New York Times journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones has dedicated her life to rewriting history with her Pulitzer Prize-winning “1619 Project,” a transformative effort that contextualizes the ways in which slavery is a foundational institution of the United States. In recognition and appreciation of her leadership and intellectual labor, Hannah-Jones was honored at the 2021 Urban One Honors ceremony.
This year’s Urban One Honors highlighted the exemplary contributions of “Women Leading the Change,” including: politician Stacey Abrams, health advocate Dr. Ala Stanford, alchemist Rosalind Brewer, CEO Kim Ford, reparations ambassador Robin Rue Simmons and a special tribute to the International Sweethearts of Rhythm.
“Journalism has always been a necessity to Black liberation,” Hannah-Jones said in a tribute video. “It is journalists who are covering the movement and exposing brutality that protestors and activists are facing that actually forces changes in this country.”
In 2019, Hannah-Jones created “The 1619 Project,” her magnum opus. The acclaimed journalist shared that she had been obsessing over that date—and all that it represents for Black people and this nation—since she was a self-proclaimed “nerdy high school student.” She took an interest in the history of slavery after she noticed how the school curriculum notably skipped the history of the White Lion ship that carried the first African slaves to the United States. We were all taught about the Mayflower ship, which landed in 1620, but little is taught in the U.S. public school system about the atrocities that escalated one year prior.
“We weren’t just being taught historical facts, we were being taught a historical narrative,” Hannah-Jones declared. “That’s because our country does not want to deal with the hypocrisy of our founding. We have not wanted to deal with how foundational slavery was. We have not wanted to center Black people as the vindicators of democracy.”
So, Nikole Hannah-Jones fueled the flames of a conversation that would challenge that narrative. Though she continues to face opposition from many sides, she knows her work is truly important. “I can’t be intimidated doing what I do because our people have been through far worse.”