The 1619 Project: Exploring 'The Idea of America' by Nikole Hannah-Jones

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“The truth is that as much democracy as this nation has today, it has been born on the backs of black resistance...Black people have seen the worst of America, yet, somehow, we still believe in its best.” — Nikole Hannah-Jones

The 1619 Project, inaugurated with a special issue of The New York Times Magazine, challenges us to reframe U.S. history by marking the year when the first enslaved Africans arrived on Virginia soil as its foundational date.

Award-winning investigative journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones provides an expansive essay on why “black Americans, as much as those men cast in alabaster in the nation’s capital, are this nation’s true ‘founding fathers.’” Her essay chronicles a history of policies enacted to profit from and disenfranchise black Americans, and the fight not only to claim black liberation, but also to make liberation possible for all Americans.

This lesson plan is designed to introduce Hannah-Jones’ essay, and The 1619 Project as a whole, through discussion questions and guided reading. For extension activities and to delve into the other essays and creative works that compose this special issue, please visit:

 #1 Top Partner Lesson of 2020

Lesson tags: 
Good for Parents
Creative Commons License: 
Attribution Non-commercial NoDerivative CC (BY-NC-ND)
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February 2021
I give this a 5 out of 5
February 2020
I introduced this lesson today 2/24/2020. My high school juniors do not know enough of enslaved people in America. The difficult tasks begin tomorrow. This is a tough lesson to teach but important. Fingers croseed!
February 2020
Fantastic lesson to use during Black History month. Works well for teachers wanting to engage student interest in The 1619 Project.
February 2020
Excellent resource! Very informative and the students were interested
February 2020
A wonderful way to introduce topics of Race in America.
February 2020
Listening to #1619Project as I made my way to work was phenomenal and I can't wait to share this lesson with my middle school students!
February 2020
Well thought out and organized. A user-friendly inroad to having difficult conversations about race with students.
February 2020
Great lesson to integrate and assess learning for student understanding.
January 2020
January 2020
This lesson is a great way to spark interest in the #1619Project.
January 2020
Amazing Resource...hope to incorporate it in this next school year!
January 2020
Great resources looking forward to seeing how it fits with my curriculum.
January 2020
Great intro lesson to the #1619Project. Worked so well in my class