In 1619, the first enslaved people arrived in what is now the United States of America. The significance of that date in U.S. history has not traditionally been addressed in American classrooms. Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones has made it her mission to change that through The 1619 Project. 

The New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project is the brainchild of Hannah-Jones and “aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.” 

The magazine offers a collection of essays (downloadable here as a PDF) on a range of relevant topics framed by that aim. Teachers and students may be interested, for example, in an essay about how slavery is taught in American schools, which pairs well with Listenwise’s audio story about American students’ understanding of slavery. Also from the NYT, “What You Should Know About the Year 1619” provides a collection of important facts about slavery that will likely be unfamiliar to most students.  

Listenwise recently featured an audio story about the 1619 Project, which includes an interview with Hannah-Jones by Joshua Johnson of WAMU’s 1A. A recent Listenwise debate story about whether Congress should consider reparations for slavery, another story about the 2019 Harriet Tubman film, and another story about a reenactment of a slave revolt are also highly relevant to the issues raised by the project. 

The multi-episode NYT 1619 podcast hosted by Nikole Hannah-Jones offers an in-depth look at the legacy of slavery in America and how it impacts American society today. Episodes focus on the significance of the year 1619 in American history and the impact of slavery on American institutions such as popular music, health care, and banking. This compelling, enlightening, innovative series was named best podcast of 2019 by Time magazine.    

The 1619 Project Curriculum from the Pulitzer Center offers a wide selection of instructional materials to accompany the 1619 Project resources, including a glossary, reading guides for each essay, and lesson plans focused on 1619 Project themes and resources, such as “Exploring the Idea of America” by Hannah-Jones.

Teaching Tolerance published a report indicating significant gaps in U.S. students’ understanding of slavery, summarized in an Atlantic article called “What Kids are Really Learning About Slavery.” As an outcome of their research, Teaching Tolerance developed a Framework for Teaching Slavery for grades K-5 and 6-12, intended to support teachers in addressing “hard history.” This framework offers suggestions for teaching emotionally charged topics in developmentally appropriate ways, which is often of particular interest to elementary teachers. Together with the 1619 Project materials, these resources provide useful guidance to teachers interested in helping students at all levels understand the complex legacy of slavery and how it impacts their lives and those of other Americans today. 

For additional classroom resources to support teaching during Black History Month and all year long, see our updated blog post “Stories of Black History.” 

Please let us know in the comments how you have used these teaching resources or any others related to these themes and topics.