Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Nikole Hannah-Jones and The New York Times have stepped into a wide-ranging partnership with Lionsgate to develop Hannah-Jones’ The 1619 Project from The New York Times Magazine and the 1619 podcast into an “expansive portfolio of feature films, television series and other content for a global audience.” Through the deal, Lionsgate is also partnering with Oprah Winfrey, who will be a producer. Hannah-Jones will be the “creative leader” in developing the projects, which will include feature films, television series, documentaries, unscripted programming and other forms. She’ll tap “world-class Black creative voices to help adapt her celebrated series chronicling the ways that the original sin of slavery in America still permeates all aspects of our society today.”
The official release states:
One of the most impactful and thought-provoking works of journalism of the past decade, The Times Magazine’s 1619 Project was a landmark undertaking that connected the centrality of slavery in history with an unflinching account of the brutal racism that endures in so many aspects of American life today. It was launched in August 2019 on the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in the English colonies that would become the United States, and it examines the legacy of slavery in America and how it shaped all aspects of society, from music and law to education and the arts, including the principles of our democracy itself.
Ms. Hannah-Jones created and was the architect of the initiative at The Times Magazine with contributions from Black authors, essayists, poets, playwrights, and scholars comprising a special issue of the magazine and a special section in the print edition of The New York Times produced in collaboration with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History & Culture, as well as a five-part podcast that topped the Apple Podcast charts. One of The Times’ most widely read pieces of journalism last year, The 1619 Project has been discussed in the Senate, is being adapted into a series of books with One World, a division of Penguin Random House, and is already changing the way that American history is being taught in schools.
“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. 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,” said Ms. Hannah-Jones. “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.”
“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 Oprah Winfrey. “I am honored to be a part of Nikole’s vision to bring this project to a global audience.”
“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. We’re proud to partner with The New York Times, Nikole Hannah-Jones and Oprah Winfrey, a creative talent with unparalleled stature, to amplify Nikole’s voice and reach across our worldwide platform to marshal all of our top creative relationships to translate her vision into a canon of storytelling for a global audience.”
“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.”
“Nikole Hannah-Jones and her deeply reported journalism has done nothing short of challenging the entire history we thought we knew, revealing the true role of slavery and the impact of racial prejudice in shaping the America of today,” said Lionsgate Motion Picture Group Chairman Joe Drake and Lionsgate Television Group Chairman Kevin Beggs. “The truths she uncovers are painful and disturbing, but we are better for it because her crowning accomplishment in shining a spotlight on the previously untold contributions of Black Americans delivers a powerful message of empowerment and inclusion. That is the message that we want to advance through feature films and television series whose storytelling, breadth of scope, and world-class talent do justice to their subject matter.”
Photo: Oprah (Harpo Inc./Ruven Afanador) / Nikole (James Estrin/The New York Times )