S.E. Williams | Contributor
“In August of 1619, a ship appeared on this horizon, near Point Comfort, a coastal port in the British colony of Virginia. It carried more than 20 enslaved Africans, who were sold to the colonists.”
This is the opening line to the history of Blacks in America largely told through the eyes of African American descendants four hundred years after the ship’s arrival.
On Sunday, August 18, 2019 New York Times Magazine published its “1619 Project” which tells in graphic detail how there is not a single aspect of what grew to become the United States of America that remained “untouched” by the years of slavery; or, its legacy that followed and carried through the years of reconstruction, lynching, civil rights and into the 21st century. This legacy haunts America—a nation that cannot heal—because it has refused to atone for its original sins.
The New York Times Magazine reported the purpose of its “1619 Project” was 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.”
The interactive project, a compilation and exposition of essays, poems, stories, photos, myths, assumptions and realities of the African American story was first conceived by one of the magazine’s staff writers, an African American Nikole Hannah-Jones who advocated for dedicating an entire issue of the magazine to help clarify this important aspect of the nation’s history.
As the publication launched the effort it sought input from experts who have studied the experiences of being Black in America their entire careers. Included among the 18 scholars consulted on the project were such luminaries as Kellie Jones, a Columbia University art historian and 2016 MacArthur Fellow; Annette Gordon-Reed, a professor of law and history at Harvard; and William Darity, a professor of public policy at the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University among others.
The project also includes contributions from Black luminaries like artist Adam Pendelton, photographers Djeneba Aduayom and Dannielle Bowman.
The group met, brainstormed and ultimately coalesced around a broad selection of topics they believed important to include in the initiative—those topics ranged from sugar to capitalism to cotton.
Nearly every project contributor at New York Times Magazine was Black according to reports, including writers, photographers and artists.
The idea that nearly every element of the report is pinned with a contemporary image serves to highlight a compelling aspect of the report—they serve as bridges from the past to the present and are prominent and pertinent reminders that although slavery was abolished more than 150 years ago—its legacy persists and continues to negatively impact the lives of Black Americans.
The “1619 Project” was a major undertaking and represents an expansive commitment by New York Times Magazine. Perhaps the project will find a place in history as a “movement toward redemption” for this publication that is frequently and justly criticized for its coverage of Black Americans both past and present.
The August 14 2019 edition of the New York Times Magazine featuring the “1619 Project” it is available online at https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/1619-america-slavery.html.
See a video introduction here https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1084&v=XrfV7w3EyGI.