The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story
edited by Nicole Hannah-Jones
2021 / 539 pages
read by the authors: 16h 57m
Rating – 9 / US history
(I read and listened and I would love to do it again but I only reread parts.
I was not “happy” with this book. I got angry a few times – about different things. I thought it was going to be a history book, but it isn’t quite that. Hannah-Jones is not an historian and neither are most of the writers who contributed to this volume. There are some entries by actual historians though. (See Sugar by Khalil Gibran Muhammad or Citizenship by Martha S. Jones and there are works by Carol Anderson and Kevin M. Kruse and Ibram X. Kendi – all real historians.)
This is not to say the contributors aren’t all fully qualified to be included in their own capacity because as far as I can tell, they certainly are. And it’s a marvelous display of talent.
Hannah-Jones, herself, the “creator” of the tome, is an investigative reporter and she did an excellent job of organizing and editing and generally putting this volume together and getting it out there (thanks in large part to the New York Times).
There’s a lot of information in the book, and a lot of emotion, but the quality of each essay, fiction or poem depends on the author of it. Some works are a wonder, others are okay. I recognized a number of names (Nikky Finny, Ibram X. Kendi) but not many. I know that most of the contributors are black, but certainly not all.
What I didn’t like was the idea of a “new” history. This is not a “new” history it’s a broadened history, more inclusive and honoring people and elements we neglected and mistreated in many ways before. But if this is the “new history” of the United States or America (whichever you prefer) and it started in 1619, are the Natives no longer to be included as part of US history? Both the first permanent women and the first evidence of democratic institutions occurred in Virginia that same years and I learned that before high school. (Disclaimer – my dad was a history teacher). Yes, I’m amazed at what’s in this book, but I don’t think we need to push anyone out to make room for those who are also here.
Fwiw, I was a history major (1975) and continue to be a history buff almost 50 years later. This doesn’t make me an expert – just a very interested reader. Thank you.