WATERLOO — Waterloo native Nikole Hannah-Jones of The New York Times won a Pulitzer Prize in commentary writing Monday.
Hannah-Jones won the prestigious award for a personal essay that opened the 1619 Project, which viewed America’s origins through the lens of enslaved Africans.
Hannah-Jones grew up in Waterloo and graduated from Waterloo West High, and talks about her early days here in a podcast for the 1619 Project. She is now an investigative journalist with the New York Times and the creator of the paper’s deep dive into the implications of the history of slavery — The 1619 Project.
Hannah-Jones was back in the Cedar Valley last fall to discuss the intertwining of slavery with modern-day life as a part of the University of Northern Iowa’s 2019 Constitution Day Address.
She created the 1619 Project for the Times to connect the dots between the first slave ship landing in Virginia 400 years ago with everything that has happened to African-Americans since.
“If we don’t excavate the past, we can’t find out how we got here,” Hannah-Jones said during her Cedar Falls speech.
The entire 1619 Project, which was controversial for some, did not win the Pulitzer, but Hannah-Jones’ introductory essay for it did.
In her essay, Hannah-Jones wrote, “But it would be historically inaccurate to reduce the contributions of black people to the vast material wealth created by our bondage. Black Americans have also been, and continue to be, foundational to the idea of American freedom. More than any other group in this country’s history, we have served, generation after generation, in an overlooked but vital role: It is we who have been the perfecters of this democracy.”