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The 1619 Project: New York Times Magazine, August 18, 2019.

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Special issue of New York times magazine; title from cover.

It is not a year that most Americans know as a notable date in our country's history. Those who do are at most a tiny fraction of those who can tell you that 1776 is the year of our nation's birth. What if, however, we were to tell you that this fact, which is taught in our schools and unanimously celebrated every Fourth of July, is wrong, and that the country's true birth date, the moment that its defining contradictions first came into the world, was in late August of 1619? Though the exact date has been lost to history (it has come to be observed on Aug. 20), that was when a ship arrived at Point Comfort in the British colony of Virginia, bearing a cargo of 20 to 30 enslaved Africans. Their arrival inaugurated a barbaric system of chattel slavery that would last for the next 250 years. This is sometimes referred to as the country's original sin, but it is more than that: It is the country's very origin. Out of slavery -- and the anti-black racism it required -- grew nearly everything that has truly made America exceptional: its economic might, its industrial power, its electoral system, diet and popular music, the inequities of its public health and education, its astonishing penchant for violence, its income inequality, the example it sets for the world as a land of freedom and equality, its slang, its legal system and the endemic racial fears and hatreds that continue to plague it to this day. The seeds of all that were planted long before our official birth date, in 1776, when the men known as our founders formally declared independence from Britain. The goal of The 1619 Project, a major initiative from The New York Times that this issue of the magazine inaugurates, is to reframe American history by considering what it would mean to regard 1619 as our nation's birth year. Doing so requires us to place the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are as a country. Perhaps you need some persuading. The issue contains essays on different aspects of contemporary American life, from mass incarceration to rush-hour traffic, that have their roots in slavery and its aftermath. Each essay takes up a modern phenomenon, familiar to all, and reveals its history. The first, by the staff writer Nikole HannahJones (from whose mind this project sprang), provides the intellectual framework for the project and can be read as an introduction. Alongside the essays, you will find 17 literary works that bring to life key moments in African-American history. These works are all original compositions by contemporary black writers who were asked to choose events on a timeline of the past 400 years. The poetry and fiction they created is arranged chronologically throughout the issue, and each work is introduced by the history to which the author is responding. A word of warning: There is gruesome material in these pages, material that readers will find disturbing. That is, unfortunately, as it must be. American history cannot be told truthfully without a clear vision of how inhuman and immoral the treatment of black Americans has been. By acknowledging this shameful history, by trying hard to understand its powerful influence on the present, perhaps we can prepare ourselves for a more just future. That is the hope of this project.

Editor's note and introduction / ‡r Jake Silverstein -- ‡t The idea of America / ‡r Nikole Hannah-Jones -- ‡t Chained migration: how slavery made its way west / ‡r Tiya Miles -- ‡t Middle Passage / ‡r Clint Smith -- ‡t Crispus Attucks / ‡r Yusef Komunyakaa -- ‡t Capitalism / ‡r Matthew Desmond -- ‡t Mortgaging the future: the North-South rift led to a piecemeal system of bank regulation - with dangerous consequences / ‡r Mehrsa Baradaran -- ‡t Good as gold: in Lincoln's wartime "greenbacks," a preview of the 20th century rise of fiat currency / ‡r Mehrsa Baradaran -- ‡t Fabric of modernity: how Southern cotton became the cornerstone of a new global commodities trade / ‡r Mehrsan Baradaran -- ‡t Municipal bonds: how slavery built Wall Street / ‡r Tiya Miles -- ‡t Phillis Wheatley / ‡r Eve L. Ewing -- ‡t Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 / ‡r Reginald Dwayne Betts -- ‡t A broken health care system / ‡r Jeneen Interlandi -- ‡t Gabriel's Rebellion / ‡r Barry Jenkins -- ‡t Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves / ‡r Jesmyn Ward -- ‡t Traffic / ‡r Kevin M. Kruse -- ‡t Undemocratic democracy / ‡r Jamelle Bouie -- ‡t Medical inequality / ‡r Linda Villarosa -- ‡t Black Seminoles / ‡r Tyehimba Jess -- ‡t Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 / ‡r Darryl Pinckney -- ‡t New Orleans massacre of 1866 / ‡r ZZ Packer -- ‡t American popular music / ‡r Wesley Morris -- ‡t Tuskegee syphilis experiment / ‡r Yaa Gyasi -- ‡t Sgt. Isaac Woodard / ‡r Jacqueline Woodson -- ‡t Sugar / ‡r Khalil Gibran Muhammad -- ‡t Pecan pioneer: the enslaved man who cultivated the South's favorite nut / ‡r Tiya Miles -- ‡t 16th Street Baptist Church bombing / ‡r Rita Dove and Camille T. Dungy -- ‡t Black Panther Party / ‡r Joshua Bennett -- ‡t Mass incarceration / ‡r Bryan Stevenson-- ‡t The wealth gap / ‡r Trymaine Lee -- ‡t The birth of hip-hop / ‡r Lynn Nottage -- ‡t Rev. Jesse Jackson's "rainbow coalition" speech / ‡r Kiese Laymon -- ‡t Superdome after Hurricane Katrina / ‡r Clint Smith -- ‡t Hope : a photo essay / ‡r Djeneba Aduayom -- ‡t Shadow of the past / ‡r Anne C. Bailey -- ‡t Why can't we teach this / ‡r Nikita Stewart -- ‡t No. 1. Slavery, power and the human cost, 1455-1775 -- ‡t No. 2. The limits of freedom, 1776-1808 -- ‡t No. 3. A slave nation fights for freedom, 1809-1865.

This special issue of The New York Times Magazine challenges us to reframe U.S. history by marking the year when the first enslaved Africans arrived on Virginia soil as our nation's foundational date, focusing the narrative of U.S. history on the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans. The issue contains essays on different aspects of contemporary American life, from mass incarceration to rush-hour traffic, that have their roots in slavery and its aftermath. The project was created by New York Times staff writer Nikole Hannah-Jones.


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