The Pulitzer Center

Exploring the Idea of America

Posted on February 11, 2020

Exploring “The Idea of America” by Nikole Hannah-Jones

In her framing essay for The 1619 Project, journalist and project architect Nikole Hannah-Jones describes black Americans as “the perfectors of this democracy.” In honor of African American History Month, we are sharing a lesson plan on Hannah-Jones’ essay. She uses a combination of historical research and personal reflection to tell the story of how slavery has shaped U.S. society, and how black Americans have consistently striven to transform that society into a stronger, more equitable democracy. “Without the idealistic, strenuous and patriotic efforts of black Americans,” she writes, “our democracy today would most likely look very different—it might not be a democracy at all.

View the resources for African American History Month:

This lesson plan offers warm-ups, reading guides, and discussion questions, to delve into this text. The lesson also contains the unabridged essay in the downloadable PDF of The 1619 Project, as well as a short, printable excerpt from “The Idea of America.” To view the lesson plan:

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