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Two Books Pusblished & Upcoming Hulu Docu-series: The 1619 Project Continues to Grow

Happy publication day to all the contributors of this momentous project!

"The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story" edited by The NYT Magazine, Caitlin Roper, Ilena Silverman, and Nikole Hannah-Jones. Book cover for "The 1619 Project: Born on the Water" by Nikole Hannah-Jones, Renée Watson, and illustrated by Nikkolas Smith. (Image: One World and Kokila.)

Since it was first published on August 2019—the 400th anniversary of the first enslaved Africans arriving in Virginia (what would be the U.S.)—The 1619 Project has been an opportunity to educate oneself on the under-discussed and undervalued elements of American history. Led by Nikole Hannah-Jones and published by The New York Times Magazine, the Pulitzer Prize-winning work is an initiative grounded in essays, historical documents, podcasts, and educational tools to better understand how the institution of slavery and its modern-day holdovers shape American life.

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The swift backlash resulted in the original project being banned from usage within classrooms across the country and conservative outrage. Let’s not forget the now-canceled, jingoistic 1776 Project that was formed by an executive order from Donald Trump and the unfortunately still kind-of-a-thing Texas 1836 project—both white supremacist propaganda tools, as if we didn’t have over a century of miseducation to undo as is.

The backlash hasn’t even just been from conservative voices and lawmakers. Hannah-Jones told the LA Times, “To see attacks on ‘The 1619 Project’ and this idea that racial reckoning has gone too far and now white people are the ones suffering is the most predictable thing in the world if you understand American history.”

Publication day (book birthday)

Now, a little over two years later, an extended volume of the project that started it all was published as a book today called The 1619 Project A New Origin Story, along with an accompanying children’s book entitled The 1619 Project: Born on the Water. Also, for the rest of November, every purchase of A New Origin Story on Bookshop using affiliate links results in a book donated to We Need Diverse Books. The non-profit will distribute copies of books to low-income classrooms, libraries, and educational spaces across the U.S.

"The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story" edited by The NYT Magazine, Caitlin Roper, Ilena Silverman, and Nikole Hannah-Jones. (Image: One World.)

(Image: One World.)

A New Origin Story is a continuation of the original project, but now there is a total of 18 essays that examine the legacy of slavery through the present and 36 poems and short works of fiction that highlight key moments of the shared struggle, systemic oppression, and the resistance of Black Americans. The book touches on culture, politics, citizenship, economics, religion, migration, and the idea of America as a democracy.

Book cover for "The 1619 Project: Born on the Water" by Nikole Hannah-Jones, Renée Watson, and illustrated by Nikkolas Smith. (Image: One World and Kokila.)

(Image: One World and Kokila.)

Told in lyrical verse, Born on the Water follows a young Black student frustrated with her school assignment, as she’s unable to trace her family tree beyond three generations. Then, her family gathers and explains both the consequences of slavery and the history of Black resistance. In addition to Hannah-Jones, the book is created by bestselling children’s and YA author Renée Watson and Houston-based author and illustrator Nikkolas Smith.

Celebration by activists, writers, and educators

On theme with the exploration of Black resilience, many celebrated these books’ publication and continued mission of accessibility of this knowledge.

Hannah-Jones and some of the other writers and editors will be gathering for in-person and online events to discuss the books.

Award-winning author Jaqueline Woodson applauded the work of Hannah-Jones and her peers. Many of the images shared in celebration this week have been of people in bookstores and at home with one or both of the books.

Upcoming projects with ABC and HULU

In addition to teaching, writing, editing, mentoring, and reporting, Hannah-Jones has been traveling across the U.S. working on a six-part documentary for ABC and Hulu.

One person (of many, I’m sure) tried to gawk at her lack of bylines after the backlash of the project, when this whole time she and others have worked to get two books out (during a pandemic!) and organize the docu-series.

Like the original materials, podcast, children’s book, and additional resources, The 1619 Project continues to center accessibility. Much of the ideas and evidence of the project already existed in academic text and/or in records hidden away. While some can chip away at these volumes and have the patience to do so, the vast majority of people cannot, and that is why this project’s continued efforts are so valuable to be digestible in multiple formats.

If you have money, you can buy the books and/or donate them, but if you don’t, you can request it from your library or engage with the material in many formats. With each arm of this project, we will all have a better understanding of how the myth of white supremacy and the realities of our racial caste system affect our day-to-day lives.

Click here to donate a copy of A New Origin Story to We Need Diverse Books, here to purchase one, and here to buy Born on the Water.

(Image: One World and Kokila.)

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Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.

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