Nikole Hannah-Jones Says Oscars and Grammys Will Never Recognize ‘True Value’ of Black Creatives

“We cannot hinge our validation on white institutions in society,” the creator of “The 1619 Project” says

Nikole Hannah-Jones interviewing Niles Rodgers for "The 1619 Project" docuseries

“The 1619 Project” creator Nikole Hannah-Jones encourages Black people to recognize Oscar and Grammy nominations and awards for what they are while also keeping their limitations in mind.

The New York Times journalist spoke with TheWrap recently about the conclusion of the docuseries adapted from her work at the New York Times Magazine. “The 1619 Project” has also spawned a podcast and book of essays written by various contributors about different aspects of race. 

When asked for her thoughts on the shutout of films like “The Woman King” and “Till” from the 2023 Oscar nominations, the Hannah-Jones shared the adage for the Black community: “We have to be twice as good to get half as far.”

“One thing that has been clear in our history as Black people in this country is that we cannot hinge our validation on white institutions in society. All of these roles of course are nice, but they ultimately say nothing about our value,” she said. “We have to take the validation for what it is because it’s great to have, but it cannot be the thing that we define our worth from. Those institutions are never going to be able to see us for the true value that we bring.”

One of the original pieces in the article series written by critic Wesley Morris focuses on the Black backbone of American music. “Music” became the focus of the third episode in the docuseries, in which Hannah-Jones sits down with Morris as well as other artists like Niles Rogers, who accepted Beyoncé’s “Cuff It” Grammy win for Best R&B song while she was stuck in traffic. Hannah-Jones’ thoughts above extend to the Grammys as well.

“You look at some of the reporting on Beyonce, who wants to be the most awarded artist in Grammy history, but also is apparently never producing capital worthy of being named album of the year,” she said. “This is the oldest story in America.”

The “Music” episode also spotlights the founding of Motown by Berry Gordy, who was recently honored as a MusiCares Person of the Year at the 2023 Grammy Awards ceremony. 

“I don’t actually ever remember not planning to do six episodes. Once we settled on six episodes, it was actually pretty easy to figure out which of the essays it should be,” she said. “We knew we wanted music in the middle. Really, with music, we were allowed to give people a bit of a breath in between all of the heaviness of so many episodes.”