86 years ago the Black activist and historian W.E.B. Du Bois published a breakthrough work of historical scholarship called Black Reconstruction, which set about demolishing the reigning story of white nationalist nostalgia framed around the storytelling conceit called the Old South. Black Reconstruction was a righteous call for America to acknowledge its great historical debt to Black Lives, and published at a time of racial violence and rigid segregation. Today, our episode, records on the occasion of yet another breakthrough publication in historical storytelling called The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story. Arguably the greatest effort to tell the “big story” of Black lives in American history since Du Bois, we devote our episode to consider the lifecycles of stories, the birth, death, and rebirth of histories that break new ground and inspire new understandings of the human project, from the Dawn of Everything to the reckoning for racial justice. Our conclusion? We must not wait another 86 years for the story wheel to turn, these new stories must find a central place in the storytelling imagination of the nation, if we are ever to have the nation we wish.
Sources Referenced and Items of Interest:
W.E.B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880 (1935)
Nikole Hannah-Jones, et al., The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story (2021)
David Graeber and David Wengrow, The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity (2021)
Bruce Bower, “‘The Dawn of Everything’ rewrites 40,000 years of human history,” (November 9, 2021 ScienceNews)
“I cannot do this writing without believing in the essential humanity of Negroes, in their ability to be educated, to do the work of the modern world, to take their place as equal citizens with others.”W.E.B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction (1935)