Christian Thomas | Script Photojournalist
Renowned Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones stopped by Hampton to discuss her new book as well as how she became interested in journalism on November 10.
Hannah-Jones announced her recently released book, entitled The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story, along with an accompanying children’s book Born on the Water. She also mentioned her upcoming documentary which is set to detail every phase of the 1619 Project from its start through its publishing.
The discussion began at 12:00 p.m. in the WHOV studio and was moderated by Mary Elliot, Curator of American Slavery at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. Hannah-Jones began the discussion by detailing her upbringing in the small town of Waterloo, Iowa, which she referred to as “Nowhere town.”
Hannah-Jones explained how from a young age she noticed the many inequalities that plagued the Black community.
“I rode the bus two hours everyday, and I saw how the community would change as it left the Black side of town to the white side of town, that the houses got nicer, that the roads were paved, and I would see in the media that the explanation for these differences, which is that Black people just didn’t want nicer things, that Black people didn’t work hard,” she said.
Referring back to her adolescence, Hannah-Jones mentioned how she published her first article at the age of 11. She explained that her article was about Jesse Jackson’s failing political campaign in 1988, which she believed was the direct result of discrimination. Hannah-Jones then credits her high school teacher, who happened to be her first Black teacher, for not only introducing her to the year 1619, but also for inspiring her decision to become a journalist.
When discussing how the 1619 Project came about, Hannah-Jones said she initially came to the idea in response to the 400-year anniversary of slavery.
Hannah-Jones explained that during the process of pitching the project she had anxiety because she worried that no one would care. She also described the recurring challenges she faced throughout her career.
Finally, Hannah-Jones mentioned that the hardest part of creating the project was actually writing her editorial piece for the project.
Following the discussion, Hampton University journalism students shared their opinions of Hannah-Jones’ visit.
“I feel very enlightened,” said junior journalism major Sherdell Baker. “I feel like being in the presence of a prominent journalist was very inspiring for me. I feel getting to see her insight on the 1619 Project was something that was very empowering, especially seeing an African American female journalist being as prominent as she is and having the success despite all the other factors that she may experience. I think it’s nice that she came to Hampton University versus every other HBCU. It’s something that makes me feel proud.”
Junior journalism major Jeremiah Williams shared similar sentiments.
“I enjoyed it a lot,” Williams said. “I think she [Hannah-Jones] gave us aspiring journalists a blueprint of what to do if we’re shut down. I like how she talked about the history of the 1619 Project and why she did it.”
If you are interested in seeing the full discussion with Nikole Hannah-Jones, you can watch it on WHOV, channel 85.2 in Hampton University dorms.