The 1619 Project: Born on the Water

The 1619 Project: Born on the Water
Co-Authors / Illustrators
Age Range
Release Date
November 16, 2021
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The 1619 Project’s lyrical picture book in verse chronicles the consequences of slavery and the history of Black resistance in the United States, thoughtfully rendered by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones and Newbery honor-winning author Renée Watson.

A young student receives a family tree assignment in school, but she can only trace back three generations. Grandma gathers the whole family, and the student learns that 400 years ago, in 1619, their ancestors were stolen and brought to America by white slave traders.
But before that, they had a home, a land, a language. She learns how the people said to be born on the water survived.

And the people planted dreams and hope,
willed themselves to keep
living, living.

And the people learned new words
for love
for friend
for family

for joy
for grow
for home.

With powerful verse and striking illustrations by Nikkolas Smith, Born on the Water provides a pathway for readers of all ages to reflect on the origins of American identity.

Editor review

1 review
An Inspiring and Lyrical Tale
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
When a little girl is assigned the task to create a family tree, she has trouble tracing back her roots so seeks help from her grandmother. Grandma is more than happy to tell the story of how her ancestors came to this land. While it's a story full of hardships, it only proves how strong and courageous their ancestors were. They were born on the water with a resolve like no other. To live their lives and seek their freedom. Because their story doesn't start with whips and chains. Instead, it starts with song and poems and smiles.

Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renée Watson use lyrical poetry to convey the strength Black American people carry with them and how it was built from their ancestors. While a lot of people have trouble getting into the grit of our history, Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renée Watson do in a way that leaves the reader with encouragement to become a better person. They aren't afraid to talk about both the good and the bad and it's a story children everywhere need to hear. If we don't learn how history, then how can we aspire to make things better? Not to mention how stunning and detailed the illustrations are!

Final Verdict: This is a story that belongs in classrooms and schools to teach children Black American history. It isn't a story of sadness. Instead, it weaves the tale of how Black American people gained their strength.
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