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Common Read 2020: The 1619 Project

On this page, you'll find links to the New York Times' 1619 Project and related readings and resources. Everything on this page is available to members of the Hampshire College community for free through library subscriptions.

What is the 1619 Project?

Image of Nicole Hannah JonesAs part of Hampshire College's commitment to anti-racist pedagogy, we have established the New York Times Magazine's 1619 Project as the Common Read for 2020-2021.  The Common Read is a piece of writing that all members of our academic community read in preparation for discussions and events that take place over the course of the academic year.  New students in particular should expect the Common Read to be referenced in some of their courses and assignments.

Conceived and edited by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Nicole Hannah Jones, the New York Times Magazine Project 1619 contains a wide array of articles, literary pieces and podcasts that explore the profound impact that the institution of chattel slavery had on the political, economic and cultural institutions of the United States and visibilize black Americans’ contribution to the wealth and democracy through their resistance, innovation, and advocacy.

Hampshire College Students

New Students and the 1619 Project

All new students at Hampshire will be expected to engage with the 1619 Project. Below is some specific information about the various ways you may find yourself exploring the concepts and content in the Fall 2020 term, though all Hampshire students are encouraged to dig deeper and learn more. Non satis scire: to know is not enough.

 

New Student Orientation

The new student orientation will include a brief discussion of Project 1619.  This discussion will be facilitated by the faculty and staff who teach your Division I seminar.  To facilitate the quality of the discussion, we suggest you create a visual, audio, or written response to specific elements of the series. Consider what image, example, or phrase resonated with you? You could jot some thoughts in your journal, write a poem, record a song, dance segment or spoken word poem. You could utilize a range of media platforms such as tick tock and instagram or simply write your thoughts in a journal.  

 

Readings for “Pandemics” Division I Seminar

Students enrolled in the Division I seminar, "Pandemics," will focus on reading Nicole Hannah Jones' Introduction (14), Linda Villarosa's article, "Myths about Physical Racial Differences," (56), and Yaa Gyasi's "1932, the United States Public Health Service," (68) and the podcast series titled, "How the Bad Blood Started." These four pieces chronicle the ways in which the emergence of modern medicine in the United States is deeply entangled with the exploitation of African American laboring bodies.

 

Readings for “Addressing Climate Change” Division I Seminar

Students enrolled in the Division I seminar, "Addressing Climate Change," will focus on Nicole Hannah Jones' Introduction (14), Khalil Gilbran Muhammad's "The Sugar that saturates the American diet," (70) and the two podcasts for Episode 5 titled "Land of our Fathers part 1," and "Land of our Fathers part 2." Muhammad’s article highlights the Whitney Plantation Museum and the indelible imprint of enslaved laborers in the Louisiana cane fields and sugar factories of the past and the present.  Land of Our Fathers tells the story of June and Angie Provost, both descended from a long line of sugar cane farmers, as a way to convey both the yearning of African Americans for land ownership and the profound suffering associated with the Louisiana cane fields. 

 

Transfer Students and the 1619 Project

We are asking transfer students to focus their reading on specific writings contained in the 1619 Project.  Links to the entire NYT Magazine issue and the podcasts are provided above, and in this section you can find specific suggestions for directing your reading and listening.

Please read:

  • Nikole Hannah Jones’ Introduction. pp. 14-26.  You can also listen to this as Episode 1 of the series, titled “The Fight for a True Democracy.”

  • Matthew Desmond’s “In Order to Understand the Brutality of American Capitalism…,” Matthew Desmond provides a critical glimpse into the role of plantation slavery in the transformation of lush forests into cash crops and the emergence of capitalist management techniques. pp. 30-40.

  • And the two podcasts for Episode 5 titled "Land of our Fathers part 1," and "Land of our Fathers part 2.”  Land of Our Fathers tells the story of June and Angie Provost, both descended from a long line of sugar cane farmers, as a way to convey both their yearning for land ownership and the profound suffering associated with the Louisiana cane fields. 

Please take a moment to document your responses to these materials.  You may choose from a range of modes of expression, including journal writing, or posting a photo, poem, or dance segment on Instagram or tik tok. These are meant to be brief responses that allow you to enter into a conversation about the Project during orientation.

Supplements from the Pulitzer Center 

Student with a book between library shelvesThe Pulitzer Center has gathered reading guides, activities, and other resources related to learning the true history that informed the 1619 Project. The full list is available at the Pulitzer Center 1619 website. Some resources of note include:

 

The 1619 Project Reading Guide

 

Resources for Educators

 

Image Credits

This resource guide was created using:

  • A cropped image of Nicole Hannah Jones by Associação Brasileira de Jornalismo Investigativo that was shared on Wikimedia Commons using the Attribution 2.0 Generic Creative Commons License.
  • Images reused from pages on the Hampshire College website.
  • An image of the ocean taken by Amedeo DeCara.