Nikole Hannah-Jones Launches 1619 Freedom School

Nikole Hannah-Jones. Image: courtesy of Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times via Getty Image

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and educator Nikole Hannah Jones has had a hell of a year. After staying true to herself and knowing her worth although initially being denied tenure as a professor at UNC-Chapel Hill which then led her to join Howard University’s faculty, she is practicing what she preaches with the formation of a new school program.

Aimed to launch at the top of 2022, Jones has created the 1619 Freedom School as an after school literacy program in her hometown of Waterloo, Iowa, one of the most segregated yet heavily Black cities within the state. The program will distinctively serve students of Dr. Walter Cunningham School for Excellence, Waterloo’s most segregated elementary school along with low-income students from other schools in the district.

“The 1619 Freedom School is a free, community-based, after-school literacy program that will help students achieve academic success through improving their reading and literacy skills. The school’s mission is to help children develop a love of reading and books through liberating instruction centered on Black American history and will serve low-income students with the widest disparity in their reading scores,” read a statement from a press release.

Named after her award winning book of the same name, the program aims to provide students with the educational tools that will not only liberate their minds but open up their experience through understanding of their history.

“1619,” the year the first enslaved Africans were sold into the English colonies that in 1776 would form the United States, marks the birth of Black America. “Freedom School” evokes the legacy of the free, community schools launched by SNCC during the Civil Rights Movement in order to educate Black youth on their history and empower them to fight their oppression with the goal of achieving social, political, and economic equality in the United States.”

1619 Freedom School is accepting various forms of donations to help support them in their inaugural year and provide each student with a home library. The program will be housed in the historic Masonic Temple in downtown Waterloo with plans to open a second location at ALL-IN-GROCERS, a new Black-owned grocery set to open in Waterloo in 2022.

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