The 1619 Project works to reframe American history by putting Black Americans at its center, but some critics of the project have said it fails to address the complexity of slavery because the institution also existed in other countries.
In response, Hannah-Jones stated that the United States was founded on inalienable rights.
“None of those other countries were founded on that ideal and yet engaging in chattel slavery at the same time,” she said. “And it’s that founding paradox that is so foundational to the tensions in America.”
Caroline Sink, a 2020 UNC graduate who attended the webinar, said a takeaway from Hannah-Jones’ discussion was the need for further education about slavery in the United States.
“I feel like the history of slavery goes a lot deeper than we realize, and a lot of it is things that were not taught in school or necessarily talked about,” Sink said.
Leloudis asked Hannah-Jones what should be done now to bring about lasting change.
“We tend to think of slavery as a racist institution, but first and foremost, it was an economic institution,” Hannah-Jones said. “We engaged in chattel slavery not because we hated Black people, but because we wanted to exploit free labor.”
Hannah-Jones also recently published a piece for The New York Times Magazine that argues for reparations for Black Americans, including but not limited to individual cash payments to descendants of enslaved people.
Je’nique Harewood, a second-year MBA student, said this case for reparations, and in general what America owes Black Americans, are important topics to consider.
“I think it is valid to have the discussion, have the conversation and understand: How can we make this right?” Harewood said. “And even if it is not a cash payout, how do we make it equal so that we see that Black people have the same sort of equality and privilege as white people in the same country that they live in?”
Hannah-Jones also encouraged individuals to take action in their every day lives.
“You can call your congresspeople and tell them to support H.R.40, which is the bill to study reparations,” Hannah-Jones said. “It’s been introduced in Congress every year for 30 years, and it’s never made it out of committee.”
Other actions she suggested included advocating for criminal justice reform and attending local public schools, in addition to educating yourself and the people around you on issues of racial and social justice.