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Pulitzer Center Update November 22, 2022

Nikole Hannah-Jones Discusses Democracy and The 1619 Project

Artwork by Adam Pendleton in The 1619 Project, page 15. 2019.

The Pulitzer Center is proud to partner with The New York Times Magazine on The 1619 Project to...

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Pulitzer Center senior program manager Donnalie Jamnah introduces Howard student moderator Sydne Clarke, The 1619 Project journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, and law professor Lisa Crooms-Robinson. Image by Mikaela Schmitt. United States, 2022.

“If democracy is government with consent of the governed, then [the United States wasn’t] a democracy at our founding … So what do we call a democracy?” asked Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones.

On November 20, 2022, Hannah-Jones discussed the current state of American democracy and civil rights with Howard University constitutional law professor Lisa Crooms-Robinson through the lens of The 1619 Project, the award-winning reframing of American history that placed slavery and its continuing legacy at the center of our national narrative. The event was livestreamed for remote viewing.

The year 1619 marked the arrival of the first enslaved Africans who were forcibly brought to the American colonies, beginning centuries of slavery that irrevocably impacted the future nation.

“If you don’t understand that history, then you can’t understand where we’re at right now, and you certainly can’t fight it,” Hannah-Jones said.

Student moderator Sydne Clarke asks Hannah-Jones and Crooms-Robinson a question. Image by Mikaela Schmitt. United States, 2022.

The event was organized by the Howard University School of Law, Howard's Cathy Hughes School of Communications, the Pulitzer Center, and Penguin Random House. Donnalie Jamnah, senior program manager for K-12 Education at the Pulitzer Center and director of The 1619 Project Education Network, introduced the speakers, and Howard University student Sydne Clarke moderated.

Hannah-Jones is the journalist and architect behind The 1619 Project. She is also the inaugural Knight Chair in Race and Journalism at the Cathy Hughes School of Communications at Howard University and founder of the Center for Journalism and Democracy. The center focuses on training and supporting aspiring journalists in investigative skills and historical and analytic expertise to cover crises faced by our democracy.

Crooms-Robinson is a professor at the Howard University School of Law, where she teaches constitutional law, gender and the law, international human rights law, and Supreme Court jurisprudence. Crooms-Robinson is also a board member for the Center for Constitutional Rights and the U.S. Human Rights Network.

Nikole Hannah-Jones (left) and Lisa Crooms-Robinson (right) speak about democracy and the legacy of slavery in the U.S. Image by Mikaela Schmitt. United States, 2022.

The 1619 Project launched in August 2019 with an entire issue of The New York Times Magazine devoted to a series of articles by Hannah-Jones and other authors. Subsequent products from the project include a podcast and two books: The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story and Born on the Water, a children’s book, both published by Penguin Random House. The Pulitzer Center is the education partner of The 1619 Project, with the development of an educators’ network and related curriculum, including modules for law schools developed in conjunction with Howard University and the University of Miami. 

The Read Along focuses on six chapters in The 1619 Project book: “Democracy,” “Capitalism,” “Fear,” “Race,” “Justice,” and “Music.” This event focused on “Democracy,” chapter 1. It was the first of six culminating events of "The 1619 Project Read Along: A Classroom Without Walls,” launched in October 2022.

A member of the audience asks Hannah-Jones and Crooms-Robinson a question during the open forum portion of the event, hosted at Howard University School of Law. Image by Mikaela Schmitt. United States, 2022.

Before you watch, listen to “The Fight for a True Democracy,” the first episode of The 1619 Project podcast, which delves into America’s founding ideal of democracy and how Black people fought to make it one.

The 1619 Project Education Conference will take place February 18-19, 2023, and is now open for registration.

Watch the full event recording below.

Video by Mark Sugg.


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