**FILE** Howard University, a historically Black institution, is located in northwest D.C. (Courtesy of Howard University)
**FILE** Howard University, a historically Black institution, is located in northwest D.C. (Courtesy of Howard University)

The Center for Journalism & Democracy, a first-of-its-kind academic center committed to strengthening historically informed, pro-democracy journalism, launched Tuesday at Howard University.

“More than a year ago, I came to Howard University with a vision to create a space for veteran and budding journalists to hone their craft and respond to our increasingly threatened democracy,” Nikole Hannah-Jones, the Center’s founder, said in a statement. 

“[W]e officially launched the Center for Journalism & Democracy, and [held] our inaugural Democracy Summit to showcase our philosophy that democracy not only guarantees a free press — it requires one,” Hannah-Jones said. “The Center aims to be a key resource and national player for investigative journalism. We are an open learning community with a mission to prod the profession to rise to the urgency of the moment.”

The daylong summit convened historians, democracy experts and journalists to unpack present and specific threats to American democracy collectively, the university said in a statement.

The panel examined how American media were covering this moment. They expected to come away with a new vision for protecting democracy. 

The program included a special message from former President Barack Obama.

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, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor and more. 

“Howard University has a time-honored tradition of protecting and preserving our nation’s democracy by shedding light on the Black experience,” said Howard President Wayne A.I. Frederick. “We are home to the nation’s oldest Black collegiate newspaper and one of the world’s most sought-after destinations for archival material documenting the Black experience. In addition, we are honored to be the home of the Center for Journalism & Democracy.

“It is an incredible gift to have Professor Hannah-Jones’ expertise and leadership be a part of our longstanding tradition of Black intellectual thought,” Frederick said. “We are proud to see her vision of creating an academic center that honors and disseminates the traditions of the Black press come to life. 

Officials said the Center would create investigative reporting courses and journalism programs at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

It would support their campus news organizations, provide financial and career support for student journalists, host symposia, train faculty, and launch a visiting professorships program to bring practitioners of investigative reporting into the classrooms of HBCUs.

It will work in partnership with the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center on the Black Press Archives Project, which seeks to digitize Howard’s extensive Black newspaper archives. 

It will fund reparations reporting projects as well. 

Officials said all Center activities would engage in conversation about and commitment to investigative journalism and to strengthen it in service of democracy, officials asserted. 

With the Center, Howard University becomes one of the few journalism programs nationwide to offer a slate of courses with an investigative focus. 

Additionally, the Center will work with multiple HBCUs that offer journalism degrees and concentrations. 

That list includes Morehouse College, Florida A&M University, North Carolina A&T, North Carolina Central University, Savannah State University and Texas Southern University. 

“The vigilance, critical analysis, and clarity of purpose that is required of journalism today ground our aspirations for the Center,” Kali-Ahset Amen, executive director of the Center for Journalism & Democracy, said in the release. “We want to remind people of the power and necessity of courageous journalism. Now is the time.”

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Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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