Hulu has landed the rights to the docuseries The 1619 Project, based on materials from Nikole Hannah-Jones’ acclaimed special issue of The New York Times Magazine that examines the impact of slavery on American history.
Academy Award-winning filmmaker Roger Ross Williams (Life, Animated, God Loves Uganda) is set to produce and oversee the series as well direct the first episode, with Emmy-nominated and Peabody Award-winning journalist Shoshana Guy (America Divided) serving as showrunner.
Launched in August 2019, on the 400th anniversary of the first Africans arriving in Virginia, the Times‘ 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.
Hannah-Jones, a Times staffer who created the project, was awarded the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for her introductory essay.
“The 1619 Project is an essential reframing of American history. Our most cherished ideals and achievements cannot be understood without acknowledging both systemic racism and the contributions of Black Americans. And this isn’t just about the past — Black people are still fighting against both the legacy of this racism and its current incarnation,” said Williams in a statement. “I am thrilled and grateful for the opportunity to work with The New York Times, Lionsgate Television, Harpo Films and Hulu to translate the incredibly important The 1619 Project into a documentary series.”
“I could not ask for a more gifted and committed storyteller to entrust The 1619 Project to than Roger Ross Williams,” said Hannah-Jones. “I have long admired the impact and authenticity of his filmmaking, and the fact that we’re working with Disney and Hulu aligns with our vision of partnering with the world’s greatest Black storytellers to bring this project to a global audience.”
Hulu secured U.S. rights as part of a distribution agreement between Lionsgate and Disney General Entertainment Content’s BIPOC Creator Initiative led by Tara Duncan.
The docuseries is the first screen project to come out of a production pact between Hannah-Jones, the Times, Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Films and Lionsgate. Announced last July, the deal will see The 1619 Project developed for multiple feature films, TV series, documentaries and other cross-platform content for a global audience.
Williams is producing the series under his One Story Up production banner with producing partner and co-executive producer Geoff Martz in collaboration with Lionsgate Television, the Times and Harpo Films.