The settlement may resolve any potential legal action, but what she’s owed is far more than what was offered.

By Alexandra Jane

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has reached a settlement with Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and creator of the landmark 1619 Project, Nikole Hannah-Jones. In April of 2021, both parties made headlines after Hannah-Jones was denied a tenured position, instead being named the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at the university’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media, and offered a 5 year contract.

“The steps taken to resolve the lingering potential legal action posed by Ms. Hannah-Jones will hopefully help to close this chapter and give the university the space to focus on moving forward,” David Boliek, chair of the university’s board of trustees, said in a statement.

Photo: Kevin Winter (Getty Images)

While the chapter may be closed, according to the News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C., the settlement was for less than $75,000, and many believe Hannah-Jones is deserving of more.

Back in 2021 during the time of her original appointment, the acclaimed New York Times Magazine writer was criticized by conservatives who were intimidated by her involvement with the 1619 Project, which reexamined the history of American slavery and its legacy. University faculty, students, and academics outside of the institution quickly came to Hannah-Jones’ defense after the decision was made, but the professor had plans of her own.

Hannah-Jones told the university that she was considering legal action on the grounds of discrimination. Feeling the pressure to respond, the board of trustees decided to grant her tenure a month later. The damage however, had already been done. Hannah-Jones declined the reluctant offer, and joined the faculty of Howard University.

In a statement released on Saturday, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund who represented Hannah-Jones, said that they “believe that the settlement is a victory for the right to free expression — a cornerstone of our democracy that has too frequently been infringed or ignored when claimed by Black people and people from other marginalized groups.”

“Ms. Hannah-Jones is grateful to have this matter behind her,” said Janai S. Nelson, the president and director-counsel of the Legal Defense Fund. “And she looks forward to continuing her professional work committed to using the power of investigative journalism to expose the truth about the manifestations of racism in our society and training the next generation of aspiring journalists to do the same at her academic home of Howard University.”

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