Predictably, and with more than average fanfare, The New York Times’s headline-grabbing The 1619 Project is coming to the small screen. Huluhas released a six-part docuseries on the controversial historical revision, which purports to demonstrate the racist foundations of the American Project. Brainchild of Nikole Hannah-Jones and Dean Baquet, this new “origin” myth has become something of a political hot-potato in the culture wars.
Though it’s not likely to go very far, I’d like to toss another potato into the fire and point out that slavery was well-established in North America at least one hundred years before the alleged “beginning” of the American slavery story. Complete with the myriad complexities, contradictions and paradoxes of real life, the Spanish Americas (including much of what is today the United States) were awash in slavery. Slavery between Indians. Enslavement of Indians by Spaniards. Enslavement of Spaniards by Indians. And yes, tragically, enslavement of blacks, ladinos, Moors, and every distinction between. It was messy, it was endemic, and it was very real—but it was certainly not confined exclusively to Blacks, nor to early Americans in Virginia. Perhaps this deeper, more complex history might be called the 1519 Project.