The New York Times Magazine writer started this year in a long tenure dispute with her North Carolina university. She announced in July that she would be taking her talents to a historically Black university and is now closing the dispute as a national best seller author.
She said, "I have gone from being a journalist to becoming a symbol for people who either love or hate me and what I do."
Hannah-Jones spoke with The Associated Press recently about The 1619 Project controversy. This groundbreaking collection of essays about race first appeared in a special issue in The New York Times Magazine in 2019. The project is now available in book form and has been a keystone to America's reckoning with slavery and its reverberations on Black Americans.
"The 1619 Project - A New Origin Story" and "Born on the Water", a picture storybook collaboration between Renee Watson, co-writer, and NikkolasSmith, have been ranked at the top of the Times bestsellers list for consecutive weeks since their Nov. 16 publication. The work will be featured in a TV documentary later in 2022.
Hannah-Jones stated that the backlash against her work shows that the U.S. is at a crossroads in its global standing as democracy.
She said that she believes we are living in a very scary time in an interview at AP New York City headquarters.
Hannah-Jones stated, "People much, far smarter than me, and who have studied this long, much longer than mine, are ringing alarm." "I think we need to ask ourselves: What are the voices of the storytellers and journalists? Are they ringing the alarm correctly? Do we do our jobs well to preserve our democracy?
This interview was edited to ensure clarity and length.
AP: What can this year's experience teach you about the current state of our country in terms of racial justice, and our reckoning to history?
HANNAH-JONES : To me, this year is just a reflection of what I have always believed about this country. It is the fact that any steps taken towards racial progress are met with intense backlash. We are a society that refuses to confront the anti-Blackness at the heart of many of our institutions, and in fact our society as a whole.
AP: Do you see any improvement in the way that the discourse has evolved or developed?
AP: Do your thoughts suggest that the country is on track to make progress in racial justice and education?
HANNAH-JONES This was the driving force behind so much of the media coverage. ... I would hope there is a serious examination of how media played a role in legitimizing and promoting this propaganda campaign.
AP: The 1619 Project has been published as a book. It is difficult to understand how it differs from the New York Times Magazine publication.
HANNAH-JONES : As we all know, there has been much scrutiny of the 1619 Project. ... I believe those with questions can now see the source material and see the historiography. It will be a profoundly surprising experience for anyone who is open to the idea. They will learn so much about the history of America and the history that shaped so much of American life today.
AP: Some would argue that this is a piece of agenda-driven work.
HANNAH-JONES : They'd be right.
AP: What makes them right?
HANNAH-JONES The goal of the agenda is to force us to face our country's true identity. It is our goal to make the Black American slave story central to understanding how we view America. However, when people say this, I realize that they are referring to it in a demeaning way. I am being truthful about the nature and purpose of this work. We have been taught the history and existence of a country. We have been taught the history a country which renders us unable to understand how an insurrection can occur in the greatest democracy of Jan. 6.
AP: Which issues will you consider the most important in your politics in 2022?
HANNAH-JONES : I don't try to predict the future. I am not a political reporter. In the next year or so, Americans will be put to the test to determine what they are willing to give up to make America the country we want. What rights are we able to claim as essential in this country's Constitution? Are all Americans entitled to the same rights? We don't know the answer. However, I believe it is crucial that we know how to decide.