‘The 1619 Project’ author visits CSUN, sparking student motivation

Nikole Hannah-Jones, author of “The 1619 Project,” is escorted into the lobby of the Plaza del Sol Performance Hall by student workers, on Friday, Feb. 10, 2023, in Northridge, Calif.

Kirsten Cintigo, Communities Desk Editor

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of “The 1619 Project,” Nikole Hannah-Jones expressed the importance of honoring your ancestors during a visit to CSUN on Feb. 10. 

“To me, whether or not we will ever see the country that we are trying to build, every last one of us owes it to our ancestors and to those who come after us to fight for that country anyway,” Hannah-Jones said. 

“The 1619 Project” focuses on how the legacy of slavery did not end with emancipation.  It’s based on her original project published in The New York Times Magazine, which was later developed into a children’s book, an educational program, a podcast and a Hulu series.

Held in the University Student Union’s Plaza del Sol, the event was moderated by Marquita Gammage, Africana studies department chair, and Mechelle Best, interim dean of the college of health and human development.

Hannah-Jones talked about the book’s impact on education, particularly in Florida after its Board of Education in 2021 banned the teaching of “The 1619 Project” in schools as part of an effort to ban critical race theory. This played a role in Florida’s decision to ban Advanced Placement courses for African American studies

“If we’re going to understand what happened with AP, what’s happening with ‘The 1619 Project,’ what’s happening with critical race theory – really the forever contesting of teaching Black history, is because Black history by definition is inherently political in the United States,” Hannah-Jones said. “Our history cannot be told without critiquing everything we’ve been taught about American exceptionalism.”

For America Flores Hernandez, a third-year CSUN student, Hannah-Jones’ comments sparked motivation. 

“Like Nikole said, it reminded me that I’m here right now and all I can think to myself is that we can only go upward from here,” Flores Hernandez said. “If you don’t become socially conscious of the things around you, how can you expect fate to turn out for you in the end?”

The event ended with a book signing and meet-and-greet between Hannah-Jones and a limited number of students, faculty and staff. 

“‘The 1619 Project’ is a phenomenal piece and I’m glad that we were here and able to hear from her directly about what has gone into it, what it means, what the implications are and so on,” Best said. “This is a critical piece of what our students need to understand and what we need to get better at helping them understand.”