2019 will long be remembered by many of us, not only for the great voices that we’ve lost just this month, but also because it is a year of significant historical anniversaries and commemorations.
Two that immediately come to mind are: 1619 and 1919
Let’s begin with 1619 since it marks the beginning of African Americans’ fraught relationship with the colonies that would become the United States of America; a nation based and built on the slaughter and displacement of indigenous populations and the exploited and dehumanized labor of Africans and their descendants. (An excellent text that makes this important connection is The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism (2016) by Edward Baptiste)
August 20, 1619 marks the date 400 years ago when the first 20 to 30 enslaved Africans from Angola arrived on the shores of Point Comfort, Virginia.
The New York Times 1619 Project, first published in the August 12th issue of The New York Time Magazine, sheds light on the legacy of that historic moment in history.
The Project, conceived by Nikole Hannah-Jones, a writer at The Times, aims to challenge the notion that American history began in 1776. Not only is it the focus of several issues of the magazine, but it is accompanied by related materials in multiple other publications of the Times as well as a project curriculum developed in collaboration with the Pulitzer Center, for use in schools.
The Project is legit, having employed a panel of historians and, with support from the Smithsonian Institute, undergone, no-doubt, rigorous fact-checking, research, and development.
A major cool aspect of the 1619 Project is that it highlights the perspectives and voices of African American scholars and artists with almost all of the contributions coming from African-Americans.
As you can imagine, the project has garnered A LOT of attention, both positive and negative.
If you’d like to learn more about the project, here are some resources:
I just learned that there is a podcast dedicated to the project as well. As a lover of podcast accompaniment during my nature walks, I am super excited!!!
Red Summer of 1919
This summer also marked the 100th year anniversary of the Red Summer of 1919, by the end of which there were at least 25 documented anti-black riots across the United States, including in East St. Louis and Chicago, Illinois; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Washington, D.C.; Omaha, Nebraska; Charleston, South Carolina; and Elaine, Arkansas.
There were several reasons and sparks for the Red Summer; all rooted in a belief in white supremacy. Following the bloody Summer of white rage, in the Fall of 1919, Dr. George Edmund Haynes completed a report on the causes and scope of Red Summer, arguing that “the persistence of unpunished lynching” contributed to the mob mentality among white men and fueled a new commitment to self-defense among black men who had been emboldened by war service. “In such a state of public mind,” Dr. Haynes wrote, “a trivial incident can precipitate a riot.”
Fear/Hatred + Impunity = Anti [fill in the group] Violence.
Read more about Red Summer, beginning with this excellent article about the genius writer and NAACP field secretary James Weldon Johnson‘s role in publicizing and naming it:
Here’s some information about commemorative efforts: