Oprah, Lionsgate & Nikole Hannah-Jones Developing 1619 Project Into Films & TV
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones and The New York Times have chosen global content leader Lionsgate to be the home for a wide-ranging partnership to develop Hannah-Jones’ landmark issue of The New York Times Magazine, The 1619 Project, and hit NYT podcast, 1619, into an expansive portfolio of feature films, television series and other content for a global audience.
As part of the ground-breaking venture, Lionsgate has partnered with media titan Oprah Winfrey as a producer who will provide stewardship and guidance to the development and production of the 1619 Project.
Lionsgate, NYT, and Winfrey will join forces with Hannah-Jones, who will serve as the creative leader and producer in developing feature films, television series, documentaries, unscripted programming and other forms of entertainment enlisting 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. Her colleague at The Times Magazine, Caitlin Roper, an editor of The 1619 Project and head of scripted entertainment at The Times, will also produce.
One of the most impactful and thought-provoking works of journalism of the past decade, The 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.
“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 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.”
Hannah-Jones created and was the architect of the initiative 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.
“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 Winfrey. “I am honored to be a part of Nikole’s vision to bring this project to a global audience.”
“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,” added 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.”
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.
(Photo by Vera Anderson/WireImage & Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Peabody Awards)