Howard University announced on Tuesday that award-winning journalists Nikole Hannah-Jones and Ta-Nehisi Coates will be joining the school’s faculty, bringing a pair of star writers to campus.
Hannah-Jones, the creator of the New York Times‘ 1619 project, had planned to take a teaching job at the University of North Carolina. But when the offer of tenure was abruptly withdrawn following a backlash from conservatives, it became a national story. The offer eventually was revived, but Hannah-Jones apparently decided to take a walk. At Howard, she’ll fill the inaugural Knight Chair in Race and Journalism at the Cathy Hughes School of Communications and found the Center for Journalism and Democracy, which aims to “focus on training and supporting aspiring journalists in acquiring the investigative skills and historical and analytical expertise needed to cover the crisis our democracy is facing.” And yes, the job has tenure.
“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,” Hannah-Jones said in a statement.
Coates, an award-winning author known for his work on race and other political issues, is returning to Howard as the Sterling Brown Chair in the Department of English. “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,” he said. “This is the faculty that molded me. This is the faculty that strengthened me.” Coates is a Howard alumnus who got his professional start writing about DC at Washington City Paper.
Three foundations and an anonymous donor have donated nearly $20 million to support Hannah-Jones and Coates’ appointments—another in a series of high-profile, big-dollar moves by Howard President Wayne A.I. Frederick. Earlier this year, Howard pulled in its largest-ever donation, a $40 million gift from philanthropist Mackenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. And Howard also relaunched its arts school, which was renamed after the late actor and alum Chadwick Boseman and is led by actress Phylicia Rashad. (That hire proved problematic recently, when the school had to walk back Rashad’s statements in support of her former Cosby Show costar Bill Cosby.)
“It is my pleasure to welcome to Howard two of today’s most respected and influential journalists,” said Howard University President Wayne A. I. Frederick in a statement. “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.”