The 1619 Project ~ by Nicole Hannah Jones

I got this book when I saw it available at the library because, I guess, I thought I “should” read it. I read quite a lot of minority literature. See Juneteenth by Annette Gordon Reed, Franchise by Marcia Chatelain and All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, by Tiya Miles or a few others in the past 3 months alone.  (The first was okay, the other 2 were brilliant.)

In a way it’s like going to church and the preacher wants to have those who are ready to give their souls to Jesus stand up – so everyone does. Huh? You did that several years ago – now it’s time to keep learning how to live. (But this is a “woke-“ing book – not a “still marching” book.)

And it’s a fine book – it’s my reaction which might have problems. The book itself consists of a pretty much chronological ordering of essays separated by some poetry or other short writings. A variety of authors contributed, all black, I believe, on a range of subjects dealing with black history and experience in the US. The title is the year the first Africans arrived in Virginia where they were pretty quickly turned into chattel.

The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story
edited by Nicole Hannah Jones

read by a cast – 16h 57m
2021 / 539 pages
read by a cast
Rating – 9 / US history
(read and listened)

The subtitle, “A New Origin Story” is that according to Jones, US history begins with the Africans arriving in Virginia. Is that not erasing the Natives and the Jamestown Colony with 12 years of funding and organizing and taking over from the natives there, and almost starving with Miles Standish, John Rolf, Pocahontas and the rest?

Fwiw, Women settlers arrived at Jamestown that same year and the Virginia colonists organized their “House of Burgesses” to act as their democratic government. – (Btw, I don’t know what “democratic” means at this point. It’s become one of those terms which is bandied about rather loosely.)

Or did the US actually originate with racism which apparently pervades the country today? The US started with the new black immigrants (Portuguese slaves)?

The essays she (“Created by”) is concerned with are Democracy, Race, Fear, Capitalism, Inheritance, Medicine (2 times), Church, Music, and Justice plus several other things.  They are separated by poetry and short fictions by contemporary black writers.  I think there may be a couple pieces by white authors/poets, but I don’t know which.  Some of them are just flat excellent and oh so worth the reading – these, for me, were the historical ones. I’m not big on poetry for conveying information but it can be perfect for converting emotion.

It’s very nicely written.  I was quite interested until I got to the Medicine chapter. At that point I kind of fell like, “Oh dear, that’s too bad.”  What can be done about it? I’m way past horrified and “woke.” Nothing much can be done at this point, except may reparations? Will that fix it? No, not really? Okay fine.

In The Desperate Hours by Marie Brenner, I read about New York Presbyterian during the Covid Pandemic and it seems that way more minorities died than anyone else. I felt so bad about that. And they were working there too as janitors and body movers and other employees. But I couldn’t do anything about that and I can’t do anything about what is mentioned in 1619 and all that is undoubtedly interrelated. So what is it I’m supposed to do?

I’m not sure where my personal guilt comes in but I’m told it does because my family, who lost a son in the Civil War on the side of the North and settled in Dakota Territory just as soon as they could, benefited in some way. They wore wool mostly, no cotton purchases, so I’m still wondering how they benefited from slavery. I guess black “enslaved people” built the capital building in Washington DC so that means I benefited which in turn makes me guilty for slavery.

Okay – I might as well accept that too – now what? Do I just wear my guilt like a badge? Do I concern myself more with that than with global warming?  More than about what’s happening today with our Democracy?  I can’t do that – care more about historical reality of slavery and racism than what’s going on today. Folks will always fear the “other.”

Also, what about the Native Americans who were here before the Jamestown Colony and Dakota Territory existed? I don’t want to think about that – about what blacks might “owe” the Natives for appropriating the land which is wherever blacks live and do business in this country. (Yes European-Americans are on most of it by a long shot.)

You’re bringing me a problem you say is my fault (my people’s fault) and telling me there’s nothing can be done to fix it.  Okay. I heard your story and I’ve even heard it before – several times.  

I’m considered elderly now (by the folks who run the medical sites I consult) so there’s not much I can do about anything. I see no point in accepting a guilt trip for a situation I didn’t create or consciously do anything to worsen. Some people call it “woke.” Imo, if a white person gets woke, he’ll likely feel “guilt” and if a black person is “woke” he’ll might be angry.

After that? After you got the woke and guilty-as-charged by the angry and those who hope to profit by it? (not to neglect Reparations which I totally support in some manner). What is it that I’m supposed to do now?

I guess I’ll read it again in case I missed something. I’ve got the Kindle version because I would like to see the source notes – if there are any. Also, I’d like to give individual credit to some of the authors for their work.

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