I want to do a review of ‘The 1619 Project’ but need to be careful. The Woke Folk jump on anything less than fawning praise of their work.
This book was a tough read. I put it down and then picked it up again three or four times over about three weeks. The material is brutal. The history of slavery in the US is long and ugly, and exposing that horror takes a toll on a reader. I wonder how many people start reading this book, with good intentions, and then just put it down in sheer exhaustion?
It is a history everyone should know. But the nature of the book, a series of individual essays by separate authors, while giving a pleasant change of voices throughout, allows for a lot of repetition. The Tulsa Race Massacre is mentioned a dozen times by different writers. It slowed down the pace, with this reader thinking I already read this.
The book is controversial for a few reasons, but controversy sells books, so that can’t be a fault. That it turns down the light on Reagan’s ‘Shining City on the hill’ is probably what some dislike the most. But I like truth over myth, so this book fills that requirement.
The final chapter on restitution had me shaking my head. In some ways, it mirrored Canada’s ‘Truth and Reconciliation Report’ on Canada’s treatment of indigenous people. Suggestions that will probably never be considered by the vast majority of voters, but also a missed opportunity. All of the suggestions are aimed at others. The white people, the municipalities, the States or Provinces, the Federal government. The churches, the financial institutions, the law. If instead it included a call to action by Black or Indigenous people, it might have some real world effects. Hannah-Jones laments that for much of history Black people have been not actors but acted upon. A call to action would have been well placed.
I have a friend who says some people look out the window for solutions, and some people look in the mirror. These works need to look in both places.
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March 9, 2022
Review of ‘The 1619 Project by Nikole Hannah-Jones