Module 2 Discussion: The Significance of 1619

The year 1619 has increased in its historical significance in recent years as historians have worked to bring the story of Black Americans into the larger narrative about the founding of America. In 2019, 400 years after the first enslaved people arrived in Jamestown, Nikole Hannah-Jones, published a series of long-form essays in The New York Times Magazine called the 1619 Project. The essays focus on the important role that Black people played in shaping all aspects of American life and emphasizes the unfair treatment of Black people and the general under-appreciation for the significant Black social, political, and cultural contributions to the creation of America, both before and after the institution of slavery. While the 1619 project has garnered some backlash— some say the essays go too far in overemphasizing particular aspects of the narrative (for example, indicating slavery as a primary motive for the American Revolution) or argue that the essays are too pessimistic about White support of abolitionism and equality. On the whole, however, the essays have been praised for increasing awareness about the importance of viewing the American story through more than one lens. You can read more about the debate about the 1619 Project in this Politico article.


Step 1: First, step through this interactive showing how the population of enslaved Black people in America grew from the original twenty who arrived in Jamestown in 1619.

For this discussion, listen to the first OR second episode of the podcast.

Step 2: In the discussion forum, respond to the following:

  1. Write down three things that you learned, or that stood out to you the most from the podcast.
  2. What is a question you have after listening to the episode? What is something you’d like to learn more about?
  3. Next, pick ONE of the following questions and respond in a paragraph, using evidence or examples from the podcast, from the content this week, or from outside sources.
  • How do you feel about the incongruity shown in stories about our founding fathers, such as the one about enslaved people owned by Thomas Jefferson while he’s writing the famous words, “all men are created equal”?
  • What do you think we as a nation and as individuals can do to better recognize and celebrate different voices in the founding of America?
  • What is American culture? How have Black Americans created American culture? How and why have forms of Black culture been criticized?[1]

Discussion Grading Rubric:

Criteria Poor Good Excellent
Responds to prompt Response is superficial, lacking in analysis or critique. Contributes few novel ideas, connections, or applications. Provides an accurate response to the prompt, but the information delivered is limited or lacking in analysis. Provides a  thoughtful and clear response to the content or question asked. The response includes original thoughts and novel ideas. __/4
Supporting Details Includes vague or incomplete supporting evidence or fails to back opinion with facts. Supports opinions with details, though connections may be unclear, not firmly established, or explicit. Supports response with evidence; makes connections to the course content and/or other experiences. Cites evidence when appropriate. __/2
Comments and participation Provides brief responses or shows little effort to participate in the learning community. Responds kindly and builds upon the comments from others, but may lack depth, detail, and/or explanation. Kindly and thoroughly extend discussions already taking place or poses new possibilities or opinions not previously voiced. Response is substantive and constructive. __/4
Total __/10

  1. Materials from The Pulitzer Center. “Activities to Extend Student Engagement.” Pulitzer Center, May 28, 2020.