Nikole Hannah-Jones‘ edited book The 1619 Project is easily the most controversial book in many years, maybe decades. I can’t think of another book that has been banned by conservative legislatures.

It first appeared as a special issue of the New York Times Magazine, where Hannah-Jones is a contributing writer. Soon after its publication, it was criticized by several eminent historians, who disagreed with the assertion that some Founding Fathers supported the Revolution to protect slavery. They had other objections and were no doubt miffed that a journalist had written a new history of the United States. The Times triple-checked, made some revisions, then The 1619 Project was published as a book and promptly denounced by conservative politicians, who hated the idea that Black people played a major role in the nation’s history, let alone a central role.

President Trump responded in September 2020 by announcing that he would create a “1776 Commission” to write a “patriotic curriculum.” Teaching that systemic racism exists, he said, was “a form of child abuse.” The day before the election, November 2, he established the commission by executive order.

However, he was busy trying to overturn the election and didn’t get around to appointing the members of the 1776 Commission until December 18. The president of the commission was Larry Arnn, president of conservative Hillsdale College. The commission included no professional historians of the United States. It held its first meeting on January 5 and released its new curriculum on January 18, no doubt a world record for the development of a course curriculum.

Hours after Joe Biden was inaugurated on January 20, he signed an executive order disbanding the 1776 Commission.

Now The 1619 Project has been turned into a six-part series, streaming on HULU. In states where it has not been banned, it should be a great tesaching tool. Count me as an admirer of the book. I have read many books about African American history, and I learned a lot by reading it.

Jesse J. Holland, a veteran journalist, reviews it here. He says that it’s a shame that the people who most need to see it are least likely to watch it.