Are you looking for Nikole Hannah Jones’s quotes from The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story? What are some of the most noteworthy passages worth revisiting?
Nikole Hannah-Jones is an award-winning investigative journalist and staff writer for the New York Times who specializes in racial injustice. In The 1619 Project, she argues that American democracy and the prosperous nation we know today were largely built by enslaved Black Americans.
Below is a selection of The 1619 Project quotes with explanations.
The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story
The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story is an anthology of essays edited by Nikole Hannah-Jones and co-created with the New York Times that seeks to reframe American history with the institution of slavery at its core. The essays also explore how the institution of slavery has impacted our economy, laws, society, and the livelihoods of Black Americans.
The following Nikole Hannah Jones’s quotes highlight some of the key arguments explored in the book.
“For a nation steeped in this self-image, it is embarrassing, guilt-producing, and disillusioning to consider the role that race and slavery played in shaping the national narrative.”
Hannah-Jones argues that the survival and prosperity of American colonists were almost entirely due to the labor of enslaved Black Americans.
In 1619, the first boat of enslaved Africans arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, and they began clearing land and building homes for British colonists. They then taught colonists how to grow rice and protect themselves from diseases like smallpox, saving them from starvation and sickness.
Enslaved Africans also built the infrastructure of the early American economy—they cleared land, built plantations, picked cotton, and laid down the railroads that transported cotton to the North where it was made into textiles. Cotton was the nation’s most valuable export and the foundation of American wealth.
And their labor wasn’t the only contribution enslaved Africans made to the American economy—their bodies were also bartered, traded, and mortgaged to build the fortunes of wealthy white people in the North and South. This trading and mortgaging established Wall Street and made New York City the financial capital of the world.
Ultimately, without the forced labor of enslaved Black Americans, the first colonists may not have even survived, and the rapid growth and prosperity of the nation wouldn’t have been possible.
“… we have created a founding mythology that teaches us to think of the “free” and “abolitionist” North as the heart of the American Revolution.“
According to Nikole Hannah-Jones, the myth of the “free abolitionist North” leading the fight for American freedom is historically inaccurate—she says that the North was neither free (they also owned slaves and participated in the slave trade) nor abolitionist at this time. Further, the authors of America’s founding documents (like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution) were all slave owners and mostly Virginian Southerners like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.
“We cannot make up for all the lives lost and dreams snatched, for all the suffering endured. But we can atone for it. We can acknowledge the crime. And we can do something to try to set things right, to ease the hardship and hurt of so many of our fellow Americans.”
Hannah-Jones argues that although we cannot make up for the suffering inflicted on enslaved Black Americans, we can atone for it by providing their descendants with financial reparations to right the social and economic injustices they face because of slavery.
She explains that this compensation should be available for any American who (1) has identified as Black for more than 10 years before the reparation process begins and (2) can trace at least one ancestor back to American slavery. Black identification can be traced through historical censuses and responses to race-based questions on documents such as job and college applications.
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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Nikole Hannah-Jones's "The 1619 Project" at Shortform .
Here's what you'll find in our full The 1619 Project summary :
- A reframing of American history with the institution of slavery at its core
- How democracy as we know it today was largely built by enslaved Blacks
- The racist institutions that persist today that originated from slavery