Podcast Review: 1619

1619 is a podcast series hosted by Nikole Hannah-Jones, journalist and developer of the 1619 Project, New York Times initiative that centers the consequences of slavery in the national narrative of the United States. The 1619 podcast includes first-hand stories and accounts.

The podcast begins with Hannah-Jones recounting the arrival of White Lion to Point Comfort, Virginia in 1619. White Lion was the first ship to bring slaves to the United States. Hannah-Jones describes the horrific experiences the slaves aboard White Lion endured to reach Point Comfort and what the Atlantic Slave Trade did to thousands more. Listeners learn that the Founding Fathers were aware of their own hypocrisy as they wrote “all men are created equal,” in the Declaration of Independence. The details of Thomas Jefferson, his relationship with his own slaves Sally Hemings, his brother-in-law are notable. The 1619 Podcast informs listeners that despite Jefferson’s misgivings, he removed language from the Declaration of Independence critical of slavery.

Hannah-Jones describes the story of her father, growing up on a sharecropping farm in Mississippi. He joined the Army and was passed up on promotions while in service. After he left the Army, the only type of jobs he could get where low paying ones.  The personal narratives of Hannah-Jones’ father and others’ in this podcast are important as listeners learn about the enduring persistence and legacy of racism in the United States.

What is made abundantly clear in this podcast is that the humanity of slaves were ignored due to their enormous economic value. I did not know about slave mortgages before I listening to this podcast. Slave mortgages were when slaves were rented out to plantation owners or when slaves were used to pay off debt. This lead to certain slaves being worth huge sums of money and treated like chattel. The demand for slaves was in direct correlation to the production of cotton in the southern United States. Though Eli Whitney’s Cotton Gin cleaned cotton rapidly, this led to further greed by slave owners and their brutal demands for slaves to pick cotton faster.

Along with the important historical descriptions of slavery, the 1619 podcast features present stories of racism. June Provost is a farmer in Louisiana, known for winning sugar cane growing competitions. Despite Provost’s skill, his requests for farming loans from banks are ignored and when he does receive them they are far less than the amount he requested. These loans are essential for farmers to purchase supplies and plant crops. Local white farmers who received loans with no difficulty, are able to plant on time. They openly mock Provost when he begins planting late because of the delay in receiving loans. These delays and insufficient loans forced him to sell his farm. These stories are important as they demonstrate how racism is pervasive, enduring and woven into the fabric of our society.

From 1619, I learned about aspects of the history of slavery, and past and present discrimination of Black Americans of which I was previously unaware. Nikole Hannah-Jones and the podcast contributors shed light on obscured facts and history on this well-researched and moving podcast. The facts, personal narratives, and music blend together into an educational and engaging podcast. 

Not all of stories told in the podcast are covered in this review; I strongly recommend everybody to listen to all six episodes. 1619 can be found and listened to on all major podcast apps.