Noa Cadet | Staff Writer
Photo Credit: Taylor Gravesande
The year 2019 marks 400 years.
It’s the 400-year anniversary of the arrival of the first group of Africans upon the shores of the future United States of America.
In August 1619, “twenty and odd” Africans disembarked from the English ship known as The White Lion upon the shores of Point Comfort, located in what is now Hampton, Virginia.
This year, we commemorate the start of it all.
Hampton University’s Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications on Nov. 6 hosted an interview and open dialogue between Hampton students and Nikole Hannah-Jones, a New York Times investigative reporter, on the subject of her groundbreaking work about racial injustice and race relations with her 1619 Project for The New York Times Magazine.
“I understood that there were blacks that landed in Virginia in the year 1619, but I had no idea that they landed in Hampton,” said Gabriel Lewis, a business management major from Dallas.
That was Hannah-Jones’ first point, when asked what first interested her to start this project.
She spoke of the time when she first heard of the year 1619 as an important date.
She was 16 years old and had picked up a book called “Before the Mayflower,” which spoke of the arrival of Africans aboard The White Lion in 1619.
While her own curiosity had prompted her to learn of the subject, it also opened her eyes to how many people didn’t know of this subject, but knew of the Mayflower and the arrival of the pilgrims.
Thus, this project is meant to educate the general public, to speak of the brutal history of slavery, and to detail the narrative of modern-day slavery and oppression.
Before a packed audience of students, faculty and community members, Hannah-Jones earned numerous rounds of applause for her clear and true words regarding the history of slavery, as well as the racial injustice that has pushed the African American population to the side for so long.
She spoke about how the term “All men are created equal” long ago did not apply to blacks, for blacks were seen as non-human by the white enslavers.
According to Hannah-Jones, this distinction between humanity and blacks allowed the cruelty to be justified, for mistreating and hurting an African American man or woman was OK, for they were considered property, not people.
Hannah-Jones also spoke of today’s society, and how the racial injustice has not ceased to exist and is embedded in the very DNA of American society.
She spoke of the education system’s attempt to downplay slavery and make it seem as if it wasn’t profitable for Americans and wasn’t as cruel a system as it really was.
Hannah-Jones cited that at the height of slavery, the American South was producing two-thirds of the world’s cotton.
She spoke of how lynching was a public event, the cruel execution being an event that people would bring their families to, would bring their children to watch and applaud.
She also spoke of how prison was another form of social control of the population, just as slavery was, and how the murder of African Americans through police brutality is still justified, particularly through the argument that “they should have just complied.”
Hannah-Jones’ work serves as a beacon of representation for the African American community and a reminder that while black people have made progress, there is much still to do in terms of social reform.
Her project seeks to illuminate the subject of racial injustice and to provide education to the public like never before on the topic of the African Americans’ place in the United States of America.