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The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story

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Books & Mortar Book Review:

"If you read just one history book this year, make it 1619. This project is monumentous. It's not a textbook, even though the history inside should be widely taught. It's a profound, journalistic collection. It's a gift to modern Americans who are removed from slavery in such a way that they forget its fire but still feel its burn. The undeniable truth is that the history of Black Americans, their treatment at the hands of mostly Europeans and other Americans who claimed to live and die for freedom, and their defining significance throughout democracy's most foundational moments is still suppressed with breathtaking consequences." - Bookseller Jess

In late August 1619, a ship arrived in the British colony of Virginia bearing a cargo of twenty to thirty enslaved people from Africa. Their arrival led to the barbaric and unprecedented system of American 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 source of so much that still defines the United States.

The New York Times Magazine's award-winning "1619 Project" issue reframed our understanding of American history by placing slavery and its continuing legacy at the center of our national narrative. This new book substantially expands on that work, weaving together eighteen essays that explore the legacy of slavery in present-day America with thirty-six poems and works of fiction that illuminate key moments of oppression, struggle, and resistance. The essays show how the inheritance of 1619 reaches into every part of contemporary American society, from politics, music, diet, traffic, and citizenship to capitalism, religion, and our democracy itself.

This is a book that speaks directly to our current moment, contextualizing the systems of race and caste within which we operate today. It reveals long-glossed-over truths around our nation's founding and construction--and the way that the legacy of slavery did not end with emancipation, but continues to shape contemporary American life.

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