Nicole Hannah Jones talks about ‘Project 1619’ at Times Book Club

when Nicole Hannah Jones“The 1619 Project: The New Origin Story” got the green light, and she didn’t want to dazzle with her comprehensive and open-ended exploration of slavery and its legacy in America today.

The New York Times Magazine investigative journalist and her collaborators have devised a style guide to ensure that they take into account the language used: humans are not referred to as “slaves” but as “enslaved people”; “Blacks” would not be a collective noun; And the “farms,” ​​popular venues for modern day weddings and photo shoots, would be called what they used to be: ” forced labor camps.”

When you think about the image that the word ‘farm’ evokes, it isGone with the Wind“It’s rustic, it’s mint juleps and these pretty dresses,” said Hannah Jones, speaking Tuesday night at the California Museum of African Americans. “And the incitement to all of that is torture and the threat of torture.”

A woman sitting behind a stack of books.

Nicole Hannah Jones signs copies of “Project 1619” before he takes to the stage to discuss it.

(Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)

On the final leg of her “1619” writing tour, Hannah Jones joins Los Angeles Times executive editor Kevin Merida for a wide-ranging conversation about her groundbreaking Pulitzer Prize-winning anthology-turned series, its origin story, and, among other things, intended language. Special guest authors Nafisa Thompson Spiers And Terry MacMillan Also read excerpts from their contributions to “The 1619 Project,” which brings together work from many notable authors, including Tracy K. Smith, Keyes Lemon and Jesmyn Ward.

The sold-out event was attended and hosted by more than 550 people Los Angeles Times Book Club And exchange ideas. The conversation was also available to a virtual audience.

Responding to the notion that modern style changes are a euphemism, Hannah Jones argued the exact opposite: using the word “farmer,” for example, would make it easier to deny what happened there.

“These were camps where people were forced to work against their will for life through extreme threats of violence and coercion,” explained Hannah Jones, 45. where children and their loved ones are bought and sold,” where women are routinely raped because that results in more money for the owner. That’s what those were and we call them farmer So we can pretend that’s not what happened, and we won’t in this book.

“We have to stop letting language hide crime.”

The applause of the audience.

Since its launch in August 2019 as a multimedia project – it has taken over a number of the entire magazine, podcast and special issue, then later became educational subjects Project 1619, which posited that maintaining slavery was central to the march of American independence, became a magnet for both positive and negative attention. But its roots, according to Hannah Jones, go back well beyond the current culture wars – to the public high school she attended in Waterloo, Iowa.

Ray Dial taught an elective entitled “The African American Experience,” and this is where the teenage Hannah Jones first encountered in 1619—in the historian and journalist’s “Before the Mayflower” book. Liron Bennett Jr.. I was in awe of finding so much literature by and about black people in that class, and so much history that you didn’t learn.

It was Dial who introduced her to the press.

She called him once to complain that the school newspaper did not write about black students like her who had been transferred to white schools.

“And as a great black teacher would, he stayed true to me and said, ‘Either you join the newspaper and write those stories yourself or shut up and don’t come here complaining to me about it,'” she recalled with a laugh.

A woman and a man sitting talking to the audience.

“We have to stop letting language hide crime,” said Hannah Jones at the African American Museum in California.

(Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)

And I did. “Five years later,” she said sarcastically, those two things would lead to “Project 1619.”

But how did it come to fruition, Merida Requested; How did you convince an institution as old as the New York Times to invest time and resources in its comprehensive and ambitious offering?

“Grandparents’ intervention,” said Hannah Jones, who described herself as “a gnostic,” and added that she was half-joking.

“It was really weird about this project because I just felt some of itThing, like some intervention,” she explained. “Because there is no reason for this project to exist as it is, it knows everything we know about the industry”—a project that historically centered on white people, cared for and controlled it.

The strength of the project, she said, lay in its refusal to do so: editors and writers were not concerned about whether it would make the “typical New York Times reader” uncomfortable. And their intention was not just to study history. Instead, they were exploring how the past still shapes America.

And on the “trivial” level, as I described it, the project was in response to a question often asked to blacks: “Slavery has been around for a long time – why don’t you overcome it?”

“Blacks are constantly forced to answer that question in a country that cannot overcome slavery,” she said.

Her ambition As she knew the project was, Hannah Jones had no idea it would become such a massive cultural force. “You can produce something powerful and people still don’t care.”

But she couldn’t be more mistaken.

Woman standing on a lectern.

Terry Macmillan reads a segment from Behind the Table.

(Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)

Project started Cash And discussions between some historians after its publication. The following year, Hannah Jones was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for her introductory essay. Republican legislators I paid for the ban “Project 1619” from the classroom to former President Donald Trump had weight, prompting Suggest an alternative approach by conservative leaders.

This summer, Hannah Jones announced, after an extended public dispute over the position, that she would no longer study at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, her alma mater, and instead accepted a tenure position at Howard University. (“Howard was one of those rare cases where racism worked for me,” she said with a laugh.

Merida asked her, “What is your self-care during this whole process?”

Hannah Jones paused and smiled. “I don’t have one,” she said.

Woman standing on a lectern.

Naissa Thompson-Spires reading a passage from her fairy tale “Not Bought, No Boss, No Disturbance.”

(Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)

“I don’t really know what that looks like because I feel like I’ve been brought into this moment and can’t rest now,” she continued. “Everything I’ve been doing throughout my career has been in this moment…and I believe a lot in my immediate ancestors, like my grandmother who was born on a cotton farm, who was educated in the fourth grade,, I suppose, all the dreams, the hopes, the ambitions I had but You were born into a world that you couldn’t achieve any of.

“I must work in debt service because I owe a great debt to my immediate ancestors and to our common ancestors,” she said, before finally conceding.

At the end of the event, Hannah Jones was received with a standing ovation.

Jacques Bordeaux was among them.

The 68-year-old retired Los Angeles teacher known as “Mr. Black History” was in the classroom, “Project 1619” as a companion piece to “Michelle Alexander”The new Jim Croweand Isabel Wilkerson.sectAnd the warmth of other suns. “

“The fact that black women wrote them all only proves that the excluded voices, when heard, have a very powerful story to tell,” Bordeaux said. “And I think that’s what I did tonight: Determine why the scholarship is needed, how much we hate the truth, and why as a country we will never get where we want to go until we face that truth about ourselves.”

the following Los Angeles Times Book Club The event will take place on December 9, when the bestselling author Ann Patchett He will discuss “These Precious Days” with Times columnist Steve Lopez. Sign up for virtual event, which will be streamed live on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook at 6 p.m. PT.

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