Nikole Hannah-Jones is using her platform to inform at a time when states are actively fighting to remove the retelling of history. The Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, who is currently the inaugural Knight Chair in Race and Journalism at the Howard University School of Communications, is bringing her findings to Hulu.
Hannah-Jones discusses how African Americans first arrived in the Americas, and how they are still fighting to be seen and become full citizens in a six-part series called “The 1619 Project.”
Slavery, America’s biggest sin, is a sore subject for many, mainly those who benefited from it. At times, the desire to alleviate white guilt trumps the desire to tell the truth about the formation of this democracy, and how Black Americans did not become legally free to enjoy the rights of this democracy until Generation X.
Hannah-Jones, who has been portrayed as anti-American and anti-white, took time out of her busy schedule to discuss the program and the current state of the American education system.
She began by sharing that she’s always been someone that has been interested in history.
“I have loved history for as long as I can remember,” Hannah-Jones shared. “I have always been interested in the past. I used to love even reading historical fiction. Additionally, I have always had a very inquisitive mind which at times got me in trouble at home. Questioning things such as confession, why can’t I talk to god directly?”
Mr. Dial, who taught her first Black Studies course, fueled her curiosity. This was her first experience seeing Black people at the center of a story, which fueled her desire to study history in college.
There is also a significant disparity in how history is taught in this country, particularly Black history, especially in many public schools. Unfortunately, most Black Americans do not have the opportunity to study Black literature or history until they reach college.
“Black people are mostly treated as an asterisk,” she informs. “We know that slavery occurred but we don’t learn about the individual lives of enslaved people, and freed Black people are just erased all together.
“I mention in the preface of the book that we are taught that Black people allowed themselves to be enslaved and wait for white people to free them. The next mention of Black people is 100 years later when Dr. King gives his “I Have A Dream Speech” and everything is OK. This is the history that most are being taught on the Black experience.”
This lack of education further isolates many Black Americans who already feel disconnected from their roots as a result of enslavement.
“This is extremely harmful to not only Black children but all children,” Hannah-Jones points out. “This imbalance makes non-Black children believe that Black people have not contributed to the shaping of America.”
There’s also the global perception of America. For many people around the world, the United States represents democracy and freedom. Because the Civil Rights Movement inspired other Black people to fight for their liberties, it is often surprising when Black immigrants migrate to the United States only to discover that Black Americans are not as has been advertised.
“We are all indoctrinated into the ideology of American exceptionalism,” Hannah-Jones said. “I was having a conversation the other day about Ron DeSantis targeting the Advanced Placement course and issuing all of these laws that are leading to the removal of books about Black people/history, and this person said ‘Why Black history in particular?’ I responded by stating that Black history in America is inherently political. Our very existence disputes the idea that America was founded on the practice of freedom.”
These are the critical debates that Hannah-Jones wants us to have, the inspiration for “The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story,” and the reason why the book is being banned on many levels.
The debate is exacerbated further because the media only highlights the outrage of white parents at board meetings while never featuring any Black parents or parents of color advocating for their children, particularly in places like Florida.
“We know they are protecting white children without saying white,” said Hannah-Jones. “We know that Black children are being stressed or feeling discomfort due to how this history is currently being taught. I am disappointed that the media hasn’t forced certain officials to be more forthcoming in what they are trying to do with all these laws.”
“The 1619 Project” doesn’t profess to have all the answers, but Hannah-Jones is asking that we the public start asking questions and demand for there to be more equity.
Black Americans have made gains, however those gains are being challenged. “The 1619 Project” isn’t the answer, but a catalyst forcing America to address the imbalance that is the American Dream.
The series can currently be streamed on Hulu, and the book is — maybe — available at a bookstore near you.
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