DES MOINES, IOWA — ‘The 1619 Project’ is an ambitious and, for some, controversial new educational tool created by a native Iowan that is being challenged at the Iowa statehouse.
The project retells American history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the center of the national narrative. The date 1619 refers to the year the first Africans were sold into slavery in the British colony of Virginia, one year before the Mayflower landed.
It was created by a native-Iowan, Nikole Hannah-Jones. She says she was first introduced to the importance of 1619 in a course at Waterloo West High School.
“I was really shocked I had never been taught that date I didn’t know that people of African descent had been here for that long,” Hannah-Jones told WHO 13, “That’s of course the year before the Mayflower, but every American child was taught about the Mayflower and yet none of us had really been taught about the year 1619, and the white lion.”
The 1619 Project has been described by critics as “revisionist.” Hannah-Jones agrees, and says that is the point of ALL history. “People who call it revisionist history I think fail to understand how the field of historiography works,” Hannah-Jones says, “If history wasn’t being revised there would be no need for historians because everything that we needed to know would have already been written.”
Iowa lawmakers are considering a bill that would cut funding for schools that choose to use The 1619 Project’ in classrooms. Hannah-Jones says those opposed to the project should educate themselves better on its purpose.
“The first thing that goes through my mind is, I think it’s hard to believe that the person who wrote that law’s actually read or engage with The 1619 Project”, Hannah-Jones says, “my opening essay is on Democracy and it starts with my father flying an American flag in our front yard in Waterloo, Iowa – a veteran who served his country, and how black people have fought generation after generation to make the majestic ideals of our founding true for all Americans.”