Posted by Marissa Filipello, CNF Editor for Issue 9.2
Do you like sugar in your coffee? In your tea? Have you ever thought about where that sugar originated? Today at Domino Sugar’s Chalmette Refinery, sugar is made at a rate of 120 bags a minute, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But originally this work was done by enslaved Africans working under horrendous conditions. Sugar cane was a heavy crop, that had to be pulled by hand, then immediately ground before spoiling in a day or two. It was sharp to touch and would leave small cuts in enslaved Africans hands when accompanied with perspiration. Sugar became known as ‘White gold,’ as it fueled the wealth of the European and British nations. Yet, it’s rarely acknowledged that the excessive sugar today came at the expense or exploitation of enslaved Africans. This is just one fact of many found in the 1619 Project.
The 1619 Project is an ongoing initiative within The New York Times Magazine, aiming to reframe American History by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the center of our history’s narrative. Slavery began in 1619 in the then British Colony of Jamestown, Virginia. Without the induction of slavery nearly 400 years ago, the America we know today would be drastically different.
The journal features a collection of stories conceived by Nikole Hannah-Jones, and created by a staff of ten Black American writers. They discuss the ways in which the institution of slavery accounts for the society we live in today. Touching on subjects including mass incarceration rates, myths about physical racial differences, music, and the monopoly of Domino sugar. Learn more about the 1619 Project in this video.
Schools across the country are beginning to embrace the 1619 Project by including it within their curriculum. School districts in Chicago, New Jersey, Washington D.C, New York, and more recently announced 1619 Project related events. In fact, I learned of the 1619 Project here in SUNY Geneseo, while taking a Humanities course with Dr. Maria Lima. I strongly recommend students to take a course rooted in the 1619 Project. Yet, if such a course isn’t offered at your school, you can read the 1619 Project by simply subscribing to the New York Times. Click the link here to begin reading.
After reading the 1619 Project, I found it impossible to ignore the alarming disparities faced by Black communities. Further, I’m ashamed by Americas attempts to re-write or sanitize our nation’s racist past. This blog serves as another way to honor the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, Emmitt Till, and more innocent black citizens who lost their lives too soon. Donate to the Black Lives Matter Movement here, & do your part to stop the systemic oppression that black individuals face every day.