The 1619 Project: Book summary and reviews of The 1619 Project by Nikole Hannah-Jones

The 1619 Project

A New Origin Story

by Nikole Hannah-Jones

The 1619 Project by Nikole Hannah-Jones X
The 1619 Project by Nikole Hannah-Jones
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Book Summary

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.

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 new 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 is a 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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"In this substantial expansion of the New York Times Magazine's 2019 special issue commemorating the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in America, 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... a bracing and vital reconsideration of American history." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Those readers open to fresh and startling interpretations of history will find this book a comprehensive education. A much-needed book that stakes a solid place in a battlefield of ideas over America's past and present." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Readers will discover something new and redefining on every page as long-concealed incidents and individuals, causes and effects are brought to light by Hannah-Jones and seventeen other vital thinkers and clarion writers...The revelations are horrific and empowering...This visionary, meticulously produced, profound, and bedrock-shifting testament belongs in every library and on every reading list...[An] invaluable and galvanizing history...revelatory." - Booklist (starred review)

"Powerful...This work asks readers to deeply consider who is allowed to shape the collective memory. Like the magazine version of the 1619 Project, this invaluable book sets itself apart by reframing readers' understanding of U.S. history, past and present." - Library Journal (starred review)

"[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, Best Books of Fall 2021

This information about The 1619 Project was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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Arthur M.

Compelling, eye-opening review of scholarship
Though each chapter is followed by literary reflections and a photo introduces each chapter, it is the documented scholarship marshaled to make each of the cases that stands strongest in the book‘s impact. Remarkable research has yielded new insights into the short life expectancy of enslaved and post-enslaved sugar cane workers in Louisiana. Genetic records show that enslaved women’s DNA is found much more broadly than for enslaved men. This reflects enslavers’ use of these women whose children were ruled slaves as well to expand their chattel wealth. Discussed too is the fear among whites of enslaved groups rebelling, from colonial days through the second amendment to the Constitution, that addendum at odds with the preamble’s call for “domestic tranquility.” In the present the lawlessness among the formerly enslaved in 2020-21 threatens a new backlash in federal elections in 2022 and 2024. The chapter on progress, really the lack of it, contradicts Obama’s message of hope. If reflected in the recent unrest, its impact will be disturbing. The brilliant work is long on diagnosis, while offering little constructive direction forward. But truth telling is the purpose of this book. It seems leave it to the rest of us to find solutions to problems and a path forward—community by community as well as within the nation. But leadership like Obama’s or Dr. King’s is needed to win both former enslaved and enslaver descendant minds to make effective change. Why no chapter by Obama? Not a scholar, though an author much respected, too.

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Author Information

Nikole Hannah-Jones

Nikole Hannah-Jones is a Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter covering racial injustice for the New York Times Magazine, and creator of the landmark 1619 Project. In 2017, she received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, known as the Genius Grant, for her work on educational inequality. She has also won a Peabody Award, two George Polk Awards, three National Magazine Awards, and the 2018 John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism from Columbia University. In 2016, Hannah-Jones co-founded the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting, a training and mentorship organization geared toward increasing the number of investigative reporters of color.

The 1619 Project is an ongoing initiative from the New York Times Magazine that began in August 2019, the four hundredth anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It is led by Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, along with New York Times Magazine editor-in-chief Jake Silverstein, Ilena Silverman, and Caitlin Roper.

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