Emily Schettler
The Harkin Institute

Amy Jennings
Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute


Nikole Hannah-Jones to Headline Virtual Discussions on Racial Oppression

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author’s 1619 Project will also be featured in a
seven-week series on racial equity

JANUARY 15, 2021 – Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist and Iowa-native Nikole Hannah-Jones will speak to members of the Greater Des Moines community at two virtual events on April 8, 2021, including the spring Sussman Lecture offered by The Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement at Drake University, as part of a community-wide dialogue about systemic oppression and racial equity. During her virtual visit to Des Moines, Hannah-Jones will also speak with area youth. Her appearances will follow and serve as a capstone to a seven-session educational experience, Then. Now. When., offered by the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute.

The Then. Now. When. experience, presented by Nationwide, will use the 1619 Project along with local and national experts to help leaders gain an understanding of how beliefs and systems of racial oppression continue to impact the Greater Des Moines community today as well as what can be done to create a different future. Then. Now. When. begins on January 22 and is free to community members. Registrations are being accepted at

“To create a thriving community for all, leaders must educate themselves and own their roles in addressing and changing systems that contribute to racial inequity,” said Amy Jennings, executive director of the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute. “Then. Now. When. will give leaders a foundation in history, an understanding of local issues, encourage brave conversations and result in meaningful action.”

Hannah-Jones grew up in Waterloo, Iowa, and found her passion for journalism while working for her high school newspaper. She is a co-founder of the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting, a nonprofit that provides training and mentorship for journalists of color pursuing careers in investigative reporting. She covers civil rights and racial injustice as an investigative reporter for The New York Times Magazine and is creator of the 1619 Project, for which she won a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2020.

“The 1619 Project has prompted an important dialogue in our country about the role slavery and oppression of Black Americans played in the formation of our country and its development in the centuries that followed,” said Joseph Jones, executive director of The Harkin Institute. “As an organization, The Harkin Institute is committed to having civil and engaging dialogues on important topics and we are grateful to Richard Sussman, the Mid-Iowa Health Foundation and other community partners in providing support to welcome Nikole Hannah-Jones to Des Moines.”

Registration for the Sussman Lecture featuring Nikole Hannah-Jones will open in February.

This series of events has been organized in collaboration with and support from multiple Greater Des Moines organizations, including:

  • African American Leadership Academy
  • Bankers Trust
  • Capital Crossroads
  • City of Des Moines
  • Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines
  • Delta Dental
  • Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO)
  • Des Moines Business Record
  • Des Moines University
  • The Directors Council
  • EMC Insurance Companies
  • Evelyn K Davis Center for Working Families
  • Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute
  • Greater Des Moines Partnership
  • The Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement at Drake University
  • Hola Iowa & Hola America
  • Kum & Go
  • Mid-Iowa Health Foundation
  • Nationwide
  • Polk County Housing Trust Fund
  • Principal
  • State Historical Society of Iowa, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs
  • Tomorrow Plan Speaker Series
  • UnityPoint Health – Des Moines
  • United Way of Central Iowa
  • Urban Dreams
  • Urban Experience Magazine



The Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement at Drake University exists to inform citizens, inspire creative cooperation, and catalyze change on issues of social justice, fairness, and opportunity. Founded on the premise that good public policy is best achieved when policymakers have access to high quality information, political processes are open and well-understood, and citizens are informed and active participants, The Harkin Institute offers programming, experiences, research, and connectivity focused on the areas that defined Senator Harkin’s career: labor and employment, people with disabilities, retirement security, and wellness and nutrition.

Established by Richard Sussman, AS’51, in memory of his late wife, Lila, the Sussman Lecture Series takes place twice a year and invites notable public figures to discuss timely topics. Past Sussman speakers include Microsoft Chief Accessibility Officer Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, NASA Chief Historian Bill Barry, and Celine Cousteau, a French explorer, education ambassador and documentary filmmaker.


Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute
The Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute develops, connects, inspires, and challenges community champions through life-changing leadership experiences. Since 1982, more than 2,500 leaders have participated in Leadership Institute programs, gaining a greater understanding of our community and opportunities for civic improvement. For more information about the Leadership Institute, visit


Address: 2429 University Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50311 Phone: 515-271-3623 Fax Number: 515-271-3631 Email: Office Hours: Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.