The New York Times’ “1619 Project” is getting the full Hollywood treatment, thanks to Lionsgate and Oprah Winfrey.
Under the deal, the controversial series of articles that sought to reframe American history around slavery will be adapted for the big and small screens — feature films, television series, documentaries, and various forms of unscripted content. Lionsgate will serve as the studio while Winfrey has come aboard as a producer.
“We took very seriously our duty to find TV and film partners that would respect and honor the work and mission of ‘The 1619 Project,’ that understood our vision and deep moral obligation to doing justice to these stories,” Nikole Hannah-Jones, the Times reporter who spearheaded the project, said in a statement to The Root, which first reported the deal.
It’s been almost a year since we published the #1619Project, the most important work of my life, and I am so excited to announce that we will be partnering with @Lionsgate and the one and only @Oprah to bring this work on slavery’s legacy to tv and film! https://t.co/nAk49WHQsO
— Ida Bae Wells (@nhannahjones) July 8, 2020
When the #1619Project came out almost a year ago, I stood in tearful applause for the profound offering that it was giving our culture and nation. Today, I am honored to be a part of @nhannahjones’ vision to bring her transformative work to a global audience. Stay tuned, y’all! https://t.co/zcmVlLeSKV
— Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) July 8, 2020
Hannah-Jones called Oprah Winfrey “a trailblazer and beacon to so many Black journalists.” She added: “I am excited for this opportunity to extend the breadth and reach of ‘The 1619 Project’ and to introduce these stories of Black resistance and resilience to even more American households.”
Winfrey tweeted: “When the #1619Project came out almost a year ago, I stood in tearful applause for the profound offering that it was giving our culture and nation. Today, I am honored to be a part of @nhannahjones’ vision to bring her transformative work to a global audience. Stay tuned, y’all!”
“The 1619 Project” was published last year in the New York Times Magazine. The series’ central theme was that America’s true founding wasn’t 1776 but 1619 — the year that slaves from Africa were first brought to the colonies.
The series sparked almost instant controversy by claiming that the Revolutionary War was fought to preserve slavery. Several prominent historians, including one who consulted on the series, have disputed the claim and called out Nikole Hannah-Jones’ central essay for factual inaccuracies.
The Times mostly ignored the objections and Hannah-Jones won a Pulitzer Prize. Hannah-Jones made headlines last month after she said it’d be an “honor” if violent and deadly riots in the wake of George Floyd’s death were remembered as the “1619 Riots.”
Nikole Hannah-Jones will serve as the creative leader and producer on the new effort, working with Lionsgate and Winfrey.
The Times is pushing aggressively into Hollywood with scripted and documentary series as a way of promoting their journalism. The Weekly on FX and Hulu is a news and cultural docuseries based on the newspaper’s podcast “The Daily.”