Oprah Winfrey to Adapt New York Times' '1619 Project' for Film, TV

Pulitzer Prize winner Nikole Hannah-Jones will see her landmark magazine issue that re-examined American history through the lens of slavery turned into content for a global audience via Lionsgate.

The New York Times' landmark 1619 Project magazine issue, which examined the impact of slavery on American history, is headed to the big and small screen.

Times staff writer Nikole Hannah-Jones, who created The 1619 Project, and Oprah Winfrey are teaming with Lionsgate to develop the New York Times Magazine issue and the podcast 1619 into multiple feature films, TV series, documentaries and other cross-platform content for a global audience.

Winfrey and Hannah-Jones, a 2020 Pulitzer Prize winner, will serve as producers on the 1619 Project adaptation, along with Caitlin Roper, an editor of the 1619 Project magazine issue and head of scripted entertainment at the Times. The creative team behind the adaptation will also enlist producers for individual projects, to include unscripted programming and other content that allows Black creative voices to chronicle the historical legacy and economics of slavery in America and the enduring contributions of African-Americans with stories of Black resistance and resilience.

"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 in a statement.

Launched in August 2019 on the 400th anniversary of the first Africans arriving in Virginia, The New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project issue connected the legacy of slavery in America with accounts of systemic and brutal racism that endures in American life today, whether in law, education or the arts.

The special issue also stirred historical debate as it argued for the consequences of slavery dating back to 1619 and the contributions of Black Americans over four centuries to be put at the center of American history. "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," Winfrey said in her own statement.

Hannah-Jones' magazine issue had contributions from Black authors, essayists, poets, playwrights and scholars, and included a special section in the print edition of the Times produced in collaboration with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History & Culture. The 1619 Project is also being adapted into a series of books with One World, a division of Penguin Random House, and has also found its way into American high school curriculums.

“For many Americans, The 1619 Project was a great awakening and a true history that you probably never learned in school,” Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer said in a statement. "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 1619 Project adaptation will take place across Lionsgate's movie and TV groups. "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," Lionsgate Motion Picture Group chairman Joe Drake and Lionsgate Television Group chairman Kevin Beggs said in a joint statement.