The 1619 Project: Born on the Water

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The 1619 Project: Born on the Water
Author: Hannah-Jones, Nikole, Watson, Renee
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Time Period: Enlightenment
Time Frame: 1619-2021
Geographic Area: North America, Africa
Country: United States
Topics: Geneology, Civil Rights, Atlantic Slave Trade
Genre: Non Fiction, Own Voices
Reading Age: Lower Elementary, Middle Grade
Format: Picture Book
Published: 2021

American History > Enlightenment > African American History

The 1619 Project’s lyrical picture book in verse chronicles the consequences of slavery and the history of Black resistance in the United States, thoughtfully rendered by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones and Newbery honor-winning author Renée Watson.

A young student receives a family tree assignment in school, but she can only trace back three generations. Grandma gathers the whole family, and the student learns that 400 years ago, in 1619, their ancestors were stolen and brought to America by white slave traders.

But before that, they had a home, a land, a language. She learns how the people said to be born on the water survived.

And the people planted dreams and hope,
willed themselves to keep
living, living.

And the people learned new words
for love
for friend
for family

for joy
for grow
for home.

With powerful verse and striking illustrations by Nikkolas Smith, Born on the Water provides a pathway for readers of all ages to reflect on the origins of American identity.

Emily's Review

This book... it's gorgeous, and moving, and I want to hand it to everyone I've ever met.

This is a story about a people, about resistance, about where they came from and where they are going.

It opens with a girl feeling discouraged, because her teacher asked her class to research their ancestry and learn about where their families came from. But she could only trace as far back as her great grandparents, who were born in the US. So her grandmother tells her the story of her people - of all African Americans.

I love that this is such an empowering book. The authors wrote beautiful poetry about the resilience of the Africans who were violently taken from their homes and forced into slavery. They built America, and they fought all through history, even today, to be able to live fully in this country.

The artwork is stunning and blends in so beautifully with the tone of the poetry.

This picture book is one that I think has a wide age appeal. I plan to read it with my 12-year-old.

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