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Nikole Hannah-Jones launches ‘1619 Freedom School’ after-school program in Waterloo

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Nikole Hannah-Jones

WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL) -- Pulitzer Prize winner and Waterloo native Nikole Hannah-Jones has announced her new after-school program for 4th and 5th graders, which will focus on teaching Black American history and improving their reading and literacy skills.

The "1619 Freedom School," is named for the historic date that marks the beginning of Black America.* The school is not affiliated with the New York Times' 1619 Project for which Hannah-Jones is known.

The school program is privately funded by several organizations and has a mission to increase literacy skills in low-income Waterloo children. In a press release, Hannah-Jones stressed the importance of quality education for students which she wanted to provide to her hometown.

“The 1619 Freedom School is built on the understanding that for a people for whom it was once illegal to learn to read and write, education is a revolutionary act,'' Hannah-Jones said. “A quality education has been the key to my success and I wanted to give back to the community that raised me and to the children whose opportunities may be limited but who have potential that is limitless. Through this school, we will provide our students the type of education and support they have always deserved.”

The school program is set to open this fall, with community members and Waterloo Public School teachers coming together to create and teach the curriculum. It will be housed in the historic Masonic Temple in downtown Waterloo and is looking to open another location as well.

Currently, the program is looking for more educators. If interested in enrolling your children in the program, or teaching the curriculum at the school, email

*Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated how the 1619 Freedom Schools name came about. The school is completely unaffiliated with the 1619 Project. The article also incorrectly identified the source of its funding. The school is wholly privately funded, no monies from UNI or Hawkeye Community College were given to the school. As stated at the beginning of this updated article, the school will teach Black American history, not critical race theory as was previously reported. The two are not interchangeable and should not be considered as such. We apologize for the errors.