29 Apr 2023

ned blackhawk retells the american story

[Capehart] I can’t help but think of Nikole Hannah-Jones and The 1619 Project when reading your book The Rediscovery of America. You and she not only argue for, and present, a fuller telling of our history, in the process, you’re challenging how we as a nation view ourselves. This is just my view. I’m wondering, is that a stretch for me to say?

[Blackhawk] Well, I really was intrigued by your kind of general thematic emphasis on race in America. We do kind of live in a historical environment in which multi-racial paradigms have yet to fully dislodge the kind of binaries of black-white racial formation or studies that are at the heart of much recent American historical inquiry. So, I’d like to think that The 1619 Project and The Rediscovery of America are both moving us towards a point where we can have more interrelated, rather than segmented, multi-racial histories. And I was insufficiently able to fully engage some of the classic and really recent kind of canonical works in African-American history, some of which have really helped expose things like the hybridity of Native-American communities in the American South, who incorporated generations of African-American runaways, slaves and later freedmen. And we hopefully can reach a point in the not-too-distant future where we’re not talking about racial histories in isolation but in relationship. . . .

[Capehart] I think we might be around the same age. I’m old enough to remember, you know, those encyclopedias or biology books where you’ve got the main page and then you’ve got those plastic overlays, that — you lay one down, you see one set of organs, you lay another one down, you see more, but you see them all together. And looking at The Rediscovery of America and having looked at 1619 Project, that’s what it felt like to me. . . .

[Blackhawk] You know, that’s a great kind of visual and even pedagogical metaphor to think about . . . .

From (about the last third of) a not-very-long conversation between Jonathan Capehart and Ned Blackhawk on Capehart’s Washington Post show, which I confess I’m only listening to for the first time here. Occasioned by a thread by High Country News writer B. Oaster this week.

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