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Public school advocacy group invites Nikole Hannah-Jones to speak

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A group that advocates for N.C. public schools will turn to controversial journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones as the featured speaker for its October summit.

The Public School Forum of North Carolina broke the news Thursday morning about Hannah-Jones serving as keynote speaker Oct. 26 for the virtual “Color of Education 2021” summit.

Hannah-Jones has generated headlines in North Carolina and across the country in recent months because of controversy surrounding her now-scuttled deal to join the faculty at the UNC-Chapel Hill journalism school. After the school’s Board of Trustees voted in July to grant Hannah-Jones tenure in connection with a faculty appointment, she rejected UNC-CH to accept a competing offer from Howard University.

Hannah-Jones announced her decision to spurn the Chapel Hill campus during a national television interview July 6 with CBS News.

The creator of the New York Times’ 1619 Project, Hannah-Jones “kicked off the Color of Education series in 2018,” according to an invitation to this year’s event. She “returns this year to headline Color of Education 2021, a two-day virtual summit that will bring together people from all over North Carolina to exchange ideas and strategies that address systemic racial inequities in our education system.”

“Color of Education will include additional sessions focused on racial equity featuring leading experts in the field,” according to the invitation.

The Public School Forum has lobbied N.C. policymakers for more than 30 years on behalf of traditional district schools. “From the start, a key purpose of the Forum has been to ‘speak truth to power,'” according to the organization’s website. “We consistently and diligently have served as an informed and honest messenger, regardless of the politics.”

Hannah-Jones has sparked controversy at least since she started touting the 1619 Project. The project attempts to refocus American history on a date associated with the arrival of slaves in America.

Historians of all political stripes have highlighted flaws in the 1619 Project’s fundamental arguments. Critics also have focused on Hannah-Jones’ efforts to rewrite her own early statements about the project.

“In asking Nikole Hannah-Jones to speak at its conference, the Public School Forum proves what most have long thought: It’s not a mainstream organization,” said Bob Luebke, senior fellow at the Center for Effective Education at the John Locke Foundation. “It’s progressive and left-leaning in political orientation; clearly out-of-sync with the beliefs of most North Carolinians. But let Hannah-Jones make her speeches, collect her checks, and get rich in the process. It’s hard to make a stronger case for school choice.”