Howard University made big news in announcing Tuesday, July 6, that both Nikole Hannah-Jones and Ta-Nehisi Coates will join the school’s faculty.
Hannah-Jones, who was controversially denied tenure at the University of North Carolina, had the offer revived last week after many decried the move in the first place. In a stroke of epic genius, Hannah-Jones decided it better to take her talents to Howard, where she’ll fill the inaugural Knight Chair in Race and Journalism at the Cathy Hughes School of Communications.
She’ll also serve as the founder of the Center of Journalism and Democracy, which aims to “focus on training and supporting aspiring journalists in acquiring the investigative skills and historical analytical expertise needed to cover the crisis our democracy is facing.”
Hannah-Jones, the founder of the 1619 Project, shared her excitement in a newly released statement, writing, “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.
Meanwhile, Coates, a Howard alum known for his work on race, reparations, and other political issues, will head 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.”
Nearly $20 million was donated from three foundations and an anonymous donor to support Hannah-Jones and Coates’ appointments—another in a series of high-profile moves made by Howard President Wayne A.I. Frederick. Earlier this year, Mackenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, gave the HBCU its largest-ever donation in the form of a $40 million gift. Howard also relaunched its arts school, renaming it after the late actor and alum Chadwick Boseman, and will be led by Dean Phylicia Rashad.
The latter proved to be a controversial decision after the actress came out in support of her former TV husband, Bill Cosby, in a “celebrated” tweet that she has since apologized for.
“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.”
One can expect enrollment numbers at Howard University to balloon exponentially very soon.