Status: Wait List

The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story

Exploring a new origin story and the place of slavery in our country's development

Fall 2023
Tuesday Afternoon
Moderators: Sara Lennox, Naomi Yanis



The book presents a new narrative of U.S. history that centers on the Black experience and shows how the effects of slavery continue to inform the present day. We will explore the topics presented in the first half of the book.


We plan to explore the concepts and information Nikole Hannah-Jones and her fellow authors address in The 1619 Project by discussing one chapter each week. Each session will have only one presentation, leaving us a second hour for discussion of the topic. The fall seminar will look at the first half of the book and will continue in the spring, but each will be independent, not requiring participation in the other.

ROLE OF PARTICIPANTS: Participants will be expected to read a chapter each week. In addition, they will choose to make a presentation related to one of the chapters or to lead a discussion based on one of the chapters.

The moderators will provide a list of resources.

ABOUT THE MODERATOR: Sara Lennox directed the UMass Social Thought and Political Economy Program. She serves on the board of Historic Northampton, advised Historic Northampton’s Slavery Research Project, and is on the David Ruggles Center and Northampton Reparations committees.

Naomi Yanis, an LIR member since 1996, has taken almost 200 seminars, moderated several, and has served on many committees and as president many years ago. She has had a deep interest in anti-racism throughout her life.

Reading The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story

Whether examining the place of slavery in US history is new to you or something you have been dealing with for a while, this seminar should be a stimulating experience.

The 1619 Project began as a special issue of the New York Times Magazine published on August 19, 2019, the 400th anniversary of the arrival of enslaved people in North America. The issue generated much excitement and quickly sold out. In November 2021 it was published in expanded book form with additional essays and literary contributions.

The project’s editor, Nikole Hannah-Jones, has assembled a fascinating collection of essays that address various aspects of the African American experience in US history. For an excellent overview of the original magazine, you can watch the 15-minute interview on PBS:

Although The 1619 Project has been criticized by professional historians and others, to our knowledge those critiques have been directed only at Hannah-Jones’ introductory essay (for which she won a Pulitzer Prize). For an early overview of the controversy, see Adam Serwer, “The Fight Over the 1619 Project Is Not About the Facts,” The Atlantic, December 23, 2019.

Chapters in the book include:

Preface: Nikole Hannah-Jones, “Origins”
Ch. 1: Nikole Hannah-Jones, “Democracy
Ch. 2: Dorothy Roberts, “Race”
Ch. 3: Khalil Gibran Muhammed, “Sugar”
Ch. 4: Leslie Alexander and Michelle Alexander, “Fear”
Ch. 5: Tiya Miles, “Dispossession”
Ch. 6: Matthew Desmond, “Capitalism”
Ch. 7: Jamelle Boule, “Politics”
Ch. 8: Martha S. Jones, “Citizenship”
Ch. 9: Carol Anderson, “Self-Defense”
Ch. 10: Bryan Stevenson, “Punishment”
Ch. 11: Trymaine Lee, “Inheritance”
Ch. 12: Linda Villarosa, “Medicine”
Ch. 13: Anthea Butler,”Church”
Ch. 14: Wesley Morris, “Music”
Ch. 15: Jeneen Interlandi “Healthcare”
Ch. 16: Kevin M. Kruse, “Traffic”
Ch. 17: Ibram X. Kendi, “Progress
Ch 18: Nikole Hannah-Jones, “Justice”

We will be addressing the chapters in the book over the course of two semesters, covering the first half of the book, through chapter 9, in this semester, and the second half in the spring. The two semesters will be independent of each other, and you are welcome to sign up for either or both.

Participants will be expected to read the chapter in question each week. In addition, they will choose to make a presentation related to one of the chapters or to lead a discussion based on the chapter. Whether to include the literary contributions is at the option of the presenter or facilitator. If two participants choose to work together to develop themes around the chapter, they will be given priority.

Possible resources in addition to the required book:

Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me
Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Case for Reparations,” The Atlantic, June 2014
Eddie S. Glaude, Jr., Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own
Nikole Hannah-Jones, “What Is Owed,” New York Times Magazine, June 25, 2020
Jared Ross Hardesty, Black Lives, Native Lands, White Worlds: A History of Slavery in New England
Historic Northampton, “Slavery Research Project,”
Ibram X. Kendi, How to Be an Anti-Racist
Heather McGhee, The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together
Robert Rothstein, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America.
Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption