Posted in Seeing Race and Racism

The Difficult Truth of 1619 — #1

A new blog category examining the difficult truth found in The 1619 Project.


As you may recall (if you follow my blog), HR and I have matching chairs in our study, which often find us reading away.

Robert and I are currently slowly reading through The 1619 Project. Do you know about it? What a brilliant and fascinating work, a collection of essays, imaginative literature, photographs and artwork produced by Nikole Hannah-Jones and The New York Times Magazine.

In late August, 1619, 20-30 enslaved Africans landed at Point Comfort, today’s Fort Monroe in Hampton, Va., aboard the English privateer ship White Lion. In Virginia, these Africans were traded in exchange for supplies. Several days later, a second ship (Treasurer) arrived in Virginia with additional enslaved Africans. Both groups had been captured by English privateers from the Spanish slave ship San Juan Bautista. They are the first recorded Africans to arrive in England’s mainland American colonies.

Why should we read and consider this work? Here are a few introductory excerpts …

As the Howard University historian Ana Lucia Araujo writes in Slavery in the Age of Memory, “despite its ambitions of objectivity,,” public history is molded by the perspectives of the most powerful members of society.

And in the United States, public history has often been “racialized, gendered and interwoven in the fabric of white supremacy.” Yet it is still posed as objective.

“History is the fruit of power,” writes Michel-Rolph Trouillot in Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History, and “the ultimate mark of power may be its invisibility; the ultimate challenge, the exposition of its roots.”

In exposing our nation’s troubled roots, The 1619 Project challenges us to think about a country whose exceptionalism we treat as the unquestioned truth. It asks us to consider who sets and shapes our shared national memory and what and who gets left out. As the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David W. Blight writes in Race and Reunion: The Civil Warbin American Memory, our nation’s “glorious remembrance is all but overwhelmed by an even more glorious forgetting.”

White Americans desire to be free of a past they do not want to remember, while black Americans remain bound to a past they can never forget.

As we approach July 4th celebrations, may we pause to consider the full and difficult history behind and far before the firework-y holiday.

My husband HR and the colors of our flag

5 thoughts on “The Difficult Truth of 1619 — #1

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