At last Monday’s City Council meeting, William Walker presented on the 1619 Project.
Walker is a retired teacher and a Newburgh Enlarged City School District Board member. Walker is spearheading the 1619 Project in Newburgh. The 1619 Project is a national and international 400-year commemoration of the first documented slaves in Virginia.
This year is the official 400-year anniversary of Africans being bought from Barbados by the Governor of Jamestown. The Governor bought them from a British slaver to be indentured servants rather than slaves.
According to Walker, they arrived one year before the arrival of the pilgrims. These Africans became the first Black Americans in the United States. The 1619 Project and its work has been recognized multiple times by The New York Times. A whole magazine and podcast series were devoted to the project.
“I got involved when I just simply had a dream, and it just went across my mind,” said Walker.
“From there I met people who eventually introduced me to people from the Ford Foundation and to the New School of Social Research,” continued Walker. “For two years [they] have been planning a celebration and commemoration.”
According to Walker, the 1619 project, is a coalition of various groups that have “come together to commemorate 400 years of the birth of the African American community within this country.”
The 1619 Project and its partners are sponsoring a series of events from October 15 to October 19 in honor of the commemoration. The events from October 15 to 17 will take place at The Newburgh Free Library. All events will be free.
On October 15, there will be an interactive broadcast from a Dr. Sabrina Strings. The topic of the broadcast is “Fearing the Black Body.” Walker hasn’t personally seen her presentation. But after reading reviews, “you’ll never look at King Kong the same way,” he joked.
On October 16, there will be a presentation titled “what is the significance of 1619?” After the presentation, a film called “Quilombo” will be shown. Quilombo means free states in Portuguese. The film is from 1983 and is in Portuguese. It is about the 100-year Portuguese insurrection and revolution that took place between the Portuguese government and indentured black and white slaves, and Native Americans.
On October 17, the film “Harvest of Loneliness” will be shown. The film discusses Mexican migrant workers from 1945 to 1960.
According to Walker, both films were chosen because of their ability to demonstrate interconnections. “One of the things that we hope to inspire people to do,” said Walker, “is see the world through how it’s connected, and not through sometimes our own personal view points.”
Finally, on October 19, the Newburgh People Chorus will lead a community sing at the Calvary Presbyterian Church.
Though the month of October, Karpeles Manuscript Library will have manuscripts and letters concerning Abraham Lincoln. According to Walker, the Director is hoping to expand the theme with documents concerning slavery and indentured servitude.
Although all of these events are free, the 1619 Project will be selling flyers, posters, t-shirts, and hoodies at a minimum price. Walker said that proceeds will be used for events planned for 2020.