Reading The 1619 Project in 2020

August 15, 2020

The 1619 Project was published in the New York Times Magazine Sunday, August 18, 2019, along with additional material included in the newspaper. The print version sold out quickly, but I was able to obtain a copy after the reprinting. It sat on the table that accumulates papers to be sorted, mail to be dealt with and other detritus of daily life, for months until I thought, it’s time to get busy and read this important work through. The full project can be found online on the New York Times website.

I received the standard middle class white suburban school district education, supplemented by my own personal reading list, and there is so much I did not learn in the classroom. Not surprising, given the demographics of my time, but perhaps odd, given my proximity to the 1960s era of civil rights struggles. The Times featured this quote from John Hope Franklin on the cover page of the supplemental section: “We’ve got to tell the unvarnished truth,” followed by a box at the bottom of the page that reads, “Four hundred years after enslaved Africans were first brought to Virgina, most Americans still don’t know the full story of slavery.”

Nicole Hannah-Jones, staff writer, conceived of the project that examines the roots of slavery that can be traced through every aspect of modern American society, every institution, every organizational structure, every economic assumption, though multiple essays, painstakingly researched by a team of journalists. It is long past time for all of us to learn, acknowledge and understand the true history of the founding of our nation and the building of immense wealth on the institution of human slavery. The 1619 Project is at times horrifying and enormously painful, but also illuminating and insightful. It takes time to explore and digest, but this is a necessary process for all of us. If we are to understand ourselves as we truly are and understand the context of our current times, we must understand our full history and what has been bequeathed to us from centuries past. Understanding alone is not enough, but it is a place to start to build the actions that must follow to live up to our ideals, to form a full creative family that lives together here on stolen ground in 2020.

Giving land reverence to the Seneca people, our living and dead ancestry here in the Rochester area.