Howard University announced that Nikole Hannah-Jones and Howard alumnus Ta-Nehisi Coates will join the Howard University faculty. Hannah-Jones will be a tenured member filling the newly created Knight Chair in Race and Journalism. Coates, journalist and author, will be a faculty member in the flagship College of Arts and Sciences.

The Knight Foundation made a $5 million investment to establish the chair at Howard. The investment includes $500,000 for the chair to help launch a symposium to strengthen journalism teaching across America’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

“It is my pleasure to welcome to Howard two of today’s most respected and influential journalists,” said Wayne A. I. Frederick, M.D., MBA, president of Howard University. “At such a critical time for race relations in our country, it is vital that we understand the role of journalism in steering our national conversation and social progress. Not only must our newsrooms reflect the communities where they are reporting, but we need to infuse the profession with diverse talent. We are thrilled that they will bring their insights and research to what is already a world-class, highly accomplished team of professors.”

Nikole Hannah-Jones announced that she will not accept tenure at her alma mater, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill after weeks of political controversy. The New York Times‘ 1619 project creator went through an extensive tenure process with the unanimous approval of faculty to be granted tenure. However, she was denied the position until it made national news due to weeks of protest and threatened legal action. The University then circled back with a 9 to 4 vote to grant her tenure. 

The denial clearly wasn’t because of her credentials, but perhaps another case of discrimination. The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist will join Bison nation to found the Center for Journalism and Democracy. The center will focus on training and supporting aspiring journalists in acquiring the investigative skills and analytical expertise needed to cover the crisis our democracy is facing. 

“I am so incredibly honored to be joining one of the most important and storied educational institutions in our country and to work alongside the illustrious faculty of the Cathy Hughes School of Communications and the brilliant students it draws in,” Hannah-Jones said. “One of my few regrets is that I did not attend Howard as an undergraduate, and so coming here to teach fulfills a dream I have long carried. I hope that the decision that Ta-Nehisi and I made to bring our talents to an HBCU will lead others to make a similar choice.

Author Ta-Nehisi Coates, who supported Hannah-Jones during the UNC conflict, will join her as faculty at his alma mater this fall. She will be a tenured member of the Cathy Hughes School of Communications faculty, filling the newly created Knight Chair in Race and Journalism.

“I heard a wise man once say, ‘A man who hates home will never be happy.’ And it is in the pursuit of wisdom and happiness that I return to join the esteemed faculty of Howard University. This is the faculty that molded me. This is the faculty that strengthened me,” Coates said. “Personally, I know of no higher personal honor than this.”

For 50 years, the Howard University School of Communications has trained the nation’s top communicators and media professionals. The school will celebrate its 50th anniversary during the 2021-22 academic year, highlighting its history of disseminating truth through communications and providing community service through storytelling.