1619 Project illuminates, fascinates

The New York Times unveiled the 1619 Project last month.
Photo courtesy The New York Times

As a part of general education at Florida A&M University, all students are required to take a course on African American history, where the topic of slavery is inevitably included in the curriculum.

This year, 2019, marks the 400year anniversary of the first slave ship from West Africa reaching what would become, Virginia, United States of America. Just in time for the fall 2019 semester, The New York Times produced a multi-media package called the 1619 Project.

Originally intended to be a single issue commemorating the beginning of slavery, the project grew in depth and more historically imperative than creator Nikole Hannah-Jones originally perceived.

“It aims to re-frame the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are,” are the first words featured on The New York Times Magazine’s website.

The site showcases essays from the various contributors to the project that highlight the construction of capitalism, execution of the color-based hierarchy, and the justification of racism based on the race’s physicality.

It features the contributions of black Americans and explains how basic, everyday things are rooted in racism, like health care, the prison system, and the “ownership” of sports teams.

“For centuries, black music has been the sound of artistic freedom. No wonder everybody’s always stealing it,” says writer and contributor Wesley Morris.

The foundation of America and the lies at the root of its democracy are what make this project so necessary. The history that is taught in school is so white-washed and mainstream, it almost makes it hard to believe that anything that says otherwise is blatantly wrong, even with the proof to support its claims.

“We are committing educational malpractice: Why slavery is mis-taught, and worse, in American schools,” writes contributor Nikita Stewart.

Despite being 150 years post the abolition of slavery, black Americans are still institutionally and disproportionately disadvantaged, and it is all outlined in this project.

This highly commendable project leaves no excuses for ignorance or blindness to true history. Like the saying goes, “If you don’t want a black person to know something, put it in a book.”