Nikole Hannah-Jones Lectures at Holy Cross

Nathan Howard ’25

Chief News Editor

On Wednesday April 12, 2023, the Hanify-Howland Committee hosted Nikole Hannah-Jones as 55th Annual Hanify-Howland Memorial Lecture Speaker. According to the Committee, these annual lectures “recognize individuals who have distinguished themselves in the realm of public service in honor of Judge Edward F. Hanify, a member of the graduating class of 1904, and Weston Howland.” Additionally, “the speaker is nominated annually by a committee of Holy Cross students and the talk is free and open to the public.” This year’s speaker was Nikole Hannah-Jones, known worldwide as the creator of The 1619 Project, a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter, and a staff writer at the New York Times Magazine.

The 1619 Project is an ongoing initiative that began in August 2019 at the New York Times Magazine, specifically marking the 400th anniversary of when the first enslaved individuals arrived in America’s British colonies at Point Comfort, Virginia. According to Hannah-Jones, the 1619 Project “aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.” While the 1619 Project was initially published as a special issue of the New York Times Magazine, with Hannah-Jones’s introductory essay winning her a Pulitzer Prize, the project has grown into a much larger venture. Notably, The 1619 Project has put forward a school curriculum developed in collaboration with the Pulitzer Center. Additionally, The 1619 Project has also collaborated with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. to create a panel of historians responsible for researching, developing, and fact-checking content. 

The 1619 Project emphasizes the importance of both Black voices in content contributions as well as the unique perspectives that Black writers offer. This is a topic that Nikole Hannah-Jones spoke to great lengths about during her visit to Holy Cross. When speaking about the white-dominated journalist industry, Hannah-Jones argued that “when the field of journalism is not reflective of our country, there will not be a report that is reflective of our country.” Additionally, Hannah-Jones added that “Having a field that is reflective of our country is not about political correctness. It is about the accuracy in whose stories are being told.” Ms. Hannah-Jones also spoke of the discrepancies between white and non-white students in regards to journalism resources in high school, specifically stating that “Black and brown high schools have disproportionately fewer journalism programs and high school newspapers” and it is the job of higher education institutions to provide resources and exposure to these students. When asked by Joseph Abrams 23’ about her thoughts on the growing population of conservative individuals who oppose a holistic or inclusive view of American history, Ms. Hannah Jones responded by stressing the importance of higher education because “For many students, college is the first time that they sit in a diverse classroom, and that they’re exposed to all of these different ideas. And of course, a university is not just drawing from local populations. A university can have students from Florida and Texas where they’re being prohibited from learning certain ideas. That makes it even more important then, what is happening in the higher education setting, because this may be the only place that large numbers of students can get exposure to them.”

Following her lecture, Ms. Hannah Jones thanked the members of the students, faculty, and staff who attended and participated in a book-signing event for “The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story,” originally published in 2019.

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