Nikole Hannah-Jones, the creator of the 1619 Project, raked in big bucks from dozens of colleges last year giving speeches condemning America and shaming her audiences for belonging to “one of the most unequal societies in the history of the world,” according to pay records examined by The Daily Wire.
Some 33 speeches Hannah-Jones made in 2022 netted her an estimated payday of more than $1.2 million, according to a Daily Wire analysis. Twenty-seven of those speeches were made at colleges, including 14 at public schools, for an estimated $1 million. The Daily Wire’s estimate is based on records from 11 schools which responded to Freedom of Information requests and showed payments averaging $40,000 each.
The $1.2 million figure likely significantly understates the total since the list of speeches is incomplete and private institutions may have paid Hanah-Jones even more than the typical $40,000 fee forked over by public schools.
For some, she collected tens of thousands of dollars without having to leave the house. For example, the Cleveland Public Library paid her $20,000 for a Zoom lecture on November 19. Others included perks like first-class airfare.
The $1.2 million in speaking fees could pay for a year of tuition for 175 students at Grand Rapids Community College, where Hannah-Jones spoke in January for $25,000, paid through a combination of school and private funds. In 2021, a parents group faulted the Oregon Department of Education for using funds intended to benefit the neediest to pay Hannah-Jones $50,000, amounting to $14,000 an hour.
The 1619 Project was a 2019 series in the New York Times Magazine that posited that anti-black racism has shaped every facet of American society. Historians across the political spectrum have said it contains serious factual errors, including the premise that “one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery.”
Hannah-Jones is half-white and half-black and was raised in Iowa. She has become wealthy by writing about the oppression of blacks in America, with speeches just one of many concurrent sources of revenue.
In July Hannah-Jones received $75,000 not to work at the University of North Carolina as part of a legal settlement. UNC offered her a job as a professor, but the board of trustees delayed granting her tenure before eventually agreeing to it. Hannah-Jones claimed racism and threatened to sue, and turned down the job after tenure was offered.
On top of the hefty speaking fees, many of the speeches serve as an opportunity to sell books. According to BookScan figures, 1619 Project: An Origin Story has sold 456,000 copies, which under industry standards could work out to $2 million in royalties. (It’s unknown how much of the royalties go to Hannah-Jones versus the New York Times.)
In September, Hannah-Jones gave a talk as part of an Arlington, Virginia, library program–where her books were also sold–whose $40,000 price tag caused budget problems for a library group.
In 2020, Hannah-Jones inked a deal with Oprah Winfrey and Lionsgate to develop 1619 “into an expansive portfolio of feature films, television series and other content,” including a Hulu series that will premier this month.
Hannah-Jones “will serve as the creative leader and producer in developing feature films, television series, documentaries, unscripted programming and other forms of entertainment enlisting world-class Black creative voices to help adapt her celebrated series chronicling the ways that the original sin of slavery in America still permeates all aspects of our society today,” a press release said.
The MacArthur Foundation has also showered her with cash for years, giving her a $625,000 “genius grant” that was paid in the form of $125,000 per year from 2017 to 2021, according to nonprofit filings.
In 2021, the Knight Foundation donated $5 million to Howard University to create a job for her there, the Knight Chair in Race and Journalism. Other donors shelled out $20 million–including $5 million from MacArthur–to Howard University to bring Hannah-Jones on as its “Knight Chair in Race and Journalism,” alongside Ta-Nehisi Coates. That tasked Hannah-Jones with creating the Center for Journalism & Democracy at Howard University, a “first-of-its-kind academic center committed to strengthening historically-informed, pro-democracy journalism.” The Center held its first event, a “Democracy Summit,” on Nov. 15.
It’s unclear how Hannah-Jones manages to serve Howard while juggling so many other projects. Hannah-Jones still refers to herself as a New York Times Magazine writer, but her byline page at the Times has shown little activity in recent years. She did not return a request for comment.
On her personal web page, the banner quote blares: “I see my work as forcing us to confront our hypocrisy.”
The list of speeches is:
- 1/19/2022: Union League Club of Chicago
- 1/21/2022: Metro State University-Denver (via Zoom) $25,000
- 1/25/2022: University of Wisconsin $55,000
- 1/16/2022: University of Buffalo
- 1/31/2022: Grand Rapids Community College $25,000
- 2/1/2022: Fordham University
- 2/9/2022: University of Houston (via Zoom)
- 3/15/2022: Notre Dame
- 3/22/2022: Southern Methodist University
- 3/23/2022: Macalester College (via Zoom)
- 3/25/2022: University of Lynchburg
- 3/30/2022: U-Conn $36,500
- 4/1/2022: SUNY-Brockport $50,000
- 4/15/2022: Dartmouth
- 4/26/2022: Colby College
- 5/3/2022: University of Maryland $40,500
- 5/5/2022: St Johns University
- 5/17/2022: Rutgers
- 5/21/2022: NC A&T State U
- 9/20/2022: Arlington, VA library $40,000
- 9/24/2022: The Links Inc (via Zoom)
- 9/27/2022: Sarah Lawrence University
- 10/11/2022: Lehigh University
- 10/13/2022: Netherlands Institute for Cultural Analysis
- 10/20/2022: Indiana University
- 10/27/2022: Northern Illinois University (via Zoom) $30,000
- 10/28/2022: Syracuse University
- 11/2/2022: Iowa State University $38,000
- 11/7/2022: French Embassy
- 11/18/2022: Newark Public Library
- 11/19/2022: Cleveland Library (via Zoom) $20,000
- 11/20/2022: Howard University School of Law / Pulitzer Center
- 12/6/2022: University of Minnesota $50,000