The award winning Project 1619 is now coming out in book form
Thais Perkins is the owner of Reverie Books in Austin, Texas, and the father of a middle school student and a high school student. Among the books she longs to have in her store and in schools is an expanded edition of “Project 1619” coming out this week.
“My store is a bookstore geared towards social justice, and this book fits the job perfectly,” she says. “I’m promoting community sponsorship of the book, where people can buy a copy and donate it to a school.”
This is assuming, of course, that the school will be allowed to accept it.
“Project 1619,” which began two years ago as a special issue of The New York Times Magazine, has been at the center of an intense debate about racism, the country’s origins, and how it should be presented in the classroom.
The project has been hailed as a vibrant new voice that puts slavery at the center of American history and blacks at the center of the United States’ centuries-old quest to fulfill the promise — intended or otherwise — that “all men are created equal.” Project creator Nicole Hannah Jones received a Pulitzer Prize for comment.
At the same time, opposition came from historians such as Pulitzer Prize winner Gordon Wood, who denounced the project’s initial assertion that the protection of slavery was the primary cause of the American Revolution (the language has since been modified) and from Republican officials around the United States. country. Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas proposed a bill that would ban federal funding for teaching the project, and the Trump administration released a “1776 Commission” report that it described as a refutation of reckless “re-education” attempts to remake American history revolving around the idea that the United States is not a country. Exceptional, but an evil country.”
In 2021, Republican objections to the 1619 draft and to critical race theory led to widespread legislative action. According to Jonathan Friedman, director of freedom of expression and education at PEN America, dozens of bills have been proposed or enacted across the country that would require various restrictions on books seen as immoral or unpatriotic. Two bills passed in Texas specifically mentioning Draft 1619.
“When you look at the current movement around critical race theory, you can see some of its origins in the struggle for the 1619 project,” says Friedman.
Friedman says Texas laws are “vague” about how or whether a particular school such as those attended by Perkins children could receive a copy of the 1619 book. He cites a passage of his text that “may not require a teacher, administrator, or other employee of a government agency or school district Or a charter school that is open to enrollment…understand the 1619 project.” This provision “effectively prevents the teacher from teaching or allocating any materials from Project 1619,” he says, but not the school library from storing them—particularly if the book is donated.
“The team of academics is currently working on this internally, and we have not yet been able to speak on this issue,” a spokesperson for the Austin Independent Schools District said in a statement.
The 1619 book appears to be devoted to political controversy, but it is also a literary event. Contributors range from award-winning authors on poverty and racial justice such as Matthew Desmond, Brian Stevenson and Michelle Alexander, to Academy Award-winning director Barry Jenkins, to “Waiting to Exhale” novelist Terry MacMillan and author Jesmyn Ward, two-time winner of the National Book Award for Fiction. Along with articles on religion, music, politics, medicine, and other topics, the book includes poetry by Pulitzer Prize winners Tracy K. Smith, Joseph Komunika, Rita Dove, and Natasha Trithewi.
“It’s just an amazing part of this book,” Hannah Jones says of poems and prose narration. “Gives you such beautiful breaks between these articles.”
Project 1619 has already made it to the top 100 bestsellers lists on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com. Online seller Bookshop.org has partnered with publisher One World, an imprint of the Penguin Random House, for independent stores like Reverie Books to donate copies to local libraries, schools, book banks and other local organizations.
The Hannah Jones Roadshow is a mixture of libraries and performance venues, and at least one personal tour. It will appear at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Philadelphia Free Library. She will visit Waterloo West High School in her home state, Iowa, and partner with Loyalty Bookstore and Mahogany Books for an event at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington and attend the Chicago Humanities Festival.
She will also speak at the annual conference of the National Council of Teachers of English. Lynsey Purkins, who leads the board’s Build Your Stack initiative, which helps teachers build their own classroom libraries, says it’s been important to reflect a variety of experiences in classroom texts. Burkins, a third-grade teacher at Ohio State, says it’s easier to engage students in topics like history when they see themselves in the work they’re reading.
“The more books we have on our list, the more students will begin to learn about historical events in a way that is humane to them,” Burkins says.
Hannah Jones says access to the classroom wasn’t on her mind when she envisioned Project 1619, but schools have become important outlets. Through a partnership with the Pulitzer Center, which has collaborated with The Times before, the project has been adopted by dozens of schools and educational centers across the country, from the high school history college in Baltimore to elementary school teachers in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to the advocacy group Texas Trailblazers. for equality in education.
Hana has a second book released this week. Penguin Random House, Kokila’s imprint, publishes the comic “Born On the Water,” a collaboration between Hannah Jones, co-writer Renee Watson and illustrator Nicholas Smith, which Hannah Jones says was inspired to work after readers of The Times asked the magazine. Something geared towards younger readers.
It’s a history in miniature, with poetry and images, tracing centuries of black life from their prosperous communities in Africa to their forced crossing abroad and enslavement of their hard-earned freedom. Hannah Jones and Watson wrote that these “broken, beaten, and bruised” became “healers, priests, and activists,” “because the people fought/America began to live up to its promise of democracy.”
Jess Lifshitz, who teaches fifth-grade literacy in suburban Chicago, says that although she was familiar with “Project 1619,” she did not plan to integrate the work directly into her classroom due to the age of her students. That changed when she received a preview version of “Born on the Water.”
“It honors what children can grapple with and deal with, and I think many books written for children underestimate what they can do,” says Lifshitz. “With all the tension swirling around adults, it’s sometimes hard to remember what a beautiful picture book that tells an accurate story of history can do to the children sitting in the room.”
Annie Ma, who covers education and equity for the AP’s Race and Ethnicity team, contributed to this report. Follow her on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/anniema15
This story has been updated to correct the quote in the second paragraph to read “social justice oriented” rather than “social justice oriented,” and to add the word “up” in the quote “America is beginning to deliver on its promise of democracy.”
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