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Academy Award-winning filmmaker Roger Ross Williams will produce and oversee the series under his One Story Up production banner with producing partner and co-executive producer Geoff Martz. Williams will also direct the first episode. Emmy-nominated and Peabody Award-winner Shoshana Guy will serve as showrunner and executive producer. Kathleen Lingo, editorial director for film and TV at The New York Times, will also executive produce as will Caitlin Roper, The Times’ executive producer for scripted film and TV.
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The series will be made in collaboration between Lionsgate Television, The New York Times, and Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Films. The series falls under a distribution agreement between Lionsgate and Disney General Entertainment Content’s BIPOC Creator Initiative led by Tara Duncan.
“The 1619 Project” connected the centrality of slavery in U.S. history with an account of the 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. It examines the legacy of slavery in America and how it shaped nearly all aspects of society, from music and law to education and the arts, and including the principles of our democracy itself.
“‘The 1619 Project’ is an essential reframing of American history,” Williams said. “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. 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.”
Winfrey, Lionsgate and The New York Times announced a wide-ranging partnership to develop “The 1619 Project” into a portfolio of feature films, television series and other content for a global audience in July 2020.
Williams is the first African American director to win an Academy Award, which he won for his short film “Music by Prudence.” His other notable projects include the Emmy Award-winning documentaries “Life, Animated” and “The Apollo”; the documentary “God Loves Uganda”; “American Jail”; and the Emmy-nominated, Webby Award-winning virtual reality experience “Traveling While Black.”
Guy was most recently the showrunner for Vice’s “Cari and Jemele: Won’t Stick to Sports.” She spent more than a decade as an anchor producer for Tom Brokaw and Brian Williams at NBC News. Her work at NBC focused on issues of race and justice, including coverage of the defunding of the Camden Police Department, which earned her a Peabody Award.
“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.”
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