July 7, 2021 – The author of The 1619 Project organized major philanthropic donors to help establish Howard University’s new Center for Journalism and Democracy, according to a June 6 statement from author Nikole Hannah-Jones read. Hannah-Jones announced Tuesday her goal to raise $25 million for the center, which aims to increase diversity and representation in American media and journalism, and has already received pledges for $20 million, the Associated Press reported.
Among the donations are $5 million each from the MacArthur, Knight, and Ford foundations, as well as another $5 million from an anonymous individual, the AP reported. “It is clear that within journalism, as in other fields, there are too few people of color in positions of leadership,” said John Palfrey, president of the MacArthur Foundation, the AP reported. “And one of the things philanthropy can do is support institutions, like Howard University, that is correcting that imbalance,” he said.
Many of these foundations have been concerned about a lack of diversity in media, following 2018 Pew Research reports that found 77% of newsroom employees were white, compared to 65% for U.S. workers overall. Another 2019 survey similarly found only 18.8% of newsroom managers being people of color. So when Hannah-Jones reached out to these organizations for support, they happily joined.
“The community of people who are producing news and information needs to look like America if journalism is to be credible. … And it’s not just Black journalists. It’s the diverse array of journalists. It’s journalists who have a disability, and journalists who live in small towns and rural America,” Walker said Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation, voiced his support of the project in the hopes of diversifying the perspective of the newsroom.
The push to establish the Center for Journalism and Democracy comes after Hannah-Jones was nearly denied tenure at UNC-Chapel Hill, following joint student and professor outcry over her authorship of The 1619 Project. Hannah-Jones has been criticized for the project, as its historical accuracy has been called into question by historians and commentators for being one-sided and poorly substantiated.