02 Dec / The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story created by Nikole Hannah-Jones [in Booklist]
In 2019, Pulitzer Prize–winning, MacArthur “Genius” Nikole Hannah-Jones “made a simple pitch” for a special issue of The New York Times Magazine to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the August 1619 arrival of the White Lion, the ship which carried the first captive Africans to the English colonies that became the United States of America. By 1776, the enslaved had already spent a century and a half building a nation that refused to even recognize their humanity.
Hannah-Jones’ lauded project grew into this spectacular volume, in which each nonfiction chapter is enhanced with a preceding relevant photograph (in print) and proceeding response in poetry and/or fiction. Although the photographs obviously don’t transfer here, the audio adaptation is a splendiferous, full-cast recording featuring some of the greatest names in both literature and narration. Many authors choose to be their own readers, including Hannah-Jones herself, Claudia Rankine, Tracy K. Smith, Rita Dove, Bryan Stevenson, Natasha Trethewey, Jason Reynolds and so many more; preeminent narrators include Bahni Turpin, Dominic Hoffman, JD Jackson, and Adenrele Ojo.
Each section easily stands alone – in fact, taking breaks for reflection is highly recommended for better absorption and retention. Bundle with magnificently performed A Little Devil in America by Hanif Abdurraqib and Four Hundred Souls edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain for a stupendous trifecta of antidotal history that should be readily available in all formats and at every library.
The subtitle may claim “A New Origin Story,” but readers will quickly realize this is the origin story crucial for a divided nation to trod a shared path toward equity and justice.