Nikole Hannah-Jones pondering legal action against UNC-Chapel Hill in tenure controversy

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- Nikole Hannah-Jones, the journalist behind the 1619 Project, is contemplating legal action against UNC-Chapel Hill following the controversy surrounding the university's decision in a tenure offer.

The consideration follows a weeklong controversy for the school's reported decision to not offer a tenured teaching position to Hannah-Jones, whose work on the country's history of slavery has drawn the ire of conservatives for what critics call a skewed revision of American history.

Dozens of faculty members and students have expressed support for tenure for Hannah-Jones.

Hannah-Jones is an investigative journalist who won the Pulitzer Prize for her work on The 1619 Project for The New York Times Magazine.

In a Thursday letter to the North Carolina House Representative, attorneys from the NAACP, Levy Ratner PC, and Ferguson, Chambers & Sumpter, P.A. said they will be representing Hannah-Jones.

The legal team said it is currently "evaluating all available legal recourse to fully vindicate Ms. Hannah-Jones' rights" against UNC, the Board of Trustees and affiliated parties.

The letter also calls upon UNC-Chapel Hill to preserve all documents and data related to Hannah-Jones and her journalistic work.

Hannah-Jones was offered a position as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the school announced last month.

The journalist was not offered a tenured position, according to the journalism school's dean, Susan King, who supported her tenure application. Others who held Knight chairs at the journalism school before Hannah-Jones were granted tenure and full professorships, according to a statement signed by faculty members upset with the decision.

Many outspoken against the school, including the organization of American Historians, claim that the refusal to hire Jones is a part of a larger conversation within the school system considering the university's settlement surrounding the Confederate memorial "Silent Sam" statue.

The 1619 Project is an initiative of The New York Times Magazine that began in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the beginning of slavery in the English colonies that were the forerunner to the United States. The magazine describes the project as one which is designed 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."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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