Oprah Winfrey, The New York Times and Lionsgate are partnering on a series of feature films and television shows based on “The 1619 Project.”
The collaboration was announced Wednesday, nearly a year after the Times debuted “The 1619 Project” series to re-examine the legacy of slavery in the United States on the 400th anniversary of the first Africans’ arrival in Virginia. Nikole Hannah-Jones, who was the architect of the series, won a 2020 Pulitzer Prize for commentary.
“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,” Hannah-Jones said. “Through every step of the process, Lionsgate and its leadership have shown themselves to be that partner, and it is a dream to be able to produce this work with Ms. Oprah Winfrey, a trailblazer and beacon to so many Black journalists. 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.”
Hannah-Jones will serve as the creative leader and producer in developing feature films, television series, documentaries, unscripted programming and other forms of entertainment with Black creative voices. Caitlin Roper, an editor of ‘The 1619 Project’ and head of scripted entertainment at the Times, will also produce.
“From the first moment I read ‘The 1619 Project’ and immersed myself in Nikole Hannah-Jones’s transformative work, I was moved, deepened and strengthened by her empowering historical analysis,” said Winfrey.
“The 1619 Project” explored how slavery shaped all aspects of society, from music and law to education and the arts. It included Hannah-Jones’ essay “America Wasn’t a Democracy Until Black Americans Made It One;” Matthew Diamond’s essay “American Capitalism Is Brutal. You Can Trace That to the Plantation;” Jamelle Bouie’s “What the Reactionary Politics of 2019 Owe to the Politics of Slavery;” and a collection of original poems and stories from writers including Clint Smith, Yusef Komunyakaa, Eve L. Ewing, Reginald Dwayne Betts, Barry Jenkins and Jesmyn Ward.
“For many Americans, ‘The 1619 Project’ was a great awakening and a true history that you probably never learned in school,” said Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer. “For others, the project was a fresh analysis of the historical record by one of the world’s leading media authorities.”
The announcement did not list specific projects or the timeline for completion.
“Since the publication of ‘The 1619 Project’ last year, we have been searching for the right partners to expand the reach of its message into film and television while preserving the authenticity of its voice,” said New York Times assistant managing editor Sam Dolnick. “We believe that Lionsgate and Oprah Winfrey are the perfect combination of partners who understand the editorial integrity of The Times and the gravity of The 1619 Project’s message, and have the reach, resources, compassion and talent relationships to join with us and with Nikole in producing films, television and other programming for a global audience that do justice to the project.”