In observance of the 400th anniversary of the first African slaves arriving here in America, the New York Times has unveiled an extraordinary body of work looking at the connections between then and now.
The 1619 Project is deeply reported and incisively written. It calls us to account for the profound shadow that our country’s original sin has cast over modern American life.
It asks us not so much to lament slavery or even to assign blame for it, but to contemplate ways in which modern inequality is tied, directly, to the millions who were brought or born into American slavery.
Times domestic correspondent and 1619 Project creator Nikole Hannah-Jones wrote a very personal essay as part of the project. In it, she tells the story of her family, and how it exemplifies the long journey of African Americans to freedom and equality. Her piece also asserts that the African American struggle is a battle to perfect American democracy.
“It would be historically inaccurate to reduce the contributions of black people to the vast material wealth created by our bondage,” she writes. “Black Americans have also been, and continue to be, foundational to the idea of American freedom. More than any other group in this country’s history, we have served, generation after generation, in an overlooked but vital role: It is we who have been the perfecters of this democracy.”
“That reaction was not surprising to me,” says Hannah-Jones on Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson. “We are trying to fundamentally re-frame the way that we have thought about the country and the way that we have thought about black Americans.”