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Nikole Hannah-Jones Brings ‘The 1619 Project’ to the Small Screen, And Provides An Essential Update to American History Lessons

by Meera Becker

Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones originally wrote The 1619 Project for the New York Times and had it published back in 2019. Later it became a podcast, and a book, and in 2020, she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for the project.

Now the work has been turned into a docuseries, The 1619 Project, which launched on Hulu on January 26, 2023. The series “seeks to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of our national narrative,” according to the show’s description on Hulu. 

The 1619 Project brings a cinematic flair to this essential content. While the show might not feel as action-packed as the stuff you usually binge-watch on a Thursday night, it still manages to be both captivating and informative. The series sets out to reteach the important subject of America’s history, specifically how Black Americans so greatly impacted this country, with a main focus on the history of slavery and how its continuing legacy impacts America. As both the NYT pieces, podcast, and book, the series challenges the narrative of American history that most of us were taught in school—and this is crucial.

Early on in the first episode, Nikole explains why her father was so proud of his American flag despite how wrong this country has treated Black Americans throughout its history. He knew [their] contributions to building the richest and most powerful nation in the world were undeniable and that no people had a greater claim to the American flag than [they] do,” she said. That is the essential message behind The 1619 Project.

The show is successful both as a technical tool to reteach the history of the United States as well as in being a work of art that meshes beautifully with the narration by Hannah-Jones. This show could not only be effective as an aid in school history lessons but also as a way to deepen everyone’s understanding, or misunderstanding, of the significance Black Americans have had in American history. We strongly encourage everyone to read or watch The 1619 Project if you have not done so already, because even if you feel you already know this country’s history there is still a lot you can gain from this work. Hannah-Jones provides an essential perspective you can’t get anywhere else.

Photo by Patti Perret/Hulu

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