The third installment of the Lou Mervis Distinguished lecture series was held this fall. Gabriella Couloubaritsis, the Union Board Director of Lectures expanded the lecture this year to include more opportunities for students to interact with Nikole Hannah-Jones, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Knight Chair of Race and Journalism at Howard University, and creator of the New York Times’ The 1619 Project. During her four class visits across campus, a student leadership dinner at Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center, and the IU Auditorium moderated Q&A and meet & greet, Nikole discussed how the legacy of slavery and racial discrimination continue to shape modern American life.
As a journalist, Nikole Hannah-Jones has spent her career investigating racial inequality and injustice, and her reporting has earned her the MacArthur Fellowship, known as the Genius grant, a Peabody Award, two George Polk Awards and the National Magazine Award three times. In creating The 1619 Project – whose book version was an instant #1 New York Times bestseller, includes 19 essays, 36 poems and works of fiction, and several portraits – her goal was “to explain America’s present-day reality and challenge myths not to tear down or further divide this country, as some critics suggest, but so that we can truly become the country we already claim to be.” She has continued expanding The 1619 Project into a narrative podcast series and in the coming months, a 6-part Hulu documentary in partnership with Oprah.
As the Knight Chair of Race and Journalism at Howard University, Hannah-Jones founded the Center for Journalism & Democracy. She is also the co-founder of the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting, which seeks to increase the number of investigative reporters and editors of color, and she has opened the 1619 Freedom School, a free, afterschool literacy program in her hometown of Waterloo, Iowa. Hannah-Jones holds a Master of Arts in Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and earned her BA in History and African American studies from the University of Notre Dame.
In her closing to this year’s Mervis Lecture at IU Auditorium, Gabriella read a James Baldwin quote included in The 1619 Project: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed unless it is faced.”
This event was only possible through Union Board’s generous sponsors. Thank you to the Mervis family for supporting us and choosing to honor Lou in this way. In addition to the Mervis family, Union Board would like to thank the College of Arts and Sciences Themester Program, IU Bookstore, Maurer Law School, the Media School, Hutton Honors College, and OPVDEMA.