Pulitzer Prize-winning author Nikole Hannah-Jones has tapped into the power of storytelling to unearth elements of history that have shaped America’s social, cultural, and political landscapes. The writer is on a mission to use literature as an avenue to ensure Black youngsters are aware of their rich cultural history. According to ESSENCE, Hannah-Jones has teamed up with award-winning author Renée Watson for the creation of a book inspired by The 1619 Project.
The children’s picture book—titled The 1619 Project: Born on the Water—explores the concept of identity. The story centers around a student who was given an assignment to create a family tree but can only trace her roots back a few generations. Her grandmother takes her on a generational journey; detailing her family’s origins in the Kingdom of Ndongo and the strong sense of pride, tradition and ancestral reverence embedded in African culture. The book also explores the harrowing experiences of enslavement; recalling how their ancestors were forcibly taken from their native land, traded, and brought to the U.S. nearly 402 years ago to be treated as property. The vibrant images—illustrated by Nikkolas Smith—and poignant prose captures dimensions of history that are often left out of standard school textbooks.
Hannah-Jones and Watson say they wanted to capture the full spectrum of experiences through the book. “The legacy of slavery is shaping the lives of our children, the society in which they live, whether we teach them about it or not,” Hannah-Jones told the news outlet. “Black children, specifically, do not have the luxury of being shielded from racism, this history, and its impacts.” Watson added she hopes the book helps Black children cultivate a sense of self-efficacy and inspires them to evoke change. “I think there’s something powerful about a child understanding the world they’ve inherited and asking them to dream of the world they want to live in,” she added. The 1619 Project: Born on the Water is slated to be released on November 16.
News about the book comes after Hannah-Jones announced the launch of the ‘1619 Freedom School’ afterschool program.