Nikole Hannah-Jones made a career out of exposing systemic injustices. Now she’s shedding light on the effects of slavery on America’s history with the 1619 Project. (Credit: MacArthur Foundation)
Nikole Hannah-Jones made a career out of exposing systemic injustices. Now she’s shedding light on the effects of slavery on America’s history with the 1619 Project. (Credit: MacArthur Foundation)

Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones doesn’t care if you can’t handle the truth — she’s here to tell it to you anyway.

The New York Times reporter, 2017 MacArthur Genius Award recipient and Emerson Fellow has covered ongoing injustices from the start of her career. After earning degrees in history, African-American studies and journalism, she wrote extensively about education, local politics and more for widely read papers throughout the country.

By the time she arrived at the Gray Lady in 2015, she was well versed in the inner workings of America’s organizational and governmental systems — and poised to become the nationally recognized authority on segregation and bigotry that she is today.

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Her latest, eagerly anticipated project takes an especially deep dive on systemic racism. This month marks the 400th anniversary of the first arrival of enslaved people to what is now the United States of America. That prompted Hannah-Jones to lead in The Times’ The 1619 Project, a collaborative effort that explains how every facet of American life has been impacted since that first boat reached shore — and how the ripple effects can still be seen, four centuries later.

“We’re really trying to change the way that Americans are thinking that this was just a problem of the past that we’ve resolved, and show that it isn’t,” she told PBS. From America’s beginnings onward, slavery has continued to affect nearly every institution, she says — including transportation, housing and health care. And this project goes into detail on how and why that is.

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Hannah-Jones has applied this intelligence and entrepreneurial spirit to other projects in the past, like the Ida B. Wells Society she co-launched in 2016 to get more reporters and editors of color into investigative journalism. That drive can also be seen as she works on her upcoming book, “The Problem We All Live With,” due out in 2020.

Her career has focused on telling hard truths — and she says that’s what the 1619 Project is all about. “We cannot deny our past,” she says. “And if you believe that 1776 matters, if you believe that our Constitution still matters, then you also have to understand that the legacy of slavery still matters and you can’t pick and choose what parts of history we think are important and which ones aren’t.”

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