A Necessary Evil

The 1619 Project outlines the brutal history all Americans must one day face

Nikole Hannah-Jones
The New York Times Company (Editor)

The 1619 Project is an anthology of essays each arguing through a different aspect of American history and culture and retelling that story based on the racial inequities. Each essay is bookended by poems and stories from history relating to the issues. The book recontextualizes a lot of what American's of all races are taught to believe about our founding fathers and challenges the traditional origin story of American Exceptionalism.

The essays are well researched. At times the poetic writing of the journalists creates a jarring juxtaposition with the brutality and trauma that is depicted throughout the story. The beauty and the brutality reflect what is so often true of America. The great divide in our culture is nothing new. We have always been a country where there can be greatness, beauty and prosperity while also intentionally excluding many from those aspects of The Dream. The historical information and the primary sources are a heartbreaking truth that we all need to start accepting about our history and our country.

Even with the beautiful writing, make no mistake this was not an easy read. The history here is deep. At times I felt like I lacked the oxygen capacity to go as deep as they wanted me to dive. There were moments when I needed to step away for my own mental health. Often I was reminded of the many Holocaust memorials and museums in Germany. The brutality could be traumatic to reflect on, but that made it all the more necessary. America has refused to really accept and account for how we have repeatedly treated Black people not only for the enslaved, but even today in the inequities still shortening Black lives.

Each of the essays dives deep into a topic or culture and tracing the through-line of racial violence from enslavement through present day. From the brutality of the sugar cane plantations to the prevalence of majority Black communities as food deserts. From American's love of Black music and culture while also excluding them from fame. Ultimately, the book makes the case for reparations as the only way to start to close the racial gap in our society and finally empowering Black Americans to profit from the prosperity that our country built with their blood.

Overall, I liked this read. This was a hard one to rate because it was such a difficult read. It felt valuable but it was also difficult to motivate myself to read this one. The writing was more historical and therefore rather dry, but the information was rich and detailed. Like eating ones veggies, I found it valuable but not always pleasurable.


Social Justice