‘The 1619 Project’ Creator Discusses Importance of Uncomfortable Conversation

Hannah-Jones at the University of Lynchburg. Photo by John McCormick

Alyssa Wilson ~ Assistant News Editor

Author of The 1619 Project, Nikole Hannah-Jones visited the University of Lynchburg as the Rosel Schewel Lecture award winner nearly a year ago, and while much has changed since her visit many things are still the same. 

Hannah-Jones’ 1619 Project, has upended conversations on race and racism nationally. It was recently developed into a docuseries put out by Hulu refreshing many minds on the importance of the project which was originally developed as a New York Times Magazine, then a book, and  a podcast. 

Topics like those broached in the docuseries are still relevant today, while some people have proven to be sensitive to those topics others welcome them with open arms – unafraid of uncomfortable conversations. 

Hannah-Jones’ project begs the question of how educators can create an environment within their classrooms that cultivates open and honest discussions around topics like racism and how it touches so many parts of American life. 

The importance of teaching multiculturalism and being real with students is Hannah-Jones’ answer to this question. 

“So it’s the obligation of professors, to teach them about the world that they will actually go in, because you can’t help what community you were born into, you can’t help if you went to schools that weren’t diverse, or you live in a community that’s not diverse,” said Hannah-Jones. 

The University of Lynchburg is a predominantly white institution, attended by students who, for the majority, have grown up in predominantly white areas and attended mostly white K-12 schools. 

“The role of college to me is to expand our worldview to expose us to things that we would not otherwise be exposed to. And a big part of that is teaching a canon that is not reflective of power, but is reflective of the world,” she continues. 

While The 1619 Project has been at the center of conversations around the teaching of Black history in schools, Hannah-Jones noted that there may be additional topics that also deserve to be taught as well including the importance of women, indigenous peoples and Latino Americans in shaping the national landscape.. 

Racism and the legacy of slavery in America  continues to permeate every facet of the country’s daily life and Hannah-Jones’ hope for the future is that it will help the country to honestly grapple with the toll that history has taken. 

“My ultimate hope for the legacy of The 1619 Project is that we move our country towards a place where we can atone for the grave sin of slavery and the 100 years of racial apartheid that followed, that that atonement will come with reparations to the descendants of American slavery, and that we will try to repair actually begin to become the country of our highest ideals,” said Hannah-Jones. 

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