Vivant Edu

Nikole Hannah-Jones launching 1619 Freedom School in Waterloo | Education News

WATERLOO — Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones is launching a free, community-based after-school literacy program in her hometown with the help of local educators.

The 1619 Freedom School will begin serving fourth- and fifth-graders in Waterloo Community Schools this fall. It will focus on students at Dr. Walter Cunningham School for Excellence, Waterloo’s most segregated elementary building, and low-income students from other schools across the district. About 30 students with low reading scores will be served initially.

“We’re going to do a soft launch starting in October at Cunningham with a small number of students,” said Hannah-Jones, a West High School graduate. The full program opens in January at the historic downtown Masonic Temple. Plans are already in the works for a second location in the community center at All-In Grocers, a Black-owned store set to open in 2022.

“We will accept any student who has a need up to our capacity. We don’t discriminate based on students’ race,” she noted. Through test scores, “we know that the overwhelming need is for Black students.”

Students will remain in the program as long as needed and additional children will be enrolled each year.

Hannah-Jones is a New York Times Magazine investigative reporter who won a Pulitzer Prize for her work on the 1619 Project, which reframed U.S. history to value the extreme sacrifices and contributions of Black Americans. Its publication marked the 400th anniversary of a ship’s arrival in August 1619 that brought the first 20 enslaved Africans to Virginia.