Alternative Reading Guide for The 1619 Project Essays ©2021

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Below are essays from the New York Times 1619 Project and a Pulitzer Center designed reading guide along with a supplemental reading guide and questions. You can find the 1619 essays below in the full issue from the Pulitzer Center.

The 1619 Project, while being accused of some historically fallacious claims, created a groundswell of conversation in the United States. In fact, the response was so monumental that many schools began to use the 1619 Project in their curriculum. This adds a necessary richness to American classrooms where too often the voices and experiences of black Americans, who were instrumental in helping to shape and define America’s place in history, have often been downplayed or even ignored. We welcome the new discussion and hope that it continues. The danger we see in using only the 1619 Project as a guide to race relations and black American history is that it drowns out some of the voices of black resilience, strength and true heroism. Much of the 1619 Project focuses on oppression and grievance as the collective voice of the black American experience. This alternative reading guide takes the Pulitzer Center’s guide and adds an additional reading to each 1619 Project essay for a more complete picture of the black American experience and contribution to American society. We encourage all classrooms using the 1619 Project to consider adding these or other supplemental readings to expand their curriculum, promote robust dialogue and discussion, and add further dimension to the nuance and complexity of the building of America.

To the coming of a better time,

W.F. Twyman, Jr. & J.D. Richmond

You can download a hard copy of this curriculum and other resources on Truth in Between (Twitter: @truth_inbetween) You can find more materials, resources, support or advice on Critical Social Justice ideology at Counterweight (Twitter: @Counter_Weight_). You can find more discussion on these and other similar issues on the Hold my Drink Podcast. For press inquiries email:

Table of Contents

Alternative Reading Guide for the 1619 Project Essays

  1. The Idea of America

The American Soviet Mentality

  1. Chained Migration

From the Virginia Plantation to the National Capitol

  1. Capitalism


  1. Mortgaging the Future

The Freedman’s Savings Bank

  1. Good as Gold

Why the Gold Standard is a Bad Idea

  1. Fabric of Modernity

Commodity Trading

  1. Municipal Bonds

75 Most Powerful Blacks on Wall Street

  1. A Broken Healthcare System

Embracing Genetic Diversity to Improve Black Health

  1. Traffic

The World of Patience Gromes

  1. Undemocratic Democracy

The Omega Glory

  1. Medical Inequality

Are Genetic Factors Involved in Racial and Ethnic Differences in Late-Life Health?

  1. American Popular Music

Roll, Jordan Roll

  1. Sugar

Tobacco and Slaves

  1. Pecan Pioneer

George Washington Carver

  1. The Wealth Gap

Black American Culture and the Racial Wealth Gap

  1. Mass Incarceration

Racist Police Violence Reconsidered

  1. Hope

Simple Justice

  1. Shadow of the Past

Shadow of the Past II

The 1619 Project and the Pulitzer designed 1619 Project Curriculum continues with a Supplemental Broadsheet. To continue reading the Alternative 1619 Project Reading Guide with explanations for each essay pairing, the Alternative Broadhseet and Appendices, you can download the full curriculum on the Truth in Between website.

Alternative Reading Guide for the 1619 Project Essays

  1. The Idea of America” by Nikole Hannah-Jones (pages 14–26)

Excerpt: “Our Declaration of Independence, signed on July 4, 1776, proclaims that ‘all men are created equal’ and ‘endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.’ But the white men who drafted those words did not believe them to be true for the hundreds of thousands of black people in their midst. ‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness’ did not apply to fully one-fifth of the country. Yet despite being violently denied the freedom and justice promised to all, black Americans believed fervently in the American creed. Through centuries of black resistance and protest, we have helped the country to live up to its founding ideals…Without the idealistic, strenuous and patriotic efforts of black Americans, our democracy today would most likely look very different — it might not be a democracy at all.”

Key Names, Dates and Terms: abolitionist, American Revolution, Civil Rights Act, Crispus Attucks, Declaration of Independence, Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, Jim Crow, Mason-Dixon Line, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (N.A.A.C.P.), Reconstruction, W.E.B. Du Bois

Guiding Questions:

  • How have laws, policies, and systems developed to enforce the enslavement of black Americans before the Civil War influenced laws, policies, and systems in years since?
  • How has activism by black Americans throughout U.S. history led to policies that benefit all people living in the U.S.?


The American Soviet Mentality: Collective Demonization Invades Our Culture” by Izabella Tabarovsky, published in Tablet Magazine, June 15, 2020

Excerpt: “All of us who came out of the Soviet system bear the scars of the practice of unanimous condemnation, whether we ourselves had been targets or participants in it or not. It is partly why Soviet immigrants are often so averse to any expressions of collectivism: We have seen its ugliest expressions in our own lives and our friends’ and families’ lives. It is impossible to read the chasting remarks of Soviet writers, for whom (Boris) Pasternak had been a friend and mentor, without a sense of deep shame. Shame over the perfidy and lack of decency on display. Shame at the misrepresentations and perversions of truth. Shame at the virtue signaling and the closing of rank. Shame over the momentary and, we now know, fleeting triumph of mediocrity over truth.”

Key Names, Dates and Terms: Soviet, Soviet mentality, unanimous condemnation, collective demonization, collectivism, shame, misrepresentation, perversions of truth, virtue signaling, mediocrity

Guiding Questions:

  • How has collectivist demonization in black American culture and consciousness since the Civil Rights Movement influenced black enterprise, achievement and personal agency in years since?
  • What has been the impact of black enterprise on American history?


  1. Chained Migration” by Tiya Miles (page 22)

Excerpt: “Slavery leapt out of the East and into the interior lands of the Old Southwest in the 1820s and 1830s.”

“As new lands in the Old Southwest were pried open, white enslavers back east realized their most profitable export was no longer tobacco or rice. A complex interstate slave trade became an industry of its own. This extractive system, together with enslavers moving west with human property, resulted in the relocation of approximately one million enslaved black people to a new region. The entrenched practice of buying, selling, owning, renting and mortgaging humans stretched into the American West along with the white settler-colonial population that now occupied former indigenous lands.”

Key Names, Dates and Terms: Indian Removal Act of 1830, Mexican-American War, westward expansion

Guiding Questions:

  • How was the expansion of the U.S. shaped and made possible by slave labor?
  • When did free black Americans begin to travel west, and why?


From the Virginia Plantation to the National Capitol” by John Mercer Langston (esp. pgs. 31-33, found in link)

Excerpt: “And now, early upon a bright and beautiful October morning in 1834, just as the dawn touched the eastern sky, these inexperienced wayfarers, at the time appointed, quitted the old plantation upon a journey which should prove to them all a new revelation.”

“The night was well spent, the moon had reached well-nigh its setting, before he had finished his interesting conversation to the tired travelers – old friends in fact of his, who composed his auditors. He told much of his home in Ohio: how he lived, and what he did there; how he was treated by all classes; when he left home, and what his experiences had been as he journeyed along southward to meet those who were now made so happy by his presence and his prospective assistance. He had left the town in Ohio, to which these friends from and relatives of his (from Louisa County, Virginia) were wending their way, upon the same day, as he supposed, that they had left Louisa Court House; and had expected to meet them sooner; and, if possible, so near their starting-point, as to make it practicable for him to hurry on even so far; spend there at least one day, and pressing his horse and himself in his return, overtake them within fifty miles, certainly, westward of the spot where this agreeable meeting occurred. Now, however, he concluded to go no further; but remaining at once, direct and guide those who must travel the road over which he had just passed.”

Key Names, Dates and Terms: Self-reliance, success, heroic achievement

Guiding Questions:

  • How was the expansion of the U.S. shaped and made possible by free black culture and consciousness?
  • Does this Langston essay provide alternative ideas to Chained Migration?

  1. Capitalism”​ ​by Matthew Desmond (pages 30–40)

Excerpt: “In the United States, the richest 1 percent of Americans own 40 percent of the country’s wealth, while a larger share of working-age people (18-65) lives in poverty than in any other nation belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (O.E.C.D.).”

“Those searching for reasons the American economy is uniquely severe and unbridled have found answers in many places (religion, politics, culture). But recently, historians have pointed persuasively to the gnatty fields of Georgia and Alabama, to the cotton houses and slave auction blocks, as the birthplace of America’s low-road approach to capitalism.”

Key Names, Dates and Terms: 2008 economic crisis, assets, capitalism, Collateralized Debt Obligations (C.D.O.s), cotton gin, credit, creditor, debts, depreciation, Industrial Revolution, investor, labor union, Louisiana Purchase, mortgage, Organization

Guiding Questions:

  • How does the author describe capitalism in the U.S.?
  • How did slavery in the U.S. contribute to the development of the global financial industry?
  • What current financial systems reflect practices developed to support industries built on the work of enslaved people?


Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr” ​by Ron Chernow (esp. pgs. 12, 216, 240-42, 309, 482, 676, see Appendix A, found in the full curriculum on the Truth in Between website)

Excerpt: “Their clothing was old and tattered, and they looked dirty and hungry” (testimony of childhood squalor of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.)

“The fiercest robber baron had turned out to be the foremost philanthropist…By the time Rockefeller died, in fact, so much good had unexpectedly flowered from so much evil that God might even have greeted him on the other side, as the titan had so confidently expected all along.”

Key Names, Dates and Terms: triumph, American capitalism, robber baron, philanthropist, competitors, reformers, caricaturists, Spelman College

Guiding Questions:

  • How does the author describe capitalism in the U.S.?
  • How did capitalism in the U.S. contribute to the development of Historically Black Colleges and Universities like Spelman College?
  • What current financial systems reflect practices developed to support industries built on the work of black people since 1900?

  1. Mortgaging the Future” by Mehrsa Baradaran (page 32)

Excerpt: “The Union passed the bills so it could establish a national currency in order to finance the war. The legislation also created the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (O.C.C.), the first federal bank regulator. After the war, states were allowed to keep issuing bank charters of their own. This byzantine infrastructure remains to this day, and is known as the dual banking system. Among all nations in the world, only the United States has such a fragmentary, overlapping and inefficient system — a direct relic of the conflict between federal and state power over maintenance of the slave-based economy of the South.”

Key Names, Dates and Terms: bank charters, dual banking system, federal oversight, National Bank Act, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (O.C.C.)

Guiding Questions:

  • How are current banking practices in the U.S. influenced by bank administration and regulation practices developed to fund the Civil War?
  • How are bank regulation practices established after the Civil War connected to the 2008 economic crisis in the U.S.?


The Freedmen’s Savings Bank: Good Intentions Were Not Enough; A Noble Experiment Goes Awry” by Office of the Comptroller of the Currency

Excerpt: “At first, all went well. With the Freedman’s Bureau helping to publicize it, the Bank attracted millions of dollars from tens of thousands of depositors. The accounts they established were poignantly small. The vast majority of them ranged between $5 and $50, but these small deposits were emblematic of the historic rise of a class of black property owners…The bank’s closing…left 61,144 depositors with losses of nearly $3 million.”

Key Names, Dates and Terms: Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Frederick Douglass, Henry Cooke, Freedman’s Savings Bank

Guiding Questions:

  • What were some of the reasons for the collapse of the Freedman’s Bank?
  • How does the collapse of the Freedman’s Bank tie back to slavery and systemic factors in a dual banking system?
  1. Good as Gold” by Mehrsa Baradaran (page 35)

Excerpt: “At the height of the war, Lincoln understood that he could not feed the troops without more money, so he issued a national currency, backed by the full faith and credit of the United States — but not by gold.”

“Lincoln assured critics that the move would be temporary, but leaders who followed him eventually made it permanent — first Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression and then, formally, Richard Nixon in 1971.”

Key Names, Dates and Terms: fiat currency

Guiding Questions:

  • Why did the U.S. develop its first national currency, and what role did the Civil War play in its creation?
  • How was the value of a national currency in the U.S. determined?


Why a Gold Standard is a Very Bad Idea” by Money and Banking

Excerpt: “In his 2012 lecture Origins and Mission of the Federal Reserve, then-Federal Reserve Board Chair Ben Bernanke identifies four fundamental problems with the gold standard:

  • When the central bank fixes the dollar price of gold, rather than the price of goods we consume, fluctuations in the dollar price of goods replace fluctuations in the market price of gold.
  • Since prices are tied to the amount of money in the economy, which is linked to the supply of gold, inflation depends on the rate that gold is mined.
  • When the gold standard is used at home and abroad, it is an exchange rate policy in which international transactions must be settled in gold.
  • Digging gold out of one hole in the ground (a mine) to put it into another hole in the ground (a vault) wastes resources.”

“Consistent with Bernanke’s critique, the evidence shows that both inflation and economic growth were quite volatile under the gold standard.”

Key Names, Dates and Terms: Gold Standard, Central Bank, monetary policy, fixed exchange rate, Great Depression, convertibility, panic

Guiding Questions:

  • Does the Gold Standard provide more economic stability?
  • Is the final abandonment of the Gold Standard related to slavery?


  1. Fabric of Modernity” by Mehrsa Baradaran (page 36)

Excerpt: “From the first decades of the 1800s, during the height of the trans-Atlantic cotton trade, the sheer size of the market and the escalating number of disputes between counterparties was such that courts and lawyers began to articulate and codify the common-law standards regarding contracts…Today law students still study some of these pivotal cases as they learn doctrines like foreseeability, mutual mistake and damages.”

Key Names, Dates and Terms: damages, futures contracts, foreseeability, mutual mistake contracts

Guiding Questions:

  • How did increased production of cotton in the South through slave labor influence trade and business in the U.S., and around the world?
  • How have the laws and contracts developed before the Civil War to support the cotton industry influenced the financial documents we use today?


Commodity Trading – Chapter 1: The History of Commodity Trading” by FX Empire Editorial Board

Excerpt: “Unbelievably Futures Trading dates back to 17th Century Japan. The first ever case noted concerned rice. However, there is also evidence that rice futures were traded in China as far back as 6,000 years ago.”

“Future trading is a natural progression of things in response to the difficulties of maintaining a year round supply of products which are dependable on seasons like agricultural crops.”

Key Names, Dates and Terms: rice tickets, Chicago Board of Trade 1848

Guiding Questions:

  • What is the purpose of agricultural contracts and where did the idea originate?
  • Is futures trading a result of slavery?


  1. Municipal Bonds” by Tiya Miles (page 40)

Excerpt: “As the historian David Quigley has demonstrated, New York City’s phenomenal economic consolidation came as a result of its dominance in the Southern cotton trade, facilitated by the construction of the Erie Canal. It was in this moment — the early decades of the 1800s — that New York City gained its status as a financial behemoth through shipping raw cotton to Europe and bankrolling the boom industry that slavery made.”

Key Names, Dates and Terms: capitalism, Dutch West India Company, insurance, profits, Wall Street

Guiding Questions:

  • How did enslaved people contribute to the construction of northeastern cities like New York City?
  • How did banks and other financial institutions profit from slavery, even after it was abolished in the North?


75 Most Powerful Blacks On Wall Street” (Profiling J. Donald Rice Jr.) by Alan Hughes published in Black Enterprise, November 7, 2011

Excerpt: “Underwritten municipal bond transactions exceeding $245 billion and has extended derivative transactions totaling nearly $30 billion. In 2010, the firm served as a managing underwriter on more than $52 billion in municipal bond issues – a 578% increase in just four years.”

Key Names, Dates and Terms: capitalism, Wall Street, entrepreneurship, Rice Financial Products Co., Black Enterprise Magazine

Guiding Questions:

  • How have black people contributed to the rise of Wall Street?
  • How did black Americans profit from the municipal bond market?


  1. A Broken Health Care System” by Jeneen Interlandi (pages 44–45)

Excerpt: “Federal health care policy was designed, both implicitly and explicitly, to exclude black Americans. As a result, they faced an array of inequities—including statistically shorter, sicker lives than their white counterparts.”

“One hundred and fifty years after the freed people of the South first petitioned the government for basic medical care, the United States remains the only high-income country in the world where such care is not guaranteed to every citizen. In the United States, racial health disparities have proved as foundational as democracy itself.”

Key Names, Dates and Terms: Affordable Care Act (A.C.A.), Aid to Dependent Children Act, Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, Freedmen’s Bureau, GI Bill, Jim Crow, New Deal, Pullman porters,​ ​Reconstruction, Social Security, Wagner Acts of 1935

Guiding Questions:

  • How have healthcare policies, city planning, and other government systems in the U.S. limited who has access to healthcare services?
  • According to the author, what factors help diseases to spread in a community?


Embracing Genetic Diversity to Improve Black Health” by Akinyemi Oni-Orisan, Pharm.D., Ph.D., Yusuph Mavura, M.S., Yambazi Banda, Ph.D., Timothy A. Thornton, Ph.D., and Ronnie Sebro, M.D., Ph.D., published in The New England Journal of Medicine, March 25, 2021

Excerpt: “But our personal experiences as Black male geneticists in science and society have given us a certain perspective on genetics, race, ancestry, and health disparities affecting the Black community.”

“There is a remarkably strong correlation between a person’s continent of ancestral origin and self-identified race. Thus, we believe that race has both a genetic and a social component.”

Key Names, Dates and Terms: Genetics, Diversity, Black Health, Aggressions, Microaggressions, Isolation, Imposter Syndrome, Stereotype Threat,​ ​Gaslighting, Lack of Mentorship, STEM fields

Guiding Questions:

  • In what ways might genetic science improve the quality of health care for those of African descent?
  • Do the authors believe race is more a factor of genetic construction or social construction?


  1. Traffic”​ ​by Kevin M. Kruse (pages 48–49)

Excerpt: “The postwar programs for urban renewal, for instance, destroyed black neighborhoods and displaced their residents with such regularity that African-Americans came to believe, in James Baldwin’s memorable phrase, that ‘urban renewal means Negro removal.’”

“In the end, Atlanta’s traffic is at a standstill because its attitude about transit is at a standstill, too. Fifty years after its Interstates were set down with an eye to segregation and its rapid-transit system was stunted by white flight, the city is still stalled in the past.”

Key Names, Dates and Terms: James Baldwin, New Deal, public transit, redlining practices, segregation laws of the 1890s, urban renewal, white flight

Guiding Questions:

  • What policies contributed to neighborhood segregation in the U.S.?
  • How have transportation systems reinforced segregation?


The World of Patience Gromes”​ ​by Scott Davis (esp. pgs. 15, 25, 27, 32, 43, 47, 53, 54, 57, 58, 69, found in link)

Excerpt: “I want to tell the story of a black community: its birth in the country at the end of the Civil War, its move from country to city, its disintegration during the war on poverty.”

“This community began with black men and women who belonged to the first generation after slavery. They were young, blessed with strong families, and in a position to make a life for themselves.”

Key Names, Dates and Terms: Richmond, Fulton, Virginia, country, Civil War, war on poverty, first generation after slavery, strong families, their own hands

Guiding Questions:

  • How did the move from country to the city contribute to neighborhood segregation in the U.S.?
  • How have personal choices reinforced segregation?

  1. Undemocratic Democracy” by Jamelle Bouie (pages 50–55)

Excerpt: “There is a homegrown ideology of reaction in the United States, inextricably tied to our system of slavery. And while the racial content of that ideology has attenuated over time, the basic framework remains: fear of rival political majorities; of demographic ‘replacement’; of a government that threatens privilege and hierarchy.”

Key Names, Dates and Terms: Affordable Care Act (A.C.A.), the black belt, concurrent majority, debt limit, fiscal responsibility, nullification, Populist Party

Guiding Questions:

  • According to the author, how do 19th century U.S. political movements aimed at maintaining the right to enslave people manifest in contemporary political parties?


The Omega Glory” in the Star Trek Original Series (Season 2, Episode 23)

Excerpt: “These words must apply to everyone, or they mean nothing. Do you understand?”

Key Names, Dates and Terms: Holy Words, We The People, meaning, Constitution, Yangs, Kohns, Liberty

Guiding Questions:

  • According to Captain Kirk, how does an 18th century U.S. political movement aimed at liberty manifest itself on the planet Omega IV in the distant future?


  1. Medical Inequality” by Linda Villarosa (pages 56–57)

Excerpt: “The centuries-old belief in racial differences in physiology has continued to mask the brutal effects of discrimination and structural inequities, instead placing blame on individuals and their communities for statistically poor health outcomes. Rather than conceptualizing race as a risk factor that predicts disease or disability because of a fixed susceptibility conceived on shaky grounds centuries ago, we would do better to understand race as a proxy for bias, disadvantage and ill treatment. The poor health outcomes of black people, the targets of discrimination over hundreds of years and numerous generations, may be a harbinger for the future health of an increasingly diverse and unequal America.”

Key Names, Dates and Terms: anesthesia, gynecology, lung capacity, pulmonary function

Guiding Questions:

  • What inaccurate and unfounded assumptions have doctors made throughout history about the bodies of enslaved black people, and how did they attempt to prove those assumptions?
  • How have racist medical practices and attitudes influenced the medical treatment that black Americans have received throughout history, and continue to receive today?


Are Genetic Factors Involved in Racial and Ethnic Differences in Late-Life Health?” by James V. Neel, published in National Research Council (US) Committee on Population, 1997

Excerpt: “In the United States, when we think about racial or ethnic differences in late-life health (and the possible genetic bases for these differences), our thoughts tend to center on the comparison of blacks and whites, and because there is so much more information on these two groups than any others, this presentation concentrates on some possible differences between them. First, I briefly discuss two well-understood disease entities of early onset that are almost entirely restricted to blacks and use these diseases as a point of departure for the possible health implications of racial and ethnic differences in allele frequencies with respect to single-locus polymorphisms. (An allele is any one of two or more different genes that may occupy the same position on a specific chromosome.)”

Key Names, Dates and Terms: sickle cell anemia, G-6 PD deficiency trait, genetic differences, successful genetic adaptation

Guiding Questions:

  • Should people of non-African descent be tested and assessed for the sickle cell trait?
  • How has genetic medical research influenced the medical treatment that black Americans have received since sequencing of the human genome, and continue to receive today?


  1. American Popular Music” by Wesley Morris (pages 60–67)

Excerpt: “When we’re talking about black music, we’re talking about horns, drums, keyboards and guitars doing the unthinkable together. We’re also talking about what the borrowers and collaborators don’t want to or can’t lift — centuries of weight, of atrocity we’ve never sufficiently worked through, the blackness you know is beyond theft because it’s too real, too rich, too heavy to steal.”

Key Dates, Names and Terms: appropriation, minstrelsy

Guiding Questions:

  • How have popular musical and performance trends throughout history used traditions and styles developed by black Americans?
  • How does the author describe black music and blackness in music?


Roll Jordan Roll: A Critique of Slavery and a Story of Hope” by Sadie Ray, published in Challenges to Modernity: Blog by Sadie Ray, April 30, 2016

Excerpt: “They that walked in darkness sang in the olden-days – Sorrow Songs – for they were weary at heart. And so before each thought that I have written in this book, I have a set phrase, a haunting echo of these weird old songs in which the souls of the black slave spoke to men.” (quoting W.E.B. DuBois in The Souls of Black Folks)

Key Dates, Names and Terms: Sorrow Songs, Roll Jordan Roll

Guiding Questions:

  • How have popular musical and performance trends throughout black history used traditions and styles developed from others?
  • Does the sorrow song of Roll, Jordan, Roll demonstrate legitimate cultural appropriation?


  1. Sugar” by Khalil Gibran Muhammad (pages 70–77)

Excerpt: “None of this — the extraordinary mass commodification of sugar, its economic might and outsize impact on the American diet and health — was in any way foreordained, or even predictable, when Christopher Columbus made his second voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in 1493, bringing sugar-cane stalks with him from the Spanish Canary Islands. In Europe at that time, refined sugar was a luxury product, the back-breaking toil and dangerous labor required in its manufacture an insuperable barrier to production in anything approaching bulk. It seems reasonable to imagine that it might have remained so if it weren’t for the establishment of an enormous market in enslaved laborers who had no way to opt out of the treacherous work.”

Key Names, Dates and Terms: 1730 slave code in New York, Haitian Revolution, Hurricane Katrina, racketeering, taxpayer subsidies, triangle of trade, wire fraud

Guiding Questions:

  • How is sugar produced, and why was it cultivated in what became the U.S.?
  • How has sugar production changed, and how have policies continued to limit who has access to the wealth earned from producing sugar?


Tobacco and Slaves” by Allan Kulikoff (esp. pgs. 23, 31-33, 38, 40-41, 47-48, found in link)

Excerpt: “Once settlers discovered a market for tobacco in England, they dropped all other economic activities. Planters could take advantage of the tobacco market only if they commanded sufficient labor to increase their output. They therefore used the profits they made from the trade to bring over English servants to work in their tobacco fields.”

Key Names, Dates and Terms: Tobacco, Slaves, English servants, Indentured servants, racial underclass, Chesapeake Bay, Emigrants

Guiding Questions:

  • How is tobacco produced, and why was it cultivated in what became the U.S.?
  • How has tobacco production changed, and how have policies continued to limit who has access to the wealth earned from producing tobacco?


  1. Pecan Pioneer” by Tiya Miles (page 76)

Excerpt: “The presence of pecan pralines in every Southern gift shop from South Carolina to Texas, and our view of the nut as regional fare, masks a crucial chapter in the story of the pecan: It was an enslaved man who made the wide cultivation of this nut possible.”

Key Names, Dates and Terms: commercial production, commercial market, grafting

Guiding Questions:

  • How were pecans initially cultivated in the U.S., and how did Antoine’s innovation make their commercial production viable?
  • Who are the figures that we learn about when studying innovation in the U.S., and whose stories are missing?


George Washington Carver: In His Own Words” by Gary R. Kremer (esp. pgs. 1, 3-6, 10, 16, 22, found in link)

Excerpt: “And yet George Washington Carver is also one of the least understood of all our heroes. What manner of man was this person who operated out of a remote Southern black school, took white America as if by storm, and rose to national and even international fame?”

“Conversations left the Milhollands deeply impressed: here, they knew, was a rare individual indeed. They quickly became convinced that the searching, sensitive mind of the future scientist needed to be nurtured and disciplined through formal education. They urged Carver to enroll as a student at nearby Simpson College, but Carver was reluctant. His only previous experience at entering college had ended disastrously. He had applied at Highland College in Kansas and been accepted, sight unseen. When he had tried to register at the all-white school, his obvious blackness had caused the first official he encountered to announce that there had been a mistake: Highland College had never admitted a Negro and had no intention of every doing so. For a young man who had always considered whites to be his friends, that had been a bitter pill to swallow. He could not stand the thought of being rejected once more.”

Key Names, Dates and Terms: peanuts, Horatio Alger, Tuskegee Institute

Guiding Questions:

  • Why is George Washington Carver better known as an inventor and innovator than “Antoine”?
  • How did George Washington Carver rise from slavery to fame and fortune?


  1. The Wealth Gap” by Trymaine Lee (pages 82–83)

Excerpt: “Today’s racial wealth gap is perhaps the most glaring legacy of American slavery and the violent economic dispossession that followed.”

“The post-Reconstruction plundering of black wealth was not just a product of spontaneous violence, but etched in law and public policy.”

Key Names, Dates and Terms: Freedmen’s Bureau, GI Bill, Home Owners Loan Corporation, New Deal programs (social security, unemployment, minimum wage, etc.), Reconstruction, redlining, zero and negative wealth

Guiding Questions:

  • How does a person accumulate and keep wealth in the U.S.?
  • How have policy and exclusion from government wealth-building programs limited black Americans’ opportunities to accumulate wealth?


Black American Culture and the Racial Wealth Gap” by Coleman Hughes, published in Quillette, July 19, 2018

Excerpt: “It’s not looking good for the progressive narrative about the racial wealth gap. Still, there is a kernel of truth to it. Researchers at Brandeis followed a nationally representative set of 1,700 families from 1984 to 2009 and measured their wealth gains over that period. They concluded that inherited wealth and length of homeownership accounted for 5 percent and 27 percent, respectively, of the racial disparity in wealth gains. But even if that combined 32 percent could be automatically ascribed to historical racism (which it cannot), that would still leave 68 percent of the gap to be explained by other factors. In short, many commentators have zoomed in on the fraction of the story that can be told without discomfort but have ignored the rest.”

Key Names, Dates and Terms: California Alien Land Law of 1913, Nielson Report, Consumer Expenditure Survey, financial health scale, intra-racial disparities, The Parable of the Pedestrian

Guiding Questions:

  • How can top-down government policy fix the wealth gap?
  • What are some bottom-up approaches for addressing the wealth gap?

  1. Mass Incarceration” by Bryan Stevenson (pages 80–81)

Excerpt: “The United States has the highest rate of incarceration of any nation on Earth: We represent 4 percent of the planet’s population but 22 percent of its imprisoned. In the early 1970s, our prisons held fewer than 300,000 people; since then, that number has grown to more than 2.2 million, with 4.5 million more on probation or parole. Because of mandatory sentencing and ‘three strikes’ laws, I’ve found myself representing clients sentenced to life without parole for stealing a bicycle or for simple possession of marijuana. And central to understanding this practice of mass incarceration and excessive punishment is the legacy of slavery.”

“It’s not just that this history fostered a view of black people as presumptively criminal. It also cultivated a tolerance for employing any level of brutality in response.”

Key Names, Dates and Terms: 13th Amendment, Black Codes, capital punishment, Reconstruction, sharecropping

Guiding Questions:

  • How have laws been written and enforced in the U.S. over the past 400 years to disproportionality punish black Americans?
  • How does Stevenson argue that the modern day prison system acts as a continuation of slavery?


Racist Police Violence Reconsidered” by John McWhorter, published in Quillette, June 11, 2020

Excerpt: “…it remains true that black people are killed at a rate disproportionate to their percentage of the population. Does this decisively demonstrate racial bias or murderous animus on the part of American law enforcement? Blacks represent about 13 percent of the US population but about a quarter of victims in cop killings. Whites constitute about 62 percent of the population but only half of those killed by the police. With slight fluctuations, these trends have been broadly consistent.”

Key Names, Dates and Terms: George Floyd, Tony Timpa, socioeconomic gap, racial animus

Guiding Questions:

  • What are some explanations of police shootings that aren’t race related?
  • How does the number of shootings of black people correlate to the population percentage?


  1. Hope” by Djeneba Aduayom (photography), Nikole Hannah-Jones (introduction), and Wadzanai Mhute (captions) (pages 86–93)

Excerpt: “Leading up to the civil rights movement, Howard was virtually the only law school in the South that served black students. It became an incubator for those who would use the law to challenge racial apartheid in the North and the South and help make the country more fair and democratic.”

“The school continues that legacy today, producing more black lawyers than perhaps any other institution. In May, it graduated its 148th class, and the four newly minted lawyers featured here were among the graduates. All of them descended from people enslaved in this country.” —Nikole Hannah-Jones

“As a sixth-generation descendant of slavery, I am essentially a part of the first generation of descendants to carry the torch that was lit by my ancestors into true freedom.’’ ​—S​eptembra Lesane, a recent graduate of Howard University School of Law

Key Names, Dates and Terms: census, estate, Freedmen’s Bureau, genealogy, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), property ledgers, will

Guiding Questions:

  • What challenges do black Americans face in tracing lineage, and what strategies have been used to address those challenges?
  • What similarities and differences do you notice between the stories of the ancestors of the four Howard University School of Law students?
  • How do the portraits help tell the stories of the people who are profiled?


Simple Justice” by Richard Kluger (esp. pgs.107, 115, 204, 292, 473, see Appendix B found in the full curriculum on the Truth in Between website)

Excerpt: “He was the first African American ever to serve as law clerk to a Justice, and, in view of Frankfurter’s didactic bent, it was good for (William T.) Coleman Jr. that he had come well prepared. A summa cum laude graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School who had served as a Harvard Law Review editor, a Harvard Business School graduate for good measure, Coleman withal had been unable to find a job with a law firm in his hometown of Philadelphia, but landed a position there as law clerk to one of the judges for the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit – a job he handled with distinction for two years before Justice Frankfurter summoned him to Washington.”

“After his first year, (Charles H. Houston) was elected to the Harvard Law Review, an honor that went to the highest-ranking members of the class. It was more than an honor, though, for the quality of writing and thinking that went into the monthly magazine carried its editors far beyond the demands of normal classroom work. And none of the editors was more purposeful than the first black man ever to serve on the staff.”

“Son of a Richmond lawyer who had first established a thriving real-estate business, (Spottswood W. Robinson III) himself proved a successful business-lawyer, dividing his time between teaching at Howard and specializing in realty law as a partner in the firm (Oliver) Hill had established before going into the Army in 1943.’’ ​

Key Names, Dates and Terms: Harvard Law Review, Summa Cum Laude, Magna Cum Laude, William H. Hastie, William T. Coleman Jr., Spottswood W. Robinson III, Charles H. Houston, Reginald F. Lewis, George L. Ruffin

Guiding Questions:

  • Why might black Americans select Harvard Law School over Howard Law School for a legal education?
  • Were there other law schools shortly after the Civil War graduating black students?
  • How do portraits help tell the stories of the people who are profiled?

  1. A picture containing sky, outdoor, tree, grass Description automatically generated
    Shadow of the Past” by Anne C. Bailey (text) and Dannielle Bowman (photograph) (page 98)

Excerpt: “This spot [pictured] is the site of the largest auction of enslaved people in American history… A photo can’t capture the contribution those 436 people made to the economy of their country, or the gifts and talents they lent it. (As part of the Gullah Geechee community, they were among those who gave the world a song of peace, ‘Kumbaya.’) What you do see are two tracks, intersecting but going in different directions, toward different outcomes — a fitting metaphor, perhaps, for black and white life in America.”

Key Names, Dates and Terms: auction, economy, Gullah Geechee community

Guiding Questions:

  • How does the author describe the largest auction of enslaved people in American history?
  • How do the text and image connect? Why do you think The 1619 Project concludes with this image and text?


Shadow of the Past II by W.F. Twyman, Jr.

A large building with a clock tower Description automatically generated with medium confidence
This spot [pictured] is the site of the most prestigious historically black college and university in the United States of America. A photo of Howard University’s Founders Library can’t capture the contributions of tens of thousands of black people made to the economy of their country, or the gifts and talents they lent it. From the moment the first black professor George Boyer Vashon, the first black law school dean John Mercer Langston and the first black president Mordecai Wyatt Johnson graced the Hilltop campus, all Americans would feel the influence and vision of black lawyers, doctors, teachers and scholars throughout the North and South, East and West. Vice-President Kamala Harris is the latest generation of leaders who have known Howard as home. What you see in the red brick buildings at Howard are the physical embodiments of epic vision, steadfastness and resilience in Black America.

Key Names, Dates and Terms: John Mercer Langston, George Boyer Vashon, Mordecai Wyatt Johnson, Kamala Harris.

Guiding Questions:

  • How should we view the achievements of black Americans who built and attended Howard University?
  • How does this image and the supplemental readings connect? Why do you think we conclude with this image and text?


The 1619 Project and the Pulitzer designed 1619 Project Curriculum continues with a Supplemental Broadsheet. To continue reading the Alternative 1619 Project Reading Guide with explanations for each essay pairing, the Alternative Broadhseet and Appendices, you can download the full curriculum on the Truth in Between website.


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