The 1619 Project 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 book asserts that American history began in 1619 with the arrival of the first ship of enslaved Africans, one year before the Mayflower arrived. It also argues that American democracy and the prosperous nation we know today were largely built by enslaved Black Americans but that this demographic is almost entirely excluded from America’s...
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Hannah-Jones argues that American history began in 1619 with the arrival of the first ship of enslaved Africans and that the popular story of America’s founding is a mythology of half-truths and inaccurate information. This section will discuss the central myths of America’s founding story and provide a more complete perspective based on historical events.
Hannah-Jones argues that the reality of this myth is 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.
(Shortform note: Experts credit an enslaved man named Onesimus with teaching European physicians in Boston how to inoculate themselves against smallpox. His method, which was an early form of...
The authors argue that the institution of slavery can be directly linked to modern injustices in America’s taxation system, legal and justice systems, and healthcare systems. This section will explore how the history of slavery and segregation in America has shaped modern systematic injustices.
(Shortform note: The citations in this section, “The Impact of Slavery on Modern America,” will switch from “Hannah-Jones” to “the authors.” This is because the material in these sections comes from chapters 2-18 of The 1619 Project, each of which was written by a different author.)
The authors explain that regressive taxation in America allows large wealthy corporations like Amazon and Netflix to avoid paying taxes and results in economic inequality and poor social initiatives like a lack of funding for public schools and healthcare. This taxation became prominent in the late 18th century because of Southern efforts to preserve slavery.
Is American Taxation Regressive or Progressive?
The 1619 Project claims that American taxation is regressive, meaning that low-income earners pay more of their income on taxes than high-income...
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Hannah-Jones states that most of the injustices Black Americans face are either caused or perpetuated by economic inequality. She argues that to eliminate this economic inequality and the injustices that follow, the government must provide Black Americans with financial aid and enhance funding for low-income and majority-Black communities.
She elaborates that Black Americans generationally lack wealth, and wealth is the factor that grants opportunities and safety in America. Wealth ensures a safe house in a good neighborhood, access to good schools, higher education, medical facilities and adequate treatment, diverse job opportunities, and more. (Hannah-Jones defines wealth more specifically than the typical definition, explaining that it not only means having assets, like money and possessions, but also investments and a lack of major debts.)
(Shortform note: Experts second this claim, citing that the higher a family's income is, the less at risk they are for diseases or illnesses like heart disease, emphysema, vision and hearing trouble,...
In order to move toward a more just future, it’s important to understand how the institution of slavery has impacted modern America and how we can address these injustices.
Of the three major impacts of slavery (regressive taxation, biased legal system, and poor well-being of Black Americans) which did you find most surprising and why?
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