Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Nikole Hannah Jones will discuss “The 1619 Project” with Khary Polk, associate professor of Black studies and sexuality, women's and gender studies, to be followed by an audience Q&A.
Nikole Hannah-Jones was named a MacArthur Genius for “reshaping national conversations around education reform.” This is but one honor in a growing list: she’s won a Peabody, a Polk and, for her story on choosing a school for her daughter in a segregated city, a National Magazine Award. Most recently, The New York Times Magazine’s “The 1619 Project” she spearheaded on the history and lasting legacy of American slavery went viral, and her powerful introductory essay was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for commentary.
Hannah-Jones covers racial injustice for The New York Times Magazine, and has spent years chronicling the way official policy has created—and maintains—racial segregation in housing and schools. Her deeply personal reports on the Black experience in America offer a compelling case for greater equity. Hannah-Jones is the creator and lead writer of The New York Times' major multimedia initiative “The 1619 Project.” Named for the year the first enslaved Africans arrived in America, the project features an ongoing series of essays and art on the relationship between slavery and everything from social infrastructure and segregation, to music and sugar—all by Black American authors, activists, journalists and more. Hannah-Jones wrote the project’s introductory essay, which ran under the powerful headline "Our Democracy’s Founding Ideals Were False When They Were Written. Black Americans Have Fought to Make Them True." The essay earned her her first Pulitzer Prize for commentary.
Nothing we know about American life today has been untouched by the legacy of slavery. “The 1619 Project” quickly went viral—the print issue flew off shelves immediately, prompting hundreds of thousands of extra copies of to be printed—spreading its heartbreaking and absolutely essential message worldwide. Random House announced that it will be adapting the project into a graphic novel and four publications for young readers, while also releasing an extended version of the original publication, including more essays, fiction and poetry. In 2020, Hannah-Jones appeared on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah to discuss the project. And an impactful ad about the project—a collaboration with Janelle Monáe—debuted at the Oscars just days later. In addition to Hannah-Jones’ Pulitzer, “The 1619 Project” has garnered The New York Times Magazine a record-breaking number of finalist nods for the upcoming 2020 National Magazine Awards.
Hannah-Jones has written extensively on the history of racism, school resegregation and the disarray of hundreds of desegregation orders, as well as the decades-long failure of the federal government to enforce the landmark 1968 Fair Housing Act. She is currently writing a book on school segregation called The Problem We All Live With, to be published on the One World imprint of Penguin/Random House. Her piece “Worlds Apart” in The New York Times Magazine won the National Magazine Award for “journalism that illuminates issues of national importance” as well as the Hillman Prize for Magazine Journalism. In 2016, she was awarded a Peabody Award and George Polk Award for radio reporting for her This American Life story, “The Problem We All Live With.” She was named Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists, and was also named to 2019’s The Root 100 as well as Essence’s Woke 100. Her reporting has also won Deadline Club Awards, Online Journalism Awards, the Sigma Delta Chi Award for Public Service, the Fred M. Hechinger Grand Prize for Distinguished Education Reporting and the Emerson College President’s Award for Civic Leadership. In February 2020, she was profiled by Essence as part of their Black History Month series, celebrating “the accomplishments made by those in the past, as well as those paving the way for the future.”
Hannah-Jones co-founded the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting with the goal of increasing the number of reporters and editors of color. She holds a master of arts in Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina and earned her B.A. in history and African-American studies from the University of Notre Dame. For the Institute for Advanced Journalism Studies, she investigated social changes under Raul Castro and the impact of universal health care on Cuba’s educational system. She was also selected by the University of Pennsylvania to report on the impact of the Watts Riots for a study marking the 40th anniversary of the Kerner Commission report. Along with The New York Times, her reporting has been featured in ProPublica, The Atlantic Magazine, Huffington Post, Essence Magazine, The Week Magazine, Grist and Politico Magazine, and on Face the Nation, This American Life, NPR, The Tom Joyner Morning Show, MSNBC, C-SPAN, Democracy Now and radio stations across the country.
Khary Oronde Polk is an associate professor of Black studies and sexuality, women's and gender studies at Amherst College. He is a cultural historian of the African-American diaspora; a specialist in LGBTQ studies; and a scholar of race, gender and sexuality in the U.S. military. Polk received his Ph.D. in American studies from New York University, and teaches courses on Black sexuality, military history, Black European studies, and queer theory. His book, "Contagions of Empire: Scientific Racism, Sexuality, and Black Military Workers Abroad, 1898-1948" (University of North Carolina Press, June 2020) examines how the movement of African American soldiers and nurses around the world in the early-to-mid twentieth century challenged U.S. military ideals of race, nation, and honor.
Polk has written for the Studio Museum of Harlem, The Journal of Negro History, Women’s Studies Quarterly, Gawker, and the journal Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly. He has also contributed essays to a number of queer of color anthologies, including If We Have to Take Tomorrow, Corpus and Think Again. Polk is a member of the African Atlantic Research Group, and recently held a visiting professorship at the JFK Institute for North American Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin.
In the time of uncertainty and anxiety, poetry brings us hope, inspiration and reflection. Have you been reading or writing poems in the pandemic? Do you want to share the lines you've read or written with the Amherst community? Please fill out the form: https://forms.gle/AqT9ofE76gL9edCp6 or email your response to Haoran Tong '23 at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We welcome all students, faculty, staff, alumni and parents of Amherst College to participate! Help us lead a poetic life to overcome the difficult circumstances. We plan to compile all submissions into an anthology titled "Amherst Poetry in the Pandemic."