This past weekend, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones returned to Chicago to discuss her book “The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story.” The groundbreaking book offers a revealing vision of the American past and present. The Chicago Humanities Festival hosted the event in partnership with the DuSable Museum of African American History, American Writers Museum, & Semicolon Bookstore. Hannah-Jones was joined in the conversation with Joy Bivins, director of the Schaumburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and poet Avery R. Young. Hannah-Jones discussed the process of putting the book together and why the legacy and history that centers around slavery cannot be erased.
“The truth is not always pretty. People who are used to only seeing themselves in a heroic life don’t want to know the truth. Some people are uncomfortable when black people are the center of the narrative. They can’t handle that. I think we can look at what is happening in our society right now. We can look at the January 6th insurrection, Republicans who don’t believe in majority rule, the Kyle Rittenhouse acquittal, and the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. All of that is the legacy of 1619.
Eric Coleman, who attended the event, said every person of color should hear Hannah-Jones speak and read the 1619 Project book. “The event was very emotional and extremely honest. There were more non-black people in attendance, and for them to hear about our plight as African Americans from an amazing woman, such as Nikole Hannah-Jones, was eye-opening. I plan to attend another event in Los Angeles to hold on to this feeling,” says Coleman.
Coleman purchased several 1619 Project books and two children’s books, “The 1619 Project: Born on the Water,” for his two nieces as a Christmas gift. He said his nieces needed a copy of the book. “I want my nieces to learn about their history told by us through our publications in animation.” Jonathan T. Swain, President and Principal of Kimbark Beverage Shoppe and Eat Drink and Be Events, and Chef Cliff Rome hosted “Cocktails & Conversation with Nikole Hannah-Jones” at the Blanc Gallery. Swain, who loves history, said it’s important to examine all sides of history even if it’s difficult to discuss.
“Just because there might be things in history that we may dislike, it makes up the totality of who we are today. There are lessons to be learned from everybody’s history. The work that Nikole has done to highlight history from a different perspective is important to the entire American experience, and it should be celebrated,” says Swain.
For more information about the 1619 Project, go to https://1619books.com/.
Tammy Gibson is a black history traveler and author. Find her on social media @SankofaTravelHr