The Journalist: Nikole Hannah-Jones
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Plessy v Ferguson. Brown v. Board of Education. Fisher v. University of Texas. History books have dedicated pages to the Supreme Court cases that legally ended American segregation. Waterloo, Iowa, native Nikole Hannah-Jones uses her investigative reporting to detail how, as she has written, “Legally and culturally, we’ve come to accept segregation once again.”
Hannah-Jones has covered racial injustice for publications including ProPublica, The Atlantic, Essence and The New York Times Magazine, where she is a staff writer. Specifically, she chronicles the continuing breakdown of desegregation measures at the nation’s schools and how racial segregation in education and housing are maintained through legal channels.
In 2016, as one of the nation’s few Black investigative reporters at a leading outlet, she co-founded the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Journalism to teach reporters of color the data and investigative skills they need to compete. One year later, she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship—the coveted “Genius Grant”—for her reporting on school segregation.
When Hannah-Jones writes about school districts, demographics and court cases, it is not with detached emotion. She is a storyteller, recrafting these socioeconomic, race-driven realities into relatable narratives. “True integration, true equality, requires a surrendering of advantage, and when it comes to our own children, that can feel almost unnatural,” she has written. Hannah-Jones held herself under this spotlight—this tightrope of privilege, consciousness and parenting—in one of her most personal pieces, an article for The New York Times magazine on selecting a school for her then-4-year-old daughter.
As a part of the solution, Hannah-Jones has also lent her name to the $300,000 fundraising campaign to build a monument in Chicago to Ida B. Wells, the daring Black investigative reporter whom she calls her hero.
Desegregation measures are often presented as poor children of color crowding the classrooms of the rich and White. But, as Hannah-Jones stresses in the title of her upcoming book, “The Problem We All Live With,” segregation harms everyone.