Additional Resources

Used by BackStory:

1619 Making of America Summit, featuring Cassandra Newby-Alexander

John K. Thornton, “Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400–1800.”

Linda M. Heywood and John K. Thornton, “Central Africans, Atlantic Creoles, and the Foundation of the Americas, 1585–1660.”

“20. and odd Negroes”; an excerpt from a letter from John Rolfe to Sir Edwin Sandys, Encyclopedia Virginia.

Zora Neale Hurston, “Barracoon: The Story of the Last ‘Black Cargo’” (mentioned)

Available Online:

The 1619 Project” – The New York Times

The 1619 Project” – 1A (an interview with Nikole Hannah-Jones, Wesley Morris and Linda Villarosa about how the New York Times project was accomplished.

1619: Searching for Answers” – USAToday

View Resources

1619 Lesson Set

Download the lesson set.

In 1619, the first Africans were brought against their will across the Atlantic Ocean to the Virginia colony. It marked the beginning of the institution of slavery in the Unites States. Over 400 years later, the United States is still grappling with the legacy of slavery and systemic racism. Generations of African Americans have been subject to untold cruelty. However, it is also true that much of America’s current prosperity can be traced back to the contributions of slaves.

This lesson, and the corresponding BackStory episode, provide a retrospective of the origins of the African slave trade in the U.S. The episode raises difficult questions about how we should commemorate the 400-year anniversary of this dark moment in American history. Using modern perspectives, students will form arguments on how to best approach the legacy of slavery in the United States.