The year is currently 2019. This marks the 400th anniversary of the arrival of enslaved peoples to American soil. The virginal wharfs America’s first slaves arrived on were likely shallow and crude. The ships were packed, grueling and nightmarish. America’s fledgling colony began here, in Virginia on the backs of slave-trading and cotton. The ironic state motto, entombed 150 years later in 1776 by George Mason at the Virginia Convention became (and still unchanged), Sic Semper Tyrannis, roughly meaning, death to tyrants or down to tyrants.
400 years later, and Black Americans are still battling for the equality they deserve. The phenomenon of equality and protected freedoms may have been only ink on paper in 1776. But, Black Americans have fought to make it a reality. We owe Black America gratitude and thanks, and instead they are met with slavery, brutality, whitewashed history and often, violence.
The introductory essay details an excellent cross-section of the four centuries of inequality, written by the project’s lead, Nikole Hannah-Jones:
This ideology — that black people belonged to an inferior, subhuman race — did not simply disappear once slavery ended. If the formerly enslaved and their descendants became educated, if we thrived in the jobs white people did, if we excelled in the sciences and arts, then the entire justification for how this nation allowed slavery would collapse. Free black people posed a danger to the country’s idea of itself as exceptional; we held up the mirror in which the nation preferred not to peer. And so the inhumanity visited on black people by every generation of white America justified the inhumanity of the past.
More context from the removed Twitter Thread authored by Jones, captured via Thread Reader:
The 1619 Project has a single focus. A mission to arm all Americans with the truth. Reframe America’s textbook-whitewashed history with the truth and honesty they deserve. Add context and proper attribution to the Black Americans who have previously been left out of America’s founding narrative.
The #1619Project published online today and it is my profound hope that we will reframe for our readers the way we understand our nation, the legacy of slavery, and most importantly, the unparalleled role black people have played in this democracy.
The conceit of the magazine is that nothing about modern American life has been left untouched by the colonists’ decision to purchase that first group of enslaved Africans, that the year 1619 is as important to the American story as the year 1776.
The #1619Project is at one one of the most profoundly beautiful things I have ever seen, & also one of the most devastating. The arguments, meticulously researched, powerfully argued, make what to me is an irrefutable case that it’s time to rewrite our narrative & tell the truth.
The contributors page tells a powerful story. Black writers, black poets, black photographers, original works from black artists. We are the descendants who are here to set the record straight.Nikole Hannah Jones, Aug 14th 2019
The 1619 Project is led by Nikole Hannah-Jones, a seasoned reporter at The New York Times. Over the coming weeks and months, The Times will be adding more stories, essays, poems and works to continue the discourse.