ActivismBrooklynSolution Sessions

meet the black woman making sure we never forget slavery

August 21, 2019
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I grew up hearing that America’s birthday is on the 4th of July, 1776. But as any Black person knows, that date never really made much sense for us. To celebrate and commemorate America’s independence overlooks the fact that Black folks were enslaved.

Now, a groundbreaking new project from The New York Times Magazines’ Nikole Hannah Jones argues that August 1619, the day the first slave ships landed in America, is a much more defining date than 1776.

It’s easy to think of the American slave trade as a thing of the past that is no longer worth talking about today. But Jones argues that the ripple effects of slavery have had an impact on almost every aspect of American identity. Her project goes beyond what we already know about slavery to grapple with its lasting impacts on we still feel and see today. In an interview with PBS, Jones said: “The conceit of the magazine is that you can look at all of these modern phenomenon that you think are unrelated to slavery at all and we are going to show you how they are. And so we have a story in there about traffic patterns. We have a story about why we’re the only Western industrial country without universal health care, about why Americans consume so much sugar, about capitalism, about democracy.”


Not everyone is so sure that slavery is a topic that should be explored. Several white conservatives spoke out against the project. Former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Newt Ginrich called the project “propaganda” on Twitter and conservative evangelical blogger and radio host Erik Erickson complained that the project explored slavery through “a racial lens.”

Jones, whose writing on race and culture earned the seasoned reporter the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, is undeterred. “It is time to stop hiding from our sins and confront them. And then in confronting them, it is time to make them right,” she said.

Nikole Hannah Jones will be talking about her groundbreaking work at Solution Sessions Live during AfroPunk Brooklyn this weekend and you can get your hands on a physical copy of the magazine everyone is talking about at the festival.

See the entire SOLUTION SESSIONS lineup and get your tickets now!.