Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones joined Howard University School of Law and the University of Miami School of Law on March 10, 2021, for a conversation on the insights legal professionals can glean from The 1619 Project and the ways that race, racism, and the legacy of slavery permeate all facets of American society.
Maddie Seales and Ariana Aboulafia, both 2020 graduates of the University of Miami School of Law, and Mike Walker, a third-year law student at Howard University, facilitated the discussion.
“We have treated slavery as an asterisk,” Hannah-Jones said. “We have not been taught how foundational slavery was to our development as a nation, to the development of nearly all of our institutions. Medical experiments were done on enslaved people. … Our legal system was set up in a way to create race, to police boundaries, and to protect the slave-owning class. … Social sciences, for the vast history of the field, were used to justify the lower status of Black Americans, and to justify anti-Blackness.”
The goal of the project, Hannah-Jones said, is to encourage readers to question the “settled narratives” in each of these fields.
Later, the conversation turned to HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities), which “clearly punch above their weight” across areas of study despite being smaller and having much smaller endowments, according to Hannah-Jones.
“I actually did a story on why Xavier University in Louisiana produces more Black doctors than any other institution in this country,” she said. “And it comes down to institutions that are actually built to address the racial inequalities in our society—that are not geared to weed out kids who don’t come from advantage, but are actually geared to support students who don’t come from advantage.”
The session was the third event in a series for The 1619 Project Law School Initiative, a collaboration between the Pulitzer Center and the law schools at Howard University and the University of Miami that aims to spark frank conversations about the legacy of slavery in legal education. Visit the initiative's lesson plan grouping to see all the modules created by law students and faculty at Howard University and the University of Miami.