Greenfield Recorder, Oct. 5, 2022
By SUSAN TRIOLO
Have you ever encountered a book that you preferred to absorb a little at a time?
Or just read it cover to cover without stopping? The 1619 Project may be a good read for you.
The 1619 Project is a big deal for those who know what it is, or think they do — whether in a positive or negative regard.
The 1619 Project is a big deal because 1619 asks each of us to shift the paradigm we’ve grown up with; the foundational lessons we learned in elementary school: that Columbus discovered America in 1492; that the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620, and that’s when our history as a country began. In fact, Indigenous people were here long before Columbus.
1619 was a foundational year in the formation of our country, when the first slave ships landed carrying enslaved people, rather than in 1620 when the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts. The story of slavery and how enslaved people helped build this country began a whole year ahead of the Pilgrims.
1619 may be the most influential document written in 100 years. Edited essays, stories, poetry and fiction, taken together, weave the stories of Black people in America in a way that opens up understanding of how we got to where we are in this country in 2022.
The project was created by Pulitzer Prize winner Nikole Hannah- Jones, writer for the New York Times. 1619 is organized by topics such as race, sugar, inheritance, capitalism, traffic and more. Each topic has an opening essay, followed by a poem or short story or both. You don’t have to begin at the beginning. If you’re interested in starting with music as I was, unexpectedly, you’ll learn about the painful and curious history of “the blackface minstrel” and end with a factoid about the origin of hip-hop. The wage earning toil of Black musicians was usurped by whites who dressed up as blackface minstrels, so that, over time, actual Black performers had to pretend to be white performers, who were pretending to be Black. That’s true!
The psychological damages from those days of pretense carry through to today and conjure up historical terrors that white people could never imagine.
The opening chapter on democracy, written by 1619 creator Nikole Hannah-Jones, is mindblowing to the reader because of how it documents and elongates the story of the United States as a nation “founded on both an ideal and a lie.” We know our founding documents declare “all men are created equal.” That has long since been found to be untrue.
Yet, it remains an ideal. And as the book comes back to over and over — freedom is most precious to those who have never had it.
The Sunderland Human Rights Task Force will present a public program with a brief video screening and discussion on The1619 Project, on Monday, Oct. 10, from 6 to 8 p.m. The program is free and open to the public and will take place at the Sunderland Public Library. In-person participants are strongly encouraged to wear masks. To receive the Zoom link for online attendance: contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Susan Triolo lives in Sunderland