The 1619 Project and the Long Battle Over U.S. History

An essay by our Editor in Chief.


Next week we are publishing a book that expands on the 1619 Project and represents the fullest expression of its idea to date. This book, which is called "The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story," arrives amid a prolonged debate over the version of the project we published two years ago. That project made a bold claim, which remains the central idea of the book: that the moment in August 1619 when the first enslaved Africans arrived in the English colonies that would become the United States could, in a sense, be considered the country's origin.

"The reasoning behind this is simple: Enslavement is not marginal to the history of the United States; it is inextricable," our Editor in Chief, Jake Silverstein writes. "So many of our traditions and institutions were shaped by slavery, and so many of our persistent racial inequalities stem from its enduring legacy. Identifying the start of such a vast and complex system is a somewhat symbolic act. It was not until the late 1600s that slavery became codified with new laws in various colonies that firmly established the institution's racial basis and dehumanizing structure. But 1619 marks the earliest beginnings of what would become this system. "

Read our editor's essay on how fights over how we tell our national story go back more than a century — and how they have a great deal to teach us about our current divisions.

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