Project 1619

1619 is not a year that most Americans know as a notable date in our country’s history. Those who do are at most a tiny fraction of those who can tell you that 1776 is the year of our nation’s birth. What if, however, we were to tell you that the moment that the country’s defining contradictions first came into the world was in late August of 1619? That was when a ship arrived at Point Comfort in the British colony of Virginia, bearing a cargo of 20 to 30 enslaved Africans. Their arrival inaugurated a barbaric system of chattel slavery that would last for the next 250 years. This is sometimes referred to as the country’s original sin, but it is more than that: It is the country’s very origin.

Out of slavery — and the anti-black racism it required — grew nearly everything that has truly made America exceptional: its economic might, its industrial power, its electoral system, its diet and popular music, the inequities of its public health and education, its astonishing penchant for violence, its income inequality, the example it sets for the world as a land of freedom and equality, its slang, its legal system and the endemic racial fears and hatreds that continue to plague it to this day. The seeds of all that were planted long before our official birth date, in 1776, when the men known as our founders formally declared independence from Britain.

The goal of The 1619 Project is to reframe American history by considering what it would mean to regard 1619 as our nation’s birth year. Doing so requires us to place the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are as a country.

100-Plus Mentor Texts for Documenting Your Life in 2020

By Katherine Schulten

Work by teenagers and adults, in a variety of mediums and genres, that can inspire your own account of this extraordinary year.

Our Mentor Text series spotlights work from The Times that students can learn from and emulate.

In early January 2020, The New York Times began covering a “new virus causing pneumonialike illness.” By April 4, the paper had already published over 4,000 pieces referencing it. And that, of course, was only the beginning.

How to Audit Your Classroom Library for Diversity

By Kathryn Fishman-Weaver

We know that representation matters, that in order for our classrooms to be spaces where everyone is affirmed and included, young people must see themselves and their lived experiences in our curricula. Do our classroom libraries reflect this knowledge? Bookshelves offer a powerful litmus test of the experiences and identities we honor and include in our classrooms.

Illustration concept showing bridging the gap in bookshelf equity


What happens to students’ self-efficacy and self-concept when they see their lives positively reflected in the curriculum? Even very young children recognize the importance and delight in finding themselves in a book:

  • “She’s from Pakistan, just like me.”
  • “He has dark skin like mine.”
  • “I’m adopted, too.”
  • “Look, that main character uses a wheelchair like mine.”

How often do students from diverse or marginalized backgrounds find affirming mirror books in our classrooms?