04 Jul / The 1619 Project: Born on the Water by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renée Watson [in School Library Journal]
Nikole Hannah-Jones’s seminal The 1619 Project becomes a 24-minute lyrical gift for youngest readers, rendered with Newbery Honoree Renée Watson. Hannah-Jones voices the affecting verses: gentle through the horror, solemn to encourage empowerment, inviting to share the joy.
A Black girl’s school assignment to “trace your roots” leaves her “ashamed” because she “can only count back three generations.” Grandma is her powerful antidote: “Let me tell you where we’re from.” Grandma reveals a story of “a home, a place, a land, a beginning” in the Kingdom of Ndongo where ancestors lived free … until the White Lion arrived in 1619 to steal the people to be whipped, chained, sold, enslaved in the New World.
As Hannah-Jones and Watson remind in their authors’ note, “Black Americans have their own proud origin story.”
Verdict: A must-have for every library: pair with the Nikkolas Smith–illustrated printed book for a phenomenal, immersive experience.
From the introduction: All the titles here are nonfiction; most feature difficult subjects including history, climate change, systemic racism. Some might ask, why expose younger readers to challenging, unpleasant, haunting truths? One of the featured writers, Hilary Beard, provides the consummate answer back in her introduction to The Burning:
“…the fact that something is upsetting to us doesn’t mean that we should not engage it. Facing the truth empowers us to understand our self, our neighbors, and our world more accurately; to make appropriate choices and decisions; to heal the past and present and build a more promising future. Together.”