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Hollywood Insider ‘The 1619 Project’, Oprah, New York Times, Lionsgate

Video: ‘The 1619 Project’

Oprah Winfrey, Lionsgate, and The New York Times are partnering to adapt “The 1619 Project” into a series of film and television projects. The collaboration was announced on July 8, a year after the initiative made its debut in The New York Times Magazine. “The 1619 Project” launched in August 2019, and became a powerful venture that documented and examined slavery and its enduring impacts on American society. Named for the year when the first enslaved Africans arrived in Virginia, the project debuted on the 400th anniversary of the slaves’ arrival and has gained wide recognition for its efforts. Led by staffer Nikole Hannah-Jones, the project was widely praised and earned Hannah-Jones a Pulitzer Prize for her work and has been featured everywhere from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History & Culture to the Senate as well as school curriculum. 

The adaptation – ‘The 1619 Project’

As the creative leader and producer, Hannah-Jones in collaboration with The New York Times, Lionsgate and Winfrey will develop a portfolio of feature films, television series, documentaries, unscripted programming and other forms of entertainment. Black creative voices will be enlisted to help adapt her work that chronicles the way “slavery in America still permeates all aspects of our society today.” 

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“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,” said Hannah-Jones in a statement to The Root

“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.”

Along with Hannah-Jones, The New York Times expressed their careful consideration into searching for a partner to help create a multimedia expansion of the project. “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 Sam Dolnick, the Assistant Managing Editor for The New York Times. 

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“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.”

Winfrey and Caitlin Roper, an editor of the 1619 Project magazine issue and head of scripted entertainment at the Times, will also serve as a producer for the upcoming series of projects. Expressing her reaction to the original work, Winfrey noted, “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. I am honored to be a part of Nikole’s vision to bring this project to a global audience.” 

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Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer added his matching sentiments in his own statement. “For many Americans, The 1619 Project was a great awakening and a true history that you probably never learned in school,” he said. “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.”

The adaptation of the groundbreaking project comes at a time of global acknowledgement of complacency in racism, as protests continue to sweep the streets across the country, sparked by the death of George Floyd back in May. The film and television adaptation will further serve to display the lasting impact slavery has had on the U.S. in the form of systemic racism that continues to be pervasive in all aspects of society, all of which was largely centered upon in the magazine issue.

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Thanks to its original immeasurable impact, the “1619 Project” will now be able to expand its already vast reach and contribute to advancing understanding and knowledge amidst the Black Lives Matter movement. As Lionsgate Motion Picture Group chairman Joe Drake and Lionsgate Television Group chairman Kevin Beggs said in a joint statement, “The truths [Hannah-Jones] 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.” 

By Christine Feeley

Click here to read Hollywood Insider’s CEO Pritan Ambroase’s love letter to Black Lives Matter, in which he tackles more than just police reform, press freedom and more – click here.

An excerpt from the love letter: Hollywood Insider’s CEO/editor-in-chief Pritan Ambroase affirms, “Hollywood Insider fully supports the much-needed Black Lives Matter movement. We are actively, physically and digitally a part of this global movement. We will continue reporting on this major issue of police brutality and legal murders of Black people to hold the system accountable. We will continue reporting on this major issue with kindness and respect to all Black people, as each and every one of them are seen and heard. Just a reminder, that the Black Lives Matter movement is about more than just police brutality and extends into banking, housing, education, medical, infrastructure, etc. We have the space and time for all your stories. We believe in peaceful/non-violent protests and I would like to request the rest of media to focus on 95% of the protests that are peaceful and working effectively with positive changes happening daily. Media has a responsibility to better the world and Hollywood Insider will continue to do so.”

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