Teaching with The 1619 Project

Posted by Mary Hendra on January 17, 2020

The 1619 Project is a major initiative from The New York Times observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.

In the fall, Facing History partnered with The 1619 Project to get materials into the hands of teachers wishing to use this resource with their students. So, what did they do? And what could YOU do?

IMG_0278-1One of the things we appreciated about sharing these resources through Open Houses was the conversation and connections teachers shared with each other - ideas they had about using the resources, quotes that resonated, possible strategies they would use. Check out the ideas below as you consider how you will bring this important history and legacy to your own students. And, don't miss out on additional opportunities...  

  • On Monday, we'll publish an in-depth piece from one of our teachers who specifically brought them into her Ethnic Studies course.
  • Still looking to get 1619 resources in hard copy? We have just a few remaining sets which we will give to teachers diving into this history with us at our upcoming workshop on the Reconstruction Era.
  • And, we have another round of Open Houses starting next week in honor of Fred Korematsu Day. Register now to join other teachers in talking about how you teach Japanese American incarceration and the questions that still resonate about civil liberties, democracy, and power. Each attendee will be able to pick up a free poster set from the Smithsonian.

And now, ideas from teachers about The 1619 Project. In addition to the digital magazine, there were print magazines, broadsheets, and a podcast. Teachers who attended our Open Houses thought of ways to use all of them.

What classes do you think you might use these resources in?

  • Power + Privilege unit in Ethnic Studies
  • Race + Modern Segregation unit in Social Justice course
  • The Reconstruction Era in 8th or 11th grade US History
  • Constitution, voice, activism in 5th grade US History
  • Ethnic Studies - African American Case Study
  • Use podcast to talk about diaspora in Government
  • English/Language Arts course, perhaps using structure of literature circles that dive into issues of race, slavery


What themes will these help you teach?

  • The 1st essay was used by one teacher in discussion on democracy 
  • Citizenship - how we use, perceive it
  • Black History Month
  • Identity - connect with research for autobiography
  • Claiming and changing the narrative
  • Constitution, voice, activism 
  • Standing up to bigotry and hate


What might you pair these resources with?

  • Kindred, by Octavia Butler
  • Frederick Douglass
  • Raisin in the Sun,  by Lorraine Hansberry
  • Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor
  • Black Panther study

Are there projects you do which these resources could strengthen?

  • Heritage Project. Students share their ethnic backgrounds / identities. This could be a valuable resource.
  • “We are America” project. Students explore individual stories that contribute to who we are as a country today. These resources will help students explore forced migration.
  • Historical memory and monuments. In a unit exploring this theme, the 1619 resources will give more substantial background to understanding the Civil War monuments erected in early 20th century and the debates today.


Overall, teachers were looking forward to continuing their own learning, sharing with colleagues, collaborating between history and English/Language Arts teachers, connecting this history to today, and bringing these resources to students for critical learning.  If you have used The 1619 Project in your classroom, please share what you did below! And don't miss out on the next round of Open Houses to share ideas with teachers about how you teach Japanese American Incarceration.  Register today.

Topics: Reconstruction, difficult conversations, race

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This blog helps Southern California teachers connect directly with each other, share ideas, and learn about new resources and opportunities for those interested in or already implementing Facing History.

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