Nikole Hannah-Jones on Fighting Censorship – The Hollywood Reporter
Nikole Hannah-Jones has become one of the most famous journalists in the country. The New York Times Magazine investigative reporter who won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Project 1619, which tells the story of America in the context of divided slavery and the unrelenting contributions of black Americans to nation-making . The groundbreaking part was celebrated and led to an agreement with Lionsgate, Times and Oprah Winfrey to create numerous projects based on 1619 (including an upcoming Hulu documentary); the latest part is an anthology Project 1619: New Origin Story, published in November. It also sparked a reactionary movement to ban literature from viewing history and society through a racial lens – evidence of its influence, as well as a reaction from Americans who accepted the power of revelation. its. Hannah-Jones – who last summer joined Howard University as the Knights chair in race and journalism and founded the Center for Journalism and Democracy – is receiving the Social Justice Impact Award conference at this year’s NAACP Image Awards, airing February 26 on BET.
What are some of the biggest impacts people have shared with you reading Project 1619?
Black students shared that it gave them a sense of pride, that they finally saw themselves as actors in the American story. I have heard from countless readers that it has changed the way they see their country. That they realize how much they have never known, how much they have never been taught, and that the country makes more sense after reading it. Then apparently, it had an impact on a lot of conservative politicians who were very upset and tried to ban it from being taught to students.
What are the opponents of the critical race theory that misunderstand or misrepresent the concept?
What conservatives are doing is using critical race theory as the buzzword of a propaganda campaign. These anti-CRT laws are laws against history. They are the laws of memory. The fact that any of us outside the academy or outside of race-focused work are talking about it speaks volumes to the success of that campaign. The important race theory is trying to understand why, 60 years outside of the civil rights movement, black Americans are still at the bottom of every indicator of happiness in our society. It has nothing to do with making white kids feel like victims. It really has nothing to do with the individual. It’s about the system. I don’t think the question can even be asked, “Where are conservatives going wrong?” They are deliberately misleading. Nothing is as recognizable to critical race theory as the way they describe it or use it in laws seeking to ban it.
In your speech at CHEAPDecember’s Women in Entertainment event, you refer to “sound the alarm about the perilous time we are all in”. What can the entertainment and media industries do in response to the censorship that has been practiced in classrooms?
One, stop legalizing it. If you look at coverage, it’s taking what Republicans are saying at face value, which is not what reporters should be doing. Reporters should be suspicious. This is a political strategy with a propaganda strategy and should have been included. Honestly, a lot of journalists and free speech groups went silent last year because they were only trying to ban Project 1619. I said back then that it would never stop at Project 1619. So of course now, we have sweeping bans trying to ban texts that honestly refer to racial and racist history, feature quirky characters, talk about the Holocaust in such a way which some people don’t like. This is very predictable. We treated politicians who used the power of the state to ban the teaching of ideas like some high school teachers taught a bad lesson about racism, and we legitimize what is happening. We are just getting started. You just have to look at what the Government. [Ron] DeSantis is trying to do it in Florida with its bill, which has gone from about K-12 to now telling private businesses what types of training they can have. That will affect all of us. It was a sign of an unhealthy country when state legislatures started banning ideas, and that’s where we are right now.
The edited interview is long and clear.
This story first appeared in the February 23 issue of The Hollywood Reporter. Click here to subscribe.