Nikole Hannah-Jones on Bringing ‘The 1619 Challenge’ to the Display to “Be Trustworthy About What This Nation Was Constructed Upon”
4 years in the past this month, Nikole Hannah-Jones, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist behind The 1619 Challenge, first pitched the thought for the long-form journalism initiative to her editor at The New York Occasions Journal. Since then, the unique essay mission has been tailored right into a podcast, a ebook and now a six-part docuseries on Hulu in partnership with Disney, ABC and Onyx Collective.
“It’s been so superb as a result of often you publish one thing and you then’re performed with it, you don’t ever get an opportunity to refine it, to broaden it,” Hannah-Jones informed The Hollywood Reporter on the sequence’ Los Angeles premiere on Thursday night time. “Each iteration of the mission, I discovered one thing extra, in regards to the historical past and about myself.”
Kathleen Lingo, an govt producer on the present and editorial director of movie and tv for The New York Occasions, stated that she instantly knew the mission was primed for the display screen. “My position on the Occasions is to supply documentaries primarily based on our journalism; once I first noticed the 1619 journal sitting at dwelling on a Sunday morning, I instantly thought, ‘That is excellent to lend itself to turning right into a documentary,’” Lingo remembered. “Due to the chapterized format, and every essay being on such a selected subject, it was actually wealthy for translation into the documentary kind.”
Added Hannah-Jones of the onscreen adaptation, “It’s way more accessible. You’re reaching a totally totally different viewers, and also you’re increasing who can interact with the data within the mission. That’s actually essential to me, guaranteeing that the folks that we’re writing about and writing for can entry it.”
Director Roger Ross Williams, the primary African American director to win an Academy Award (for his quick movie Music by Prudence in 2009) informed THR that although adapting a dense essay to a visible format was a problem, utilizing private narrative was the important thing.
“Once I first learn The 1619 Challenge, I used to be reworked as a result of I didn’t know my very own historical past as a Black American, I didn’t fairly perceive all of the systemic issues that had been in place,” he stated. “As soon as I listened to the podcast, I noticed that the key of remodeling this was Nikole Hannah-Jones and her private story, and the best way she used her expertise as a Black American to inform the story. So I used to be like, ‘Nikole goes to be our information by the sequence.’”
“The argument of The 1619 Challenge is that slavery is foundational to the USA … I need us to be trustworthy about what this nation was constructed upon,” Hannah-Jones stated throughout a post-screening dialog moderated by govt producer Oprah Winfrey. “However I additionally need us to know … that the legacy of slavery is shaping our society, whether or not we acknowledge it or not, and it’s not simply hurting Black people. I simply need us to be liberated by the information of what we had been constructed upon.”
Hannah-Jones and Winfrey, who had been joined within the Q&A by Williams and govt producer Shoshana Man, spoke about creating the six episodes — titled “Democracy,” “Race,” “Music,” “Capitalism,” “Worry,” and “Justice” — which Hannah-Jones stated had been chosen as a result of they’re “core pillars of American identification.”
“It was essential to string a present story all through every episode as a result of now we have to indicate how a lot has not modified … that the struggles of Black Individuals from the legacy of slavery nonetheless exist right now and to indicate these and weave that all through the hour. You don’t wish to simply get a historical past lesson, we wish to really see the way it impacts our lives,” Williams stated. “Each single episode will not be in regards to the previous, but it surely’s in regards to the current. Voter suppression, police violence, the brutal nature of capitalism — all of that’s what we’re experiencing now.”
In keeping with Man, engaged on a mission rooted in training allowed for deep studying in regards to the extent of Black contributions to American society all through the method, and having Hannah-Jones on the helm was an added bonus. “Journalism is the document, proper? There’s a purpose why we are saying on the document and off the document as journalists, as a result of we’re making a document, and I can consider no person who I’d relatively create a document with then Nikole Hannah-Jones,” Man continued. “The partnership has simply been phenomenal and to have the ability to work for a Black girl who’s in command of a mission, who created a mission, who dreamed a mission and who has your again 100% on a regular basis, is a type of liberation.”
The primary two episodes of The 1619 Challenge are actually streaming on Hulu, with the next installments dropping in pairs on Thursdays.