The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story

by Nikole Hannah-Jones (Creator)

Hardcover, 2021




One World (2021), 624 pages


"The animating idea of The 1619 Project is that our national narrative is more accurately told if we begin not on July 4, 1776, but in late August of 1619, when a ship arrived in Jamestown bearing a cargo of twenty to thirty enslaved people from Africa. Their arrival inaugurated a barbaric and unprecedented system of 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 country's very origin. The 1619 Project tells this new origin story, placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are as a country. Orchestrated by the editors of The New York Times Magazine, led by MacArthur "genius" and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, this collection of essays and historical vignettes includes some of the most outstanding journalists, thinkers, and scholars of American history and culture--including Linda Villarosa, Jamelle Bouie, Jeneen Interlandi, Matthew Desmond, Wesley Morris, and Bryan Stevenson. Together, their work shows how the tendrils of 1619--of slavery and resistance to slavery--reach into every part of our contemporary culture, from voting, housing and healthcare, to the way we sing and dance, the way we tell stories, and the way we worship. Interstitial works of flash fiction and poetry bring the history to life through the imaginative interpretations of some of our greatest writers. The 1619 Project ultimately sends a very strong message: We must have a clear vision of this history if we are to understand our present dilemmas. Only by reckoning with this difficult history and trying as hard as we can to understand its powerful influence on our present, can we prepare ourselves for a more just future"--… (more)


½ (110 ratings; 4.6)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Katyefk
What a powerful read!!!!! The American history we learned in school was incomplete and inaccurate without the voices of all folks who built our country. This book with its many essays on the very important topics we are working through in our country and the world is a true gift. I am move,
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enlightened and changed after reading it. Our non-fiction book club chose it and the resulting discussion was very rich and powerful for all of us. It should be included on any and all American history class reading lists.
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LibraryThing member scottjpearson
The tragic death of George Floyd in 2020 prompted a mass reexamination of issues of race in America. Part of that self-review necessitated promoting voices of African-American history into the national narrative. New York Times writer Hannah-Jones compiled this anthology that seeks to unearth and
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publicize elements of American history long hidden due to tacit shame and injustice. The pieces contained herein make a forceful case that we need a broader, more inclusive understanding of our national story.

This book deserves a reading because of its social influence alone. It has prompted much white backlash, which means that it is having some of its intended impact. It shows very clearly that African American voices have been silenced in the diverse American story for too long. It does so through a series of historical essays, artistic pieces, and a relentless drive for social justice. Like any book that centers on historical injustices, parts are hard to read due to their weightiness but still necessary to read because of their weightiness.

Although I am glad to have read all of the pieces in this collection, I found that some of them are not as broad in perspective as I would have liked. The last essay in particular tries to make the case that the just, moral response is economic reparations for slavery. This essay is almost wholly devoid of an assessment of practicalities. It is all “ought” and no “can.” Calls like this, while capturing the moral high-ground, can sow more racial friction than solve very real problems. I personally favor a more incremental, measured, yet deliberate approach than the author’s.

Nonetheless, these voices need to be heard precisely because they have not been heard by most of us in the past (myself included). They need to be incorporated in the mainstream American story. The goal of inclusive education says that we need to provide black Americans, many of whom are descendants of enslaved people, belonging in national history. Too much quiet shame exists among white Americans – in the former Confederacy and in the rest of the country, too. I’m glad I read this collection and hope many others will read and reflect with me.
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LibraryThing member rivkat
A big, depressing book that focuses each chapter on a country or a few countries near each other and explains what challenges they faced, especially in building democratic institutions out of the rubble that colonial powers left behind. Transitions to self-government were fast, mostly because
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Africans wanted it that way, but the Europeans took/destroyed stuff on the way out and hadn’t invited participation before that, so the newly “independent” nations were left without the infrastructure of governance. In many cases, they also had to deal with ethnic divisions that had been exploited by the Europeans to hold on to power. Coup after coup, slaughter after slaughter resulted.
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LibraryThing member m.belljackson
Extraordinary and enlightening saga of African Americans from the first landing in 1619.
LibraryThing member nabeelar
Absolutely terrific book.
Many wonderful essays, beautiful poetry and images interspersed. I learned a lot. Favorite quote:

"...nationalized amnesia can no longer provide the excuse. None of us can be held responsible for the wrongs of our ancestors. But if today we choose not to do the right and
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necessary thing, that burden we own."
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LibraryThing member terran
I wish I had been able to read this book when I was a student. I hope teachers introduce parts of it in their American history classes from now on. It contains such a complete historical picture of racial relations and the treatment of Black Americans in this country since they were first brought
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as slaves in 1619. There is incredible documentation and research to back up the statistics presented and conclusions that are drawn.
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LibraryThing member DocWood
Oh, boy

Boy, was I ignorant. Boy, were we ever lied to! I learned more relevant history here than in any high school or college class.

This book is exhilarating. It will make you cry. It will make you mad! It will make you mad, and it will make you want to take action.
LibraryThing member ilovemycat1
Phenomenal book and achievement. Read this chapter by chapter with a library "lunch and learn" over the summer. It's a book that everyone should read, subjects that children should learn and a country, and world that needs to absorb the lessons of our history. It changes your life.
LibraryThing member streamsong
“Origin stories, function, to a degree, as myths designed to create a shared sense of history and purpose. Nations simplify these narratives in order to unify and glorify, and these origin stories serve to illuminate how a society wants to see itself- and how it doesn’t. The origin story of the
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United States that we tell ourselves through textbooks and films, monuments and museums, public speeches and public histories, the one that most defines our national identity portrays an intrepid, freedom-loving people who rebelled against an oppressive monarchy, won their independence, tamed the West, advanced an exceptional nation based on the radical ideals of self-governance and equality, and heroically fought a civil war to end slavery and preserve the nation. This mythology has positioned almost exclusively white Americans as the architects and champions of democracy. And because of this, some have believed that white people should disproportionately reap the benefits of this democracy.” P452

This is an anthology of history, challenges, and experiences that black people have lived here in the United States. Each section ends with a bit of poetry.

The history is very disturbing. When I was in school in the 60’s and 70’s these incidents were not discussed. I remember a sentence or two about lynching and the rise of the KKK – and that’s it.

It’s a combination of impossible to put down and very hard to read. I could only read a chapter a day – and then I would have to let it soak it and steel myself to go on to the next

This book has changed forever the way I see American history and blackness in America.

For me, it was a paradigm shift not only for how I see American black history, but realizing that other minorities have not had their stories told either.

I don’t know what to say beyond that. Read it.
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LibraryThing member thosgpetri
This is the book hated by people trying to lose the racist label just by saying they are not racist. The book shows clearly the origins of racist attitudes and the economic advantages that created these attitudes and ingrained them in our society. And, it highlights current attitudes and events
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that can only be described as racist driven. Banning books and teaching censored history creates a society of ignorance and prejudice based on false understanding of what racism is and the harm it does to all people. The only way ahead is an honest understanding the past and its effects on the present.
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LibraryThing member RandyMorgan
The 1619 Project is a book that requires the reader to marinate on the topic. It provides ample opportunity for the reader to pause and reflect. The 1619 Project is an opportunity for a candid and painful conversation about race in the United States of America.

What started as a New York Times
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article developed into a series of articles; then was compiled into a book. Nikole Hanna- Jones composition consists of essays, photo essays, and a collection of poems and fiction to reveal black history. The audiobook is a full cast production and the voice actors were immaculate. I thumbed through the physical book to admire the photos and they were humbling.
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LibraryThing member JosephKing6602
Jumped around from topicto topic; tried to cover too much; poetry didn’t add valur for me
LibraryThing member witchyrichy
I finished The 1619 Project and am stunned, for lack of a better word. Nikole Hannah-Jones and her colleagues wove together the stories of Black people past and present through essays, timeline entries, poetry and photographs, showing how racism is part of the fabric that makes America. The
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language is deliberately provocative; they call plantations forced-labor camps and, indeed, that's what they were. They tie slavery and its accompanying racist narratives to the wealth and health gaps between Whites and Blacks in our country, and they make a good case. I know they came under some criticism but I don't think anyone could quibble with that fundamental truths. They do not apologize for approaching history from a lens of the enslaved and former enslaved. In the end, they call for reparations and make a solid case there as well.

I'm not going to lie: this was not an easy book to read. It's all here from massacres to bombings in more recent memory to the torture, murder and institutionalized rape during the centuries of slavery. I read slowly, partially to absorb it all and partially because it was often overwhelming.
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Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

624 p.; 9.43 inches


0593230574 / 9780593230572
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