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Nikole Hannah-Jones and Ida B. Wells are now Pulitzer Prize winners

May 5, 2020, 9:01 PM UTC

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The 2020 Pulitzer Prizes have been awarded and there are some incredibly deserving winners in the lineup from the race beat’s (or just humanity’s) point of view. But let’s focus on one for now: Nikole Hannah-Jones wins the Pulitzer for Commentary for her introductory essay for the 1619 Project, what raceAhead once described as “a necessary corrective to the fundamental lie of the American origin story.” Clearly, others felt the same.

“For a sweeping, deeply reported and personal essay for the ground-breaking 1619 Project, which seeks to place the enslavement of Africans at the center of America’s story, prompting public conversation about the nation’s founding and evolution,” said a Pulitzer announcement of the project that recognized the 400th anniversary of the origins of human chattel slavery.

In discussing her acceptance of the award to New York Times staff via video (as tweeted by New York Times Magazine deputy editor Jessica Lustig), Hannah-Jones spoke about “making a difference.”

The 1619 Project stirred up plenty of controversy for its reframing of history, including an open letter from five historians raising questions about the project’s premise, and the process the team used for historical fact-checking and vetting.

The New York Times responded swiftly and thoroughly:

“As the five letter writers well know, there are often debates, even among subject-area experts, about how to see the past,” the editor-in-chief wrote. “We can hardly claim to have studied the Revolutionary period as long as some of the signatories, nor do we presume to tell them anything they don’t already know, but I think it would be useful for readers to hear why we believe that Hannah-Jones’s claim 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’ is grounded in the historical record.”

Ida B. Wells, investigative journalism trailblazer, educator, and civil rights icon, was also posthumously honored with a Pulitzer Special Citation for her “outstanding and courageous reporting on the horrific and vicious violence against African Americans during the era of lynching.”

The prize comes with $50,000 to support Wells’ mission, with recipients to be announced at a later date.

As it’s time to celebrate this achievement and the necessary correctives still to come, it’s worth giving Hannah-Jones the last, re-framed word:

“I’ve been trying to come up with sentences worthy of summing up how it felt to be awarded @PulitzerPrizes the same day as Ida B. Wells for a project I led on the legacy of slavery for the @nytimes,” she tweeted, “a newspaper that in 1894 called Wells a ‘slanderous and nasty-minded mulattress.’”

Ellen McGirt

Ellen McGirt and Tamara El-Waylly co-wrote today’s essay.

On point

A new report finds alarming racial disparities in philanthropic funding and assets The report, a collaboration between two philanthropic organizations, Echoing Green and Bridgespan, find that nonprofits led by Black and Latinx executives lag behind in fundraising, had 45% less revenue, and had unrestricted assets that were 91% lower than nonprofits run by their white-led peers. “It’s even worse because it’s philanthropy, and we’re supposed to be changing the world,” Cheryl L. Dorsey, president of Echoing Green, told the New York Times.
New York Times

Diversity, equity, and inclusion must remain front and center as we head back to work I’m digging in on this topic for the long haul, and relying on some extraordinary experts to help me. But these nuts-and-bolts suggestions from Vanessa J. Weaver, Ph.D., are a great place to start. “Every aspect of an organization’s culture and operations will be impacted,” she writes. “DI&E issues will have a significant impact on the success of employee reintegration and how organizations reconnect with diverse groups of customers and redefine relationships with the global and local communities in which they operate.”
Diversity Best Practices

JP Morgan Chase has a new global head of diversity and inclusion Brian Lamb started yesterday, bless his heart, in the newly created position that reports to the firm’s co-presidents. He plans to find ways to support a variety of underserved communities and build on their existing initiatives, including Advancing Black Pathways, Advancing Black Leaders, Military & Veterans Affairs, Women on the Move, the Office of Disability Inclusion, and Global Supplier Diversity. He worked his way up the diversity ladder from Fifth Third Bank, click through for more.
Black Enterprise

Coronavirus in the community

  • A 50-year-old Liberian man had a dream of a better life, and a job at a South Dakota meatpacking plant. Now, he’s risking his life. “I don’t like the term essential worker,” he said. “Essential worker just means you’re on the death track.”
  • Some 70% of Texas prisoners tested are positive for coronavirus.
  • Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer says protesters defying stay-at-home orders are not quite “very good people.” “Some of the outrageousness of what happened at our capitol depicted some of the worst racism and awful parts of our history in this country,” she told CNN.
  • Before the pandemic, 1 out of 8 or 9 Americans often went hungry. Now, the number is 1 in 4.
  • Like a tornado, coronavirus decimates one community and leaves others intact. Unlike a tornado, the damage is not random. USA Today breaks it down by zip code.
  • Coronavirus is taking the lives of long-term married couples in quick succession.
  • The pandemic has come for professionals over 60, taking them from gig work to the brink of poverty.

On background

People analytics is a powerful tool for culture change in the workplace I’m re-upping this piece from 2018 as a reminder that for the vast majority of people, their workplace will be—and likely, should be—a greatly changed place going forward. So what are some tools anyone can use to foster a more welcoming and inclusive environment that addresses the very real needs of employees affected by pandemic? “A transformation is a whole portfolio of change initiatives that together form an integrated program,” says two researchers from Microsoft. The question is, what is the goal, no?
Harvard Business Review

A thread for what ails you Hugh Weber is a community organizer, a creative convener, a brilliant entrepreneur, and a brother from another mother. He, along with his equally amazing wife Amy, is raising two extraordinary children, one of whom decided to get curious about, then acknowledge, the hard work of their mail carrier, who lives and works in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. And then, this happened. Bring tissues and stamps.
Hugh Weber on Twitter

Somewhere in the dream we had an epiphany, now we right the wrongs in history If you want a memorable musical metaphor for allyship—or just looking for an excuse to listen to a beautiful song—then take a few moments to enjoy this extraordinary performance of the Oscar-winning song “Glory”, from the Ava DuVernay film Selma about the 1965 marches for voting rights. John Legend and Common won Best Original Song at the 2015 ‪Golden Globe Awards and the 87th Academy Awards for the song. But the staged version, which was performed at the Oscar ceremony, offers a subtle lesson in grace in racial partnership that’s easy to miss. As the “marchers” fill the stage to sing during the dramatic finale, the white performers march shoulder to shoulder with the black ones—but stand in silent solidarity. The glory is in the details.
"Glory" at the Oscars

The big number


Turns out, Cinco de Mayo doesn’t commemorate Mexican Independence Day. Please enjoy your margarita ironically.

Today's mood board

Bobby Simmons during the 1965 Selma to Montgomery civil rights march on March 25, 1965, in Montgomery, Ala.
Stephen F. Somerstein—Getty Images