the 1619 project

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and global protests that are shaking up the current political landscape, Oprah Winfrey is teaming up with Lionsgate and Pultizer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones to adapt Hannah-Jones landmark examination of racism in the U.S., The 1619 Project, for the screen.

In 2019, journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones spearheaded a project for The New York Times Magazine called The 1619 Project that would extensively re-examine the legacy of slavery in the U.S., timed to the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first Africans in Virginia. With the help of dozens of journalists and writers, who contributed reported articles, interviews, essays, poems, and pieces of short fiction, The 1619 Project made a huge splash, earning acclaim for its long-form journalism and winning Hannah-Jones the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary. Now, that landmark piece of journalism, which has already been adapted to a five-part podcast by Hannah-Jones, is making the leap to the big and small screen.

Lionsgate announced that it is teaming up with The New York Times and Winfrey to turn Hannah-Jones’ initiative into feature films, TV series, documentaries, unscripted programming, and other forms of entertainment to chronicle “the ways that the original sin of slavery in America still permeates all aspects of our society today.” The team will enlist “world-class Black creative voices” to help adapt the series. Hannah-Jones will serve as creative leader and producer on the various adaptations, while her colleague at NYT Magazine, Caitlin Roper, an editor of The 1619 Project, will also produce. Hannah-Jones said in a statement accompanying the announcement:

“We took very seriously our duty to find TV and film partners that would respect and honor the work and mission of The 1619 Project, that understood our vision and deep moral obligation to doing justice to these stories. Through every step of the process, Lionsgate and its leadership have shown themselves to be that partner and it is a dream to be able to produce this work with Ms. Oprah Winfrey, a trailblazer and beacon to so many Black journalists. I am excited for this opportunity to extend the breadth and reach of The 1619 Project and to introduce these stories of Black resistance and resilience to even more American households.”

The 1619 Project was one of The New York Times’ most widely read pieces of journalism last year and is also being adapted into a series of books with One World, a division of Penguin Random House.

Winfrey has a history of boosting Black voices and turning print and literary hits into bonafide phenomenons. Getting featured on Oprah’s Book Club alone is enough to double book sales for rising authors. So getting Winfrey behind The 1619 Project is a big deal. The multiple screen adaptations — feature films, TV, documentaries — are sure to get many more Black voices in front and behind the camera. Winfrey, who will be providing “stewardship and guidance” to the project, added in a statement:

“From the first moment I read The 1619 Project and immersed myself in Nikole Hannah-Jones’s transformative work, I was moved, deepened and strengthened by her empowering historical analysis. I am honored to be a part of Nikole’s vision to bring this project to a global audience.”

This project will likely benefit both sides, as Winfrey’s Book Club has made some missteps recently, such as supporting the polarizing book American Dirt. But Winfrey’s support for The 1619 Project couldn’t come at a better time, when people are craving more projects by Black creatives in the wake of the revived Black Lives Matter movement.

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