictable. We have been treating politicians utilizing the ability of the state to ban the educating of concepts the identical as some highschool trainer who does a nasty racism lesson, and we legitimized what’s taking place. We’re simply in the beginning. You solely have to take a look at what Gov. [Ron] DeSantis is making an attempt to do in Florida together with his invoice, which has gone from being about Okay-to-12 to now telling non-public companies what forms of coaching they will have. That goes to have an effect on all of us. It is an indication of a deeply unhealthy nation when state legislatures begin banning concepts, and that’s the place we’re proper now.
Interview edited for size and readability.
This story first appeared within the Feb. 23 subject of The Hollywood Reporter journal. Click here to subscribe.