Embracing The 1619 Project and CRT

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Nikole Hannah-Jones makes an appearance in Lancaster in April 2022. Photo by Leon Laing.

On the heels of The 1619 Project docuseries, I examine how The 1619 Project and Critical Race Theory tug at the heartstrings of people in Central Pennsylvania and beyond. Some groups view books about these topics as eye-opening. Others deem the texts as controversial.

The 1619 Project
The 1619 Project docuseries will air on Jan. 26 on Hulu. Last April, Nikole Hannah-Jones discussed her book, “The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story,” at St. James Episcopal Church in Lancaster. CHI St. Joseph Children’s Health held the event.

Hannah-Jones, an author and reporter, earned the coveted Pulitzer Prize for her project in 2020.

The 1619 Project aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of the United States’ national narrative.

“So we didn’t have a democracy until 1965,” Hannah-Jones affirmed at her Lancaster-based appearance. “We had an ethnocracy. We had a democracy for white Americans.”

Aside from covering Hannah-Jones in Lancaster, I saw her in Columbia, Maryland, in October 2021.

“I am tremendously blessed to be able to do the work that I do,” Hannah-Jones said in Columbia. “And I do it in the service of our ancestors … If you control the memory, you can control the policy. It’s not incidental that the same states passing these anti-1619, anti-Critical Race Theory laws are passing anti-voter laws.”

Critical Race Theory
Critical Race Theory explores how race and racism intersect with politics, culture and the law. There are various books about CRT.

When asked if The 1619 Project and CRT are taught in Central Pa. schools, Dr. Amber Sessoms said, “not that I know of.” 

“Those against [concepts that challenge conventional history] are calling anything and everything CRT these days,” Dr. Sessoms added.

Dr. Sessoms is a principal and founder of a local business called Natural Inclination.

In 2020, President Donald Trump issued an executive order barring any training that suggested the United States was fundamentally racist.

Kimberlé Crenshaw is a civil rights advocate and leading scholar of CRT. As a professor at the UCLA School of Law and Columbia Law School, she specializes in race and gender issues.

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