About these Resources:
These activities for afterschool educators give various entry points into exploring multimedia components and text excerpts from The 1619 Project in order to spark students' creativity, teamwork, critical thinking, and media literacy skills. In addition to examining the history and the legacy of slavery in the United States, these resources guide students in celebrating the contributions of Black Americans to democracy and exploring the genius of Black innovators and artists. Each activity is designed for facilitation across one or two 45-minute sessions. They can be completed in any order, but we recommend beginning with at least one activity from the introductory module to provide a strong foundation for further exploration.
How to Access the Resources:
Below, you will find an outline of the activities available to afterschool educators. The complete activities, including step-by-step instructions, downloadable worksheets, and facilitation tips, are hosted on Mizzen, a free app to help afterschool professionals deliver exciting learning opportunities that inspire, engage, and empower young learners. Register for free below! Once you have a free account, you can explore the app or click the links below to access complete activities. You can find out more about this content partnership here.
Introductory Module Activities:
Students analyze and discuss the main ideas of The 1619 Project after watching a video in which Nikole Hannah-Jones introduces the project. They then explore how the legacy of slavery can be seen in modern life through a pair activity, and reflect on themes and issues related to Black history they want to know more about.
Students evaluate how the values stated in the Declaration of Independence have manifested in U.S. society, and examine what it would mean to reframe U.S. history by considering 1619 the country’s founding date. Students read and discuss excerpts from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones’s introductory essay to The 1619 Project.
Students will learn about the ways in which slavery’s legacy persists in U.S. systems and society by examining images and text in an engaging gallery walk activity. They will also practice visually communicating tone and information to others by creating a group “quote museum.”
Students learn about common inaccuracies in how slavery is taught and then strengthen their own knowledge and media literacy skills by working together to distinguish myths from facts, using credible sources.
Students reflect on how myths about history are perpetuated, analyze a timeline of racial (in)justice from The 1619 Project, and collaborate to build timelines that illustrate how the fight for racial justice continues in their own lifetimes.
Activities for Further Exploration:
Students develop a deeper understanding of how the U.S. is still working to achieve its ideals by engaging with the 1619 podcast episode 1, “The Fight for a True Democracy." Students will develop personal definitions of democracy and freedom, and will share a symbol of democracy as they define it using visual art.
Students examine primary sources on the history of enslavement, curated by Mary Elliott of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Students explore the meaning of the word innovator, analyze two stories about Black American innovators from The 1619 Project, and conduct their own research on underreported stories about Black American innovators.
Students explore creative accounts of underrepresented or misrepresented events in Black history. After considering the power of creative writing as a means to process and interpret history, they will write their own creative reimagining of a historical event.
Students learn how Black American music has helped to change and define American culture and history, and create a playlist of songs by Black American artists that they believe portray freedom, resistance, and genius.
Students discuss what erasure means, and how it can be used both as a tool of oppression and resistance. They then explore examples of poems that use erasure to question, challenge, and subvert existing texts, and create erasure poems of their own in the spirit of resistance.
Invite a Journalist to Join Your Classroom!
Would you like to host a Pulitzer Center-supported journalist in your afterschool program or K-12 classroom to support the exploration of themes related to The 1619 Project?
Here are a few examples of journalists who may be able to join your class to share their reporting on racial justice and issues affecting Black Americans.
- C. Zawadi Morris, the founder and editor of a BK Reader, who has been documenting COVID-19's impact on Black and brown communities in Brooklyn, NY, through a project inspired by The Federal Writers Project.
- Melissa Bunni Elian, a photojournalist and writer who reported on how Afropunk connects the African Diaspora not only through music, but also socially and politically.
- Arionne Nettles, a multimedia journalist and scholar who reported on how museums are responding to and documenting the movement for racial justice, including a children's museum of African American history in Chicago.
- Rickey Ciapha Dennis Jr., a journalist in South Carolina who has been reporting on environmental racism.
- Noreen Nasir, a video journalist with the AP who reported on how former "Sundown Towns" are reckoning with their legacies and contemporary realities of racism amid the Black Lives Matter movement.
- Gloria Browne-Marshall, a journalist and professor who wrote and produced a journalistic play about police shootings of Black men and boys in the U.S.
- Gavin McIntyre and Jennifer Berry Hawes, a reporting team who examined the life, writings, and legacy of Omar ibn Said, a Senegalese scholar enslaved in the U.S.
- Brian Palmer, a journalist who has been reporting on the disproportionate impact of evictions on Black and brown communities.
- Francesca Bentley, a journalist who reported on immigrants' experiences with racism in the U.S.
- Melba Newsome, a journalist who is reporting on inequities in vaccine distribution and the role of race in vaccine hesitancy.
Making 'The 1619 Project' Accessible for Younger Learners
The 1619 Project is a journalistic initiative from The New York Times Magazine that illuminates the legacy of slavery in the contemporary United States, and highlights the contributions of Black Americans to every aspect of society. It has been used as a teaching tool by educators in all 50 states, across many different subject areas and grade levels.
While the project is a rich classroom resource, most of its materials were originally produced with an adult audience in mind. As a result, making an exploration of 1619 accessible and meaningful for your students involves navigating its wealth of content, adapting it to fit your learners’ needs, and providing support for students to process their learning and their emotions. Below, we offer some strategies to simplify the process for engaging younger students in learning about 1619; many of these strategies may also be helpful in sharing the project with learners of any age.
The 1619 Project does contain several resources composed with young learners in mind: a K-8 resource sheet with facts and data about slavery, a print broadsheet, and Born on the Water, an illustrated children's book. Find the links to each of these resources in the attachments section below (links 1, 2, and 3).
Strategy 1. Use images as an entry point
The project is well-known for essays by journalists and scholars, but did you know that every text in the magazine is accompanied by at least one photo or illustration? Try introducing students to the project themes by sharing these thought-provoking images, and using a thinking routine like Project Zero’s see-think-wonder (link 4 in the attachments section below).
Lead students in a gallery walk or slideshow exploration in which they match images with key information from the articles they come from: short quotes, or article titles (which encapsulate the topic of each essay in just a few words). Check out the "Visualizing the Legacy of Slavery: Gallery Walk and Quote Museum" activity on Mizzen for a prepared slideshow with 1619 Project images and ideas for how to facilitate a virtual or in-person gallery walk (link 5 below).
Or dig deep into primary sources with a selection of objects prepared by Mary Elliott, curator at the National Museum of African American History. Use "Exploring Primary Sources from The 1619 Project" activity (link 6 below) to examine images of objects and portraits that illuminate the history of slavery, while also supporting young learners in discovering what primary sources are and what kind of work historians do.
Strategy 2. Leverage multimedia resources
In their Edutopia article on “Using Sound Texts in Antiracist Teaching” (link 7 below), Anne Mooney and Danah Hashem argue that including multimedia resources with speech elements can help to celebrate the “scholarly and human value” of many varieties of English and their speakers, and engage students on an emotional level. One of the sound texts they recommend for getting started is the 1619 podcast.
Each of the five episodes is accompanied by a transcript on the New York Times website. Projecting the transcript while playing short audio clips can be a great way to engage students. Explore our activity on “The Birth of American Music” episode (link 8 below), which culminates in students constructing playlists embodying Black freedom, resistance, and genius. If you determine your learners are too young to engage with the podcast content directly, consider listening to them yourself and using them to generate rich questions about big themes like cultural appropriation and national memory that students can discuss.
Finally, a number of videos about the project and featuring its creator, Nikole Hannah-Jones, serve as great introductions. The activity "Introducing The 1619 Project" (link 9 below), available on Mizzen, introduces The 1619 Project through a 13-minute video in which Hannah-Jones explains the intent of the project, its importance, and its personal significance to her. Depending on your age group, you may want to pause this video often to check in with students about vocabulary, references to historical events, and what questions are popping up for them. Even playing until 3:53 gives a great foundation for understanding the project.
Strategy 3. Introduce students to pull quotes, excerpts, and short texts
There are plenty of great ways for students of all ages to engage directly with the text of The 1619 Project. Some of the essays in the magazine are less than a page long, and the major themes of many others can be introduced in a few carefully excerpted paragraphs. Try engaging students in a read-aloud of a short essay on pecan cultivation by Tiya Miles with "Highlighting Underreported Stories about Black Innovators," or exploring a brief excerpt from Nikita Stewart’s essay on how slavery is taught in schools in, "Fact-sorting Challenge-Examining Common Myths About U.S. Slavery" (links 10 and 11 below).
Appearing alongside the journalistic texts are poems and short fiction by preeminent Black writers. Spark your students’ creativity and expand their knowledge with the 1619 literary timeline. Try sharing creative works such as “August 1619” by Clint Smith or “September 15, 1963” by Rita Dove, and asking students:
- What is the historical event that your reading covers? Did you know about it before?
- What do you think the writer was trying to communicate about this event and its significance?
- How did the reading make you feel?
- What lines, words, or phrases stood out to you, and why?
For more ideas about how to share the literary timeline with students, check out the activity on "Reclaiming Narratives: Creative Accounts of Black History" (link 12 below).
Strategy 4. Highlight stories of resistance, innovation, and joy
The 1619 Project is full of stories of Black resistance, innovation, and joy. Highlighting these in your exploration of the project will give students an opportunity to celebrate the contributions of Black Americans to society, and encourage them to reflect on resistance to injustice across time, including in their own communities today.
In “Pecan Pioneer,” Tiya Miles writes of the enslaved innovator who came up with the technique still used for cultivating pecans today. In, "Highlighting Underreported Stories About Black Innovators" (link 10 below), students use Miles’s short essay as a gateway to researching and presenting underreported stories of Black innovators throughout history. Wesley Morris’s podcast on “The Birth of American Music” leads to discussion on how freedom, resistance, and genius are embodied in Black American music in the activity "Freedom, Resistance, and Genius in Black American Music," which ends in a dance party (link 8 below). And, "Erasure Poetry as Resistance," activity uses an erasure poem by Reginald Dwayne Betts to inspire students to write their own poems of resistance (link 13 below.)
Empowering narratives like these are woven throughout The 1619 Project. You can support students in learning to look for stories of resistance within stories of oppression simply by incorporating this question into your discussions on any 1619 resource you explore: What examples of resistance, innovation, and joy can you see in this resource?
5. Use mindfulness strategies when digging into more difficult topics
As students engage with The 1619 Project, they are likely to encounter difficult historical and present-day realities, and troubling explanations for their persistence. Without the right tools, students may not identify the emotions they are experiencing or connect them to their source. When this happens, they may find themselves disengaging, acting out, or feeling uncomfortable.
Visit the Related ProTips section below for additional resources you can use to help make your program a safe and inclusive space for students to learn, share, and have challenging conversations.
- K-8 Resource Sheet from 'The 1619 Project'
- The 1619 Broadsheet
- 'Born on the Water' Picture Book
- Project Zero's See, Think, Wonder
- Visualizing the Legacy of Slavery: Gallery Walk and Quote Museum
- Exploring Primary Sources from 'The 1619 Project'
- "Using Sound Texts in Antiracist Teaching" by Anne Moony and Danah Hashem
- Freedom, Resistance, and Genius in Black American Music
- Introducing 'The 1619 Project'
- Highlighting Underreported Stories About Black Innovators
- Fact-sorting Challenge: Examining Common Myths About U.S. Slavery
- Reclaiming Narratives: Creative Accounts of Black History
- Erasure Poetry as Resistance
Creating Group Norms
An important first step to establishing a compassionate, trusting, and inclusive learning environment is developing group norms. Norms are a powerful tool to set the tone of your program and should be crafted at the beginning of a learning experience, or as early as possible.
How to Create Group Norms:
1. Provide a model
Kick off the process by sharing a first norm. You can model for students how to generate norms by describing why you chose the norm and how it makes you feel comfortable sharing your voice. Here are some example norms:
- Assume the best intentions, but acknowledge impact
- Criticize ideas, not individuals
- Listen respectfully without interrupting
2. Encourage student participation
How you establish norms is just as important as their substance. Including students in the creation process reminds them that their voices matter, and makes students feel invested in upholding norms.
Craft two or three open-ended questions to get students brainstorming about engaging classroom or other group experiences. Students can spend time journaling independently or discussing ideas in small groups before sharing them out loud. Here are a few questions you might share:
- What makes a space an exciting and safe place to learn?
- When have you felt comfortable sharing your thoughts, and why? What needs to happen for you to be comfortable speaking out?
- Can you disagree with someone you respect? How do you disagree with someone respectfully?
Whether you are working in person or virtually, establish a communal space to craft and maintain your list of norms. If you are in person, a whiteboard or poster paper can work well. In a virtual setting, consider using a Jamboard, Google Doc, or another collaborative digital platform.
3. Apply norms to small group work and independent practice
Consider how your norms extend to independent and small group work. Students should feel empowered to use norms to address issues with one another outside of whole group discussions. Students can also use norms to consider how they can treat themselves with compassion and respect.
4. Keep coming back to your norms—and allow them to change
After crafting your norms, find opportunities to return to them. You can simply ask students to review the norms before you launch into your session, use the norms as a positive narration tool, or call out when a norm is not being respected. Your group norms can be a living document that reflects how your students are growing and changing together. Encourage students to add to and revise your collective document as they learn more about their needs as individuals and as a community.
Want to read on? Visit the attachment section below for additional resources to help you create meaningful norms with your students:
- "Collaborative Culture: Norms," El Education
- "Setting Up Norms for Independent Work," Edutopia
- "How can I create, uphold, and share responsibility for classroom norms?' Teaching Channel
Mindful Strategies for Leading Difficult Conversations
When was the last time you had a difficult conversation? Who were you speaking with, and what was the topic? How did you feel having the conversation? And did you notice your feelings during the conversation or after?
As students engage with new and sometimes challenging content, such as The 1619 Project, they may feel some of those same emotions. Students may not identify the source of their emotions, and instead may find themselves disengaging, acting out, or feeling uncomfortable.
Fortunately, there are strategies to help you and your students to prepare for and navigate difficult conversations. This resource offers mindfulness strategies that your community can use to identify and navigate feelings that arise during difficult conversations.
“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.” -Thich Nhat Hanh
- Introduce mindfulness strategies for students
- Support students in practicing mindfulness strategies
- Establish structures and tools that students can use when experiencing challenging emotions during a difficult conversation
Materials that may be useful:
- A reflection space for students
- A snow globe
- Posters with sentence stems students can use to express their feelings
- Posters with feelings words
- Paper and other art supplies
Tip 1. Establish an atmosphere of trust and respect.
In order to create an environment where students feel safe and comfortable practicing mindfulness, it will be important to create a culture where students feel trusted, respected, and safe. Here are strategies you can use to supplement the work you already do to create a positive community culture (links in the attachments section below):
- Creating Group Norms
- Building Connections Before Content
- Working to Grow Students' Trust and Respect
2. Introduce students to mindfulness by sharing strategies they can use to notice and name their emotions.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines mindfulness as “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one's thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.” Introduce this concept to students using the following steps:
1. Encourage students to name different emotions, and think of moments when they felt those emotions. Then, have them draw pictures or create tableau (frozen images with their bodies) that express those emotions. If they feel comfortable, encourage them to consider how they responded when they felt those emotions. Ask, “Have you ever done something that you wish you hadn’t after feeling an emotion?”
2. Once students have practiced identifying emotions, introduce them to a definition of “mindfulness” that is appropriate for their ages. For example, an article by David Gales for The New York Times describes mindfulness as “the simple practice of bringing a gentle, accepting attitude to the present moment" (link in the attachments section below). Explain that mindfulness can help students notice their emotions before they decide how to react. It can help them enjoy positive feelings even more, and notice what is bringing them those positive emotions. It can also help them notice when they are feeling negative emotions, and then provide them with a moment to identify how they want to react.
3. One way to introduce students to mindfulness is by sharing a snow globe with them. Explain that the clear water is like the mind, and that the snow at the bottom represents all the different thoughts and feelings a person might have. Shake the snow globe and ask them to notice what happens to the water as the snow (representing thoughts and feelings) is filling the snow globe. Can they see the water as clearly? Invite students to continue watching the snow globe as they take in a deep breath and then slowly release the breath. Ask them to notice what happens to the water as they continue to take deep breaths. Once the water is clear, remind them that the snow globe is like their mind. Whenever they feel like their mind is cloudy like the snow globe, they can always take deep breaths to help notice their feelings and make a clearer decision. The "Snow Globe Exercise for Kids" article in the attachments section below provides a script describing this activity in more detail.
3. Share mindful strategies and resources that students can use when feeling negative emotions. Then, help them practice.
Once students understand the definition of the term mindfulness, guide them in practicing strategies they can use to notice their emotions. A few strategies they could explore are provided in the links below. Once students have practiced these strategies, consider working with them to create visual aids they can use to remind them of mindful strategies they can use when feeling challenging emotions.
Also consider bringing resources to your classroom that students can use when they notice that they are experiencing challenging emotions. Resources may include fidgets, playdough, stress balls, stuffed animals, visual art materials, or bubbles. Students could even create their own snow globes (activity link below) for their desks to remind them to take deep breaths when feeling full of emotion!
4. Support students in noticing their emotions and employing mindfulness strategies when engaging in difficult conversations.
Before students engage with difficult conversations, remind them to utilize their mindfulness strategies and resources to notice their emotions. As the conversation progresses, support students in noticing their emotions by doing the following:
- Take pauses in the conversation for students to breathe and process.
- Give students space to name their emotions.
- Go deeper: When students express an uncomfortable emotion, ask them why they feel that way, or what specifically they think triggered that emotion. They can respond in writing or aloud. (Tell students it’s okay not to know; mindfulness can be a practice of self-discovery.)