Nikole Hannah-Jones Felt ‘Tremendous Burden’ to Get 1619 Project Right

In Summary

Hannah-Jones, who won a Pulitzer for the 1619 Project, said that Black people’s support of the work gives her a “great sense of pride.”  

Nikole Hannah-Jones’s book, based on her award-winning New York Times Magazine 1619 project, was released on Tuesday by Random House Publishing Group. 

The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story featured 18 essays and 36 poems and pieces of fiction that touch on slavery in the U.S. and its impact on modern American life, including the racial and economic inequality Black people face, according to NBC News.   

“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; those words are powerful,” Hannah-Jones told MSNBC’s Into America podcast host Trymaine Lee. “We just have never lived up to them for a single day. So, if you believe in that kind of vaunted 1776 origin story, that’s the comforting origin story. The 1619 Project, I would argue, is more truthful but not comforting. It’s not comforting at all.”    

Released in 2019, the 1619 Project teaches the country wasn’t founded in 1776, which many people are taught as kids, but when Africans were brought to the U.S, enslaved and exploited to build the country and its economy.    

“I also felt a tremendous burden to get it right, to do justice to that suffering, to do justice to our ancestors,” Hannah-Jones said on the podcast.   

RELATED: Nikole Hannah-Jones Heading to Howard University After Declining UNC Tenure  

She and the project received major scrutiny from the right, including from former President Donald Trump, who claimed schools were teaching students “hateful lies about this country.”   

Trump even signed an executive order seemingly in response to the 1619 Project, called the 1776 Commission, aimed at making kids more patriotic. The commission has been criticized for focusing on the work of mostly white, male historical figures, such as Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, according to the Washington Post.  

Parts of the report appear to be copied from a 2008 opinion piece by one of the commission’s members, Politico reported.  

“And then facing, you know, constant attacks, not just on the work, but on my credibility as a journalist, I became a symbol; and I think we would not be being honest if we didn’t say me being a Black woman in particular, a Black woman who looks and presents the way that I do, that I didn’t get a certain, extremely vicious type of pushback,” Hannah-Jones said.   

Hannah-Jones, who won a Pulitzer for the 1619 Project, said that Black people’s support of the work gives her a “great sense of pride.”   

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