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ProPublica’s Nicole Carr Wins July Sidney Award

The Sidney Hillman Foundation announced Wednesday that ProPublica reporter Nicole Carr is the winner of July’s Sidney Award for her investigation “White Parents Rallied to Chase a Black Educator Out of Town. Then, They Followed Her to the Next One.” The monthly honor recognizes outstanding journalism that fosters social and economic justice.

Carr chronicled how an anti-critical race theory movement targeted Cecelia Lewis, an accomplished Black educator, who in the spring of 2021 was offered an administrator job focused on diversity, equity and inclusion in Georgia’s Cherokee County. Soon after the hire was announced, community members began meeting to express concerns that Lewis intended to promote CRT — a formerly arcane, currently politicized concept that she hadn’t even heard of. Following a chaotic school board meeting, in which board members and students were evacuated and escorted to safety amid threatening outbursts from attendees, Lewis quit the job before she even started.

When she moved on to a similar position in Georgia’s Cobb County, Lewis was targeted by the same group with the same baseless claims of promoting CRT, driving her out of the school district after just two months on the job. Carr’s story, which was co-published with FRONTLINE, shows how the back-to-back efforts to push Lewis out were organized by local and national anti-CRT groups. Led by national conservative networks, these groups have armed communities across the country with similar talking points and strategies to frame the narrative about the intentions of longtime educators and change the political makeup of school boards.

Carr also tells the story from the point of view of a person harmed by the lies tied to this powerful movement, an inside perspective that we rarely see. Lewis was hesitant to speak to ProPublica about her experience (it took months and several rejections before Carr convinced her), but she ultimately decided to talk in order to help people understand the extraordinary challenges so many educators are facing.

Days after the article was published, two Georgia school board candidates who criticized the hiring of Lewis lost their runoff elections by wide margins. In addition, a candidate for the state House of Representatives who helped organize the effort to push Lewis out lost her bid for a seat. “They made it very clear that those of us who did not align with them were going to have to stand up,” said one mom from the community after the elections, “and I’m really, really proud of our community — especially today — that we did.”

Learn more about the story and the Sidney Award here.

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