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Hannah-Jones Opens Journalism & Democracy Center: ‘A Big Day For Me, A Big Day For Howard’

Nikole Hannah-Jones

WASHINGTON – Howard University officially launched the Center for Journalism & Democracy, in a day-long Democracy Summit on November 15. The event brought together center founder Nikole Hannah-Jones, democracy experts, journalists, students, and faculty.

At the summit, the Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist spoke about the fragility of American democracy, the need for new directions in journalism education, the highly polarized political landscape, and the controversy that led to the center being established at Howard University. 

“This is a big day for me and a big day for Howard,” Hannah-Jones said. “We gather here today on what I consider to be hallowed ground. This University, established to help educate four million people emancipated by the Civil War, opened with a vision for what democracy in this multi-racial nation could look like. In a racist and sexist society, Howard from its start educated Americans regardless of race or gender.”

The Center for Journalism and Democracy is the first-of-its-kind academic center committed to strengthening historically-informed, pro-democracy journalism. The center is housed in the Cathy Hughes School of Communications, where Hannah-Jones is the inaugural Knight Chair in Race and Journalism.

The Democracy Summit addressed threats to American democracy, examine how American media is covering this moment, and come away with a new vision for protecting our democracy now. The event program included remarks from Howard University President Wayne A. I. Frederick. It featured Ruth Ben-Ghiat, Anthea Butler, Greg Carr, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Avery Davis-Roberts, Astead Herndon, Maria Hinojosa, Sherrilyn Ifill, Cassandra Jaramillo, Steven Levitsky, Wesley Lowery, Rachel Orey, Jodi Rave Spotted Bear, Kathy Roberts Forde, Jay Rosen, Jason Stanley, and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor.

 In a video statement, former President Barack Obama congratulated Hannah-Jones for helping to promote “historically informed journalism” with the opening of her new center. To watch a recording of the Democracy Summit, please click here. 

Participants included Karin Chenoweth and her brother Eric Chenoweth. Karin is founder of Democracy in Education, an organization that focuses on supporting school board candidates around the country who are standing up to anti-democracy extremists. Eric is director of the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe.

“Nikole Hannah-Jones always asks the right questions at the right time,” Karin Chenoweth said. “She and Howard University both occupy a unique position to call to account the questions, what is journalism, what is democracy, and how do we ensure the journalists are a part of building democracy and not tearing it down?”

Eric Chenoweth said, “My organization has been working with journalists in non-democracies and struggling emerging democracies. The Center for Journalism & Democracy and Nikole Hannah-Jones is now doing the same thing in the United States. We are a struggling democracy, and journalists need to address that in a new way than they have.”


The Center for Journalism & Democracy at Howard University is the first-of-its-kind academic center committed to strengthening historically-informed, pro-democracy journalism. The center is led by founder Nikole Hannah-Jones, the Knight Chair in Race and Journalism.

About Howard University

Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private, research university that is comprised of 14 schools and colleges. Students pursue more than 140 programs of study leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. The University operates with a commitment to Excellence in Truth and Service and has produced one Schwarzman Scholar, four Marshall Scholars, four Rhodes Scholars, 12 Truman Scholars, 25 Pickering Fellows and more than 165 Fulbright recipients. Howard also produces more on-campus African American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University, visit www.howard.edu.