The 1619 Project writer who has made an opulent living highlighting racial inequality in schools was paid $40,000 to give a speech at a high school just minutes away from the campus of her new employer, according to materials obtained by The Daily Wire.
Former New York Times writer Nikole Hannah-Jones was paid the sum to give a 45-minute talk Sept. 20 as part of a three-hour event at Washington-Liberty High School in Arlington, Virginia. That’s only eight miles from Howard University, where she became a tenured professor with the help of $20 million in donations from the MacArthur, Knight, and Ford foundations. Including travel time, that fee amounts to approximately $10,000 an hour.
The speech was also an opportunity for Hannah-Jones to sell her book, even as the event implied that it was “banned.”
While held at a public high school, the talk was a program of the Arlington Public Library, and the cost was so enormous that it spurred tension between the library and the Friends of Arlington Library, a nonprofit that raises money to fund library activities including author events.
On August 9, Peter Petruski, a library division chief, wrote that the speakers fund was $7,500 over budget even though “The Friends offered $130,000 for Arlington Reads in FY23, which was less than the library said would be needed.”
On August 11, Diane Kresh, another library official, called the apparent “Arlington READS encumbrances troubling… The bottom line is there is a difference of $7,500 over and above the ‘approved’ budget, money which is due now to meet Fall contractual obligations. I am certain all of you can appreciate we cannot jeopardize either the County or the Library’s financial standing if bills are not paid.”
Claire Christian, the president of the Friends group, wrote two days later: “Not necessarily thrilled about the overage.” On August 19, the second installment of $20,000 was wired to Hannah-Jones’ agent.
Internal correspondence also shows officials’ response to criticism from community members. A local news outlet “has posted an article about the upcoming event with Nikole Hannah-Jones and it’s getting a lot of very ignorant and negative comments,” Christian wrote. Criticism of Hannah-Jones is primarily because she is not a historian and leading historians have rejected her factual premise that the U.S. was founded to preserve slavery.
The contract with Hannah-Jones barred any recording of the event, with a charge of $100,000 if breached.
Charles Yao, who represents Hannah-Jones for the Lavin agency, did not return a request for comment from The Daily Wire.
Hannah-Jones was raised by a white mother and black father in Iowa. The speaking fee has raised eyebrows because Hannah-Jones’ work has been based on the argument that blacks are oppressed, as demonstrated in part by wealth inequality, even as she has effortlessly been showered with wealth and accolades from elite institutions.
Michael Chamberlain, director of the government watchdog group Protect the Public’s Trust, told The Daily Wire the fee Hannah-Jones pocketed I unusually high for a local library to pay.
“The $40,000 they paid to one particular speaker, which put the program over budget, is an eye-popping amount for a local library to spend on such a controversial figure,” Chamberlain said. “Only Arlington residents can determine the wisdom of this decision, but transparency is a necessary first step for them to make that determination.”