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The 1619 Project Companion: Discussion: Session 4

This guide serves as a companion to discussions of "The 1619 Project," a publication of the New York Times Magazine, which marks the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans to Jamestown, Virginia.

What's Next?

The goal of The 1619 Project is to reframe American history, making explicit how slavery is the foundation on which this country is built. For generations we have not been adequately taught this history. Our hope is to paint a fuller picture of the institution that shaped our nation.


Session 4 - Wednesday, December 16, 2020

“I am persuaded that hopelessness is the enemy of justice; that if we allow ourselves to become hopeless, we become part of the problem. I think you’re either hopeful, or you’re the problem. There’s no neutral place. We’ve been dealing with injustice in so many places for so long. And if you try to dissect why is this still here, it’s because people haven’t had enough hope and confidence to believe that we can do something better. I think hope is our superpower. Hope is the thing that gets you to stand up, when others say, “Sit down.” It’s the thing that gets you to speak, when others say, “Be quiet.” —Bryan Stevenson

Assigned Materials:

  • Mass Incarceration by Bryan Stevenson (page 81&82). “Slavery gave America a fear of black people and a taste for violent  punishment.  Both still define our criminal-justice system.”  

Note in the reading how laws have been written and enforced in the U.S. over the past 400 years to disproportionality punish black Americans?

How does Stevenson argue that the modern day prison system acts as a continuation of slavery?

  • Why Can’t We Teach This? By Nikita Stewart. Four hundred years after enslaved Africans were first brought to Virginia, most Americans still don’t know the full story of slavery. 

Some people say we are committing educational malpractice.  What do you think?

What are the important take-aways from this article?