Directions: Read the news summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions. Follow along with the transcript here. You may want to check out The New York Times interactive site of The 1619 Project and the full issue here.
News summary: Last August marked four-hundred years since the first enslaved people from Africa arrived in the British colony of Virginia. To observe the anniversary of American slavery, The New York Times Magazine launched The 1619 Project to reframe America’s history through the lens of slavery and contributions of black Americans. On Monday, project lead and reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for her commentary on The 1619 project.
In her interview with the NewsHour last August, Hannah-Jones addressed how various aspects of U.S. history have been erased as a result of their connection with the institution of slavery–even the origins of the name Wall Street.
“So Wall Street is called Wall Street because it was on that wall that enslaved people were bought and sold. That’s been completely erased from our national memory and completely erased from the way that we think about the North. At the time of the Civil War, New York City’s mayor actually threatened to secede from the union with the South because so much money was being made off of slave-produced cotton that was being exported out of New York City.
On the same day Hannah-Jones won her Pulitzer, another journalist, Ida B. Wells (1862-1931), was awarded a Pulitzer Prize posthumously for ‘Outstanding and Courageous Reporting.’ Wells was an anti-lynching crusader, journalist, teacher, suffragist and civil rights activist. She was also a founding member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Wells’ great-granddaughter Michelle Duster released a statement in response to the Pulitzer announcement:
“Ida used journalism as a tool to fight for justice. She faced great danger and endured harsh criticism. Her printing press was destroyed. Her life was threatened. But she truly believed that by collecting names, dates and circumstances around the lynchings that she could transform attitudes and impact policy and laws.”
Essential question: What are the ramifications to a society in which key elements of its history are erased?
Why did The 1619 project include essays on modern day topics like health care, geography, health and music and how they relate to slavery?
Why is slavery known as America’s original sin?
Why does Hannah-Jones say The 1619 Project is a story of “black ascension” in reference to her grandmother who was a sharecropper?
What do you know about Ida B. Wells? (start with this page from the Library of Congress and this video from PBS)
What criticisms have been raised about The 1619 Project? (i.e. one critique involves not focusing more on recent history of discrimination over the past 40 years) Conduct some internet research using sources your teacher and class have used or recommend. Do you see the critiques as valid? Why or why not?
Read this Twitter thread by Hannah-Jones about how she felt being awarded the Pulitzer on the same day as Ida B. Wells. Why do you think she feels such a connection to Wells? Do you have someone in your life that fought injustice and who has inspired you?
Everything I try to type out feels inadequate. I WOULD NOT BE without her. She never got the recognition she deserved when she was living, sometimes even from her own people. Black women who dared challenge the white narrative were mercilessly castigated.