This month the New York Times Magazine has been releasing a
remarkable set of essays titled The
1619 Project. August marks 400 years
since the first ship bearing enslaved Africans docked in Virginia colony.
This is more than a recounting of history. The project, in its own words, “aims to
reframe 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.”
And so the first
essay states: “Our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were
written. Black Americans have fought to
make them true.”
essay argues that the cold calculations that define much of American
capitalism that place financial profits over human and environmental well-being
are a direct descendant of how plantations were managed.
essay traces the forces that have prevented the US from achieving universal
health care back to post Civil War arguments against blacks as recipients of
There are essays on music, the prison system, sugar, the
wealth gap. There are poems
and short stories– all making deep connections between the era of slavery
and the injustices that persist.
Ila likes for someone to stay with her as she falls asleep, which
can take a while. So I have read most of
these by the glow of my phone in her room.
A child’s soft breathing is a good soundtrack for these stories. These essays are deeply personal.
Even if you don’t have time to read any of it, do yourself a
favor and scroll down the home
page of the project to take in the imagery and get a sense of what is being
Unlearning can be just as important as learning. This project offers plenty of opportunity for