Finding evidence of slavery’s impact on modern America isn’t difficult. What’s challenging, said journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, is centering that evidence within the national memory.
“Most of us aren’t taught that history,” she said, “so we don’t know it exists.”
Teaching that history was the goal of The 1619 Project, a recent special issue of The New York Times Magazine, named for the year when a slave ship first arrived on Virginia’s shores. Speaking Oct. 7 at the University of Chicago before a room packed with students, scholars and community members, Hannah-Jones discussed why she pitched the project to her editors, and how it originated from her own readings as a high schooler.
“The conceit of the magazine is that you can look across almost every aspect of American life, whether you think it has to do with slavery or not—and through very rigorous scholarship, we were going to show you that it does,” said Hannah-Jones during the event, hosted by UChicago’s Institute of Politics.
The result was an issue that featured contributions from both journalists and scholars—one that touched on everything from health care to music to a traffic jam in Atlanta. It included a selection of literary work, including a poem by Asst. Prof. Eve L. Ewing of UChicago’s School of Social Service Administration. Most of the issue’s contributors were black—a conscious decision, Hannah-Jones said, to highlight that such a group could produce the “highest-quality journalism in the most important publication.”