(l to r) Shoshana Guy, Oprah Winfrey, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Roger Ross Williams (Courtesy photo)

With respect for its felicity, Oprah repeated the line: “Out of our hardship, we made beauty.”

It was one of innumerable compelling sentiments expressed about the history of Black Americans on the evening of Thursday, January 26 at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, where esteemed actors, journalists, industry executives and a host of other public figures gathered to celebrate the premiere of “The 1619 Project.” A vivid expansion of the book created by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Nikole Hannah-Jones and The New York Times Magazine, the six-part limited docu-series began streaming on Hulu the same day.

Fittingly, the above reflection that Oprah liked was a remark of Hannah-Jones as she sat in discussion with the panel of producers responsible for shepherding her collection of essays that reframed the country’s history around the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans into its latest form.

Those producers included Roger Ross Williams and Shoshana Guy, who enjoyed recent success with their culinary series, “High on the Hog,” and as noted, the inimitable Oprah Winfrey, who led the panel as they discussed the six episodic pillars of “The 1619 Project”— “Democracy,” “Race,” “Capitalism,” “Music,” “Fear” and “Justice.”

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Guy was personally drawn to the project on multiple levels, as she and Hannah-Jones have family from the same town in Iowa. “It was just an amazing match,” she recalled. “It sort of felt ancestral in nature that we would come together to do this. I had listened to the podcast, devoured all of the magazine [writings] and really just felt seen as a Black person.”

Actor Glynn Turman was in the original 1959 Broadway production of “A Raisin in the Sun,” which featured a Black family aspiring to move beyond segregation and disenfranchisement. (Courtesy Photo)

With this television adaptation of the work, Guy aimed to ensure others are seen as well. “[We are shining light on] the contributions of Black Americans,” she emphasized. “We are ready and deserve justice. It’s time.”

“Democracy,” the episode, was screened Thursday night and featured a breadth of little-known history that elucidated how significant Black people were to the establishment of American democracy as well as the extent to which those in power have colluded and connived to ensure that those Black people would be shut out of it, even today.

One of the more poignant moments found canvassers during a recent election discovering that disabled residents of a nursing home in a low-income area were dubiously assigned the wrong zip codes, which left them legally unable to vote in the district they’d resided in for years.

Williams could relate to the feeling of living against a stacked deck. “For me, growing up, my mother was a maid who had many jobs and struggled, and I never understood why she couldn’t get ahead,” he shared with the audience.

“We didn’t have generational wealth; sometimes we couldn’t buy oil to heat the house. Understanding those struggles and why we were in that situation makes the case for reparations as Black Americans.”

Bill Duke’s career as an actor and director has spanned five decades. (Courtesy Photo)

So, too, might scenarios like that of MacArthur Cotton, one of “Democracy’s”  most impactful standouts. A former field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Cotton abandoned his pursuit of a college degree to fight for civil rights in the 1960s, during which time he was jailed and tortured.

Also featured in the episode were author-scholars Woody Holton and Kidada Williams, Professor of History at University of South Carolina and Associate Professor of History at Wayne State University respectively. The two offered enthralling insights that both highlighted the role of slavery in motivating the American Revolution and revealed slaves’ savvy in persuading President Lincoln to allow them to join the Union Army, fight and ultimately help the North win the Civil War. They also influenced the passing of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments.

Professor Holton noted that his own research as a white, male American historian disabused him of the long-held and firmly taught fiction that slaves functioned merely as passive trade fodder in these historical eras.

But then, what is taught is towering in its impact on a society. “The 1619 Project” being banned today in many American schools all these years later makes for a sad and sickly sort of poetry when one contemplates that these emergent historical lessons are being met with the same ire and blockades that were erected to exclude Black people from democratic institutions throughout history.

In trying to make sense of it, renowned veteran actor Glynn Turman, who attended Thursday’s premiere, reasoned, “The truth hurts.”

Many feel the pushback has been such simply as it takes some air out of the heroic stories about the valiance of long heralded, dead, white men. To whatever extent sour grapes are at play, the resistance Hannah-Jones has encountered since “The 1619 Project” began has been near legion and notably vitriolic.

Oprah leads the discussion after the screening of “Democracy,” the first of the six pillars of “The 1619 Project.” (LA Sentinel)

Turman continued, “I’ve been fortunate to be a part of quite a few iconic projects. I started my career on Broadway in ‘A Raisin in the Sun [in 1959].’ Messages like this happen according to the times that you’re living in. If you’re not living in times that are reeking of discontent, malcontent, unsettlement, ignorance, then the project doesn’t have the gravitas that it does when it finds itself in such times. But here, we are.”

Again. And indeed, gravitas, “The 1619 Project” undoubtedly has.

Among those walking the red carpet Thursday night, from Tiffany Haddish to Herbie Hancock, was acclaimed actor/director and humanitarian Bill Duke, who said, “The 1619 Project is inspiring, insightful and historically significant. It reminds us of what we should never be allowed to forget. It speaks of our history, of us, our beauty, our pain, and our resilience.”

Williams pointed out that the pain and necessary resilience remain lingering components of our present lives as well.

Nikole Hanna-Jones poses with Executive Producer Shoshana Guy and Hulu Executive Tara Duncan. (Courtesy Photo)

“The struggles from the legacy of slavery, the struggles of Black Americans…that still exists today,” said Williams.

Considering the series in its entirety, he stated, “You don’t want to just get a history lesson; we want to actually see how it affects our lives. And that was a really important throughline through each and every episode. You’re going to follow people who are still in the struggle and fighting for our rights as Black Americans.”

Among those are members of Hannah-Jones’ own family. In fact, her father, an Army veteran to whom viewers are introduced by way of photos and old video footage in the beginning of the episode, was a flag-waving patriot who puzzled Hannah-Jones in her youth as he seemed to so love a country that did not appear to love him in return.

The journey she took in her work on this series brought her to better understand the mindset of her father—and its similarity to that of the five Black men who met with Abraham Lincoln in 1862 to advocate for emancipation. When Lincoln intimated that white Americans would accept it if Black people would leave the country, they stood their ground and insisted the country was just as much theirs as it was whites.

“By virtue of their bondage…” considered Hannah-Jones, “Black people became the most American of all.”

The six episodes of “The 1619 Project” docu-series are currently streaming on Hulu.