The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story
Most people, even those who slept through history classes in high school and/or college, know that George Washington was the first president. They have heard of Patrick Henry’s statement: “Give me liberty of give me death.” They know Thomas Jefferson was an important figure in America’s history, they may have read Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and probably know slavery was practiced in the South.
In The 1619 Project, Nikole Hannah-Jones and a group of scholars, journalists, poets and essayists address that history by digging deep into it. The book is a clear, well-written, insightful, compelling, eye opening, important examination of American history. Were it read widely in high school history/civics courses, and in the broader society, we would have a clearer understanding of how our country developed and why race remains such a force in our society to this day.
Starting with her opening essay, “Origins,” the book’s chapters delve into “Democracy,” “Race,” “Sugar,” “Fear,” “Dispossession” and more. Each of the 18 sections offers the reader well-researched aspects of American history seldom taught, or taught through a gauzy haze.
In a nutshell, a very small nutshell, the book studies, examines and explains how the subject headings intersect or intertwine with race and racism. Said another way, the book’s contributors cross lines to connect dots. They focus on systemic relationships and how those systems impact and influence society and individuals as opposed to pointing to individuals as being primarily responsible for their own success or lack-of.
The book draws on known and discovered history and how that intersects with economics, political science, sociology, and psychology, and the hard sciences.
The subject of the book — racism — is complex and not easily reduced to easy explanations.
The 1619 Project has generated strident objections, primarily with a partisan bent. Politicians are grabbing headlines and state legislatures are becoming “experts” on K-12 curriculum development. In Texas, already, a list of 800 books has been released, books that will not be allowed to be used in public school classes, and there can be no reference to America’s two Fugitive Slave Laws. They claim The 1619 Project is teaching unvarnished, youthful minds Critical Race Theory, even though few of those “adult” minds are able to define or have a cogent discussion about the theory. Their shallow complaints and protestations would not last long in a graduate or legal seminar, which is where the theory is, on occasion, taught.
Using The 1619 Project in a high school civics or history course or reading a Toni Morrison novel in an AP English class is exposing students to well-written literature, and, yes, harsh history. The books reveal and address some of the horrors of enslavement. They are practical studies of how law, race, sociology, economics, politics, literature, history and more are intertwined with race and racism and a part of everyday life, from 1619 to today.
Google “The Privilege Walk” to learn a practical exercise of how racism is more than a “bad actor” using a racial slur or an individual not getting a promotion, but is systemic. The exercise brings to life some of the tenets unearthed in the book.
The 1619 Project sheds light on why many, no matter their leanings, are defensive about letting the history the book explores come to light. The intent of the book is not to shame anyone. Rather, it is to shed light on where we came from, why we are where we are, and to have the knowledge to move in a direction that is not hindered by racism.
The 1619 Project is an important book to read.
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NAACP IMAGE AWARD WINNER • A dramatic expansion of a groundbreaking work of journalism, The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story offers a profoundly revealing vision of the American past and present.
“[A] groundbreaking compendium . . . bracing and urgent . . . This collection is an extraordinary update to an ongoing project of vital truth-telling.”—Esquire
NOW AN EMMY-NOMINATED HULU ORIGINAL DOCUSERIES • FINALIST FOR THE KIRKUS PRIZE • ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The Washington Post, NPR, Esquire, Marie Claire, Electric Lit, Ms. magazine, Kirkus Reviews, Booklist
In late August 1619, a ship arrived in the British colony of Virginia bearing a cargo of twenty to thirty enslaved people from Africa. Their arrival led to the barbaric and unprecedented system of American chattel slavery that would last for the next 250 years. This is sometimes referred to as the country’s original sin, but it is more than that: It is the source of so much that still defines the United States.
The New York Times Magazine’s award-winning 1619 Project issue reframed our understanding of American history by placing slavery and its continuing legacy at the center of our national narrative. This book substantially expands on that work, weaving together eighteen essays that explore the legacy of slavery in present-day America with thirty-six poems and works of fiction that illuminate key moments of oppression, struggle, and resistance. The essays show how the inheritance of 1619 reaches into every part of contemporary American society, from politics, music, diet, traffic, and citizenship to capitalism, religion, and our democracy itself.
This book that speaks directly to our current moment, contextualizing the systems of race and caste within which we operate today. It reveals long-glossed-over truths around our nation’s founding and construction—and the way that the legacy of slavery did not end with emancipation, but continues to shape contemporary American life.
Featuring contributions from: Leslie Alexander • Michelle Alexander • Carol Anderson • Joshua Bennett • Reginald Dwayne Betts • Jamelle Bouie • Anthea Butler • Matthew Desmond • Rita Dove • Camille T. Dungy • Cornelius Eady • Eve L. Ewing • Nikky Finney • Vievee Francis • Yaa Gyasi • Forrest Hamer • Terrance Hayes • Kimberly Annece Henderson • Jeneen Interlandi • Honorée Fanonne Jeffers • Barry Jenkins • Tyehimba Jess • Martha S. Jones • Robert Jones, Jr. • A. Van Jordan • Ibram X. Kendi • Eddie Kendricks • Yusef Komunyakaa • Kevin M. Kruse • Kiese Laymon • Trymaine Lee • Jasmine Mans • Terry McMillan • Tiya Miles • Wesley Morris • Khalil Gibran Muhammad • Lynn Nottage • ZZ Packer • Gregory Pardlo • Darryl Pinckney • Claudia Rankine • Jason Reynolds • Dorothy Roberts • Sonia Sanchez • Tim Seibles • Evie Shockley • Clint Smith • Danez Smith • Patricia Smith • Tracy K. Smith • Bryan Stevenson • Nafissa Thompson-Spires • Natasha Trethewey • Linda Villarosa • Jesmyn Ward
Praise for The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story
“Pleasingly symmetrical . . . [a] mosaic of a book, which achieves the impossible on so many levels—moving from argument to fiction to argument, from theme to theme, and backward and forward in time, so smoothly.”—Slate
“A wide-ranging, landmark summary of the Black experience in America: searing, rich in unfamiliar detail, exploring every aspect of slavery and its continuing legacy . . . Again and again, The 1619 Project brings the past to life in fresh ways. . . . Multifaceted and often brilliant.”—The New York Times Book Review
“The groundbreaking project from The New York Times, which created a new origin story for America based on the very beginnings of American slavery, is expanded into a very large, very powerful full-length book.”—Entertainment Weekly
“The ambitious project that got Americans rethinking our racial history—and sparked inevitable backlash—even before the reckoning that followed George Floyd’s murder, is expanded into a book incorporating essays from pretty much everyone you want to hear from about the country’s great topic and great shame.”—Los Angeles Times
“This fall’s required reading.”—Ms.
“[A] groundbreaking compendium . . . These bracing and urgent works, by multidisciplinary visionaries ranging from Barry Jenkins to Jesmyn Ward, build on the existing scholarship of The 1619 Project, exploring how the nation’s original sin continues to shape everything from our music to our food to our democracy. This collection is an extraordinary update to an ongoing project of vital truth-telling.”—Esquire
“By teaching how the country’s history has been one of depriving the rights of one group for the gain of another, and how those marginalized worked to claim those rights for all, The 1619 Project restores people erased from the national narrative, offering a motivating, if sobering, origin story we need to understand if we are ever going to truly achieve ‘liberty and justice for all.’”—Women’s Review of Books
“Those readers open to fresh and startling interpretations of history will find this book a comprehensive education.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Powerful . . . This invaluable book sets itself apart by reframing readers’ understanding of U.S. history, past and present.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“Pulitzer winner Hannah-Jones . . . and an impressive cast of historians, journalists, poets, novelists, and cultural critics deliver a sweeping study of the ‘unparalleled impact’ of African slavery on American society.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“For any lover of American history or letters, The 1619 Project is a visionary work that casts a sweeping, introspective gaze over what many have aptly termed the country’s original sin.”—BookPage (starred review)
“Readers will discover something new and redefining on every page.”—Booklist (starred review)