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Martin Center column questions UNC journalism school’s new staff addition

Jay Schalin of the Martin Center wonders whether the UNC-Chapel Hill journalism school is really a “ministry of propaganda.”

Nikole Hannah-Jones has agreed to accept a Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism in July.

According to a press release issued by the school, Hannah-Jones is a “Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist and MacArthur Fellowship “Genius Grant” recipient who covers civil rights and racial injustice for The New York Times Magazine and was just elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.” …

… But there is another perspective, one that almost seems to belong to another world than the one where academia resides. From this perspective, UNC’s hiring Hannah-Jones signals a degradation of journalistic standards, from one in which ethics and truth are prized to one in which a writer’s work is judged according to whether it serves a preferred political agenda.

For she has been exposed as somebody whose work is less journalism than an outpouring of emotions. The crown jewel of her career—leading a rewriting of the nation’s history called “The 1619 Project”—has been attacked and ridiculed by historians of all stripes and persuasions as unfactual and biased.

For instance, she claimed that “one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery” as British anti-slavery sentiment grew. There is almost no hint of that in factual history. Certainly some Southern founding fathers wished to preserve slavery—that’s how we got the Three-fifths Compromise—but that came later, after we were already a free nation, during the discussion about the details of the new Constitution.

Many celebrated experts chimed in against Hannah-Jones’s take on our Founding. …

… The real goal of The 1619 Project was not historical or journalistic, but political agitation. And an angry, underhanded politics at that; Hannah-Jones admitted that her underlying intent is to get “white people to give up whiteness.” That is, to make them regard their identities as something abhorrent.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...