The campus and community are invited to participate in a pair of free, upcoming events focused on the history and ongoing impacts of African slavery in the United States.

The musical 1619: The Journey of a People will be performed at DeKalb’s Egyptian Theatre, Thursday, October 20 at 6 p.m. The performance is free and open to the public. On Thursday, October 27, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Rebuilding Democracy Lecture Series welcomes the editor of The book 1619: A New Origin Story, Nikole Hannah-Jones.

1619: The Journey of a People is a dynamic new musical that uses various musical forms, including hip-hop and jazz to commemorate the struggles, recognize the heroes, and celebrate the history of America’s African sons and daughters.

The musical production packs generations of history into a 90-minute musical theater experience that traces the African-American journey towards freedom and equality from the beginning of American slavery to Reconstruction, the Great Migration, the Civil Rights Era and modern movements for justice. That journey is expressed through three modern characters in a series of performance pieces that will leave audiences both inspired and challenged about the progress of America’s African sons and daughters.

Ted Williams III

Ted Williams III

Written in 2019 by actor and author Ted Williams III, the production premiered at Kennedy-King College in Chicago and ran through February 2020, and has since had a successful run as a touring production with multiple engagements at Hampton University, Wheaton College, Elmhurst college and multiple sold out performances in Chicago.

The performance is free and open to the public.

There will be a 30-minute talk back segment following the production where audience members can ask questions of the cast. The session will be moderated by NIU Associate Professor Joseph E. Flynn, Ph.D., who serves as NIU’s Executive Director for Equity and Inclusion.

A needs drive is being held in conjunction with the performance, and attendees are welcome to bring items to donate including protein/granola bars, pasta sauce, canned tuna, canned chicken, black beans and toilet paper, but any items are appreciated.

1619: The Journey of a People is presented with the support of the Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) Campus Center, NIU Office of Social Justice Education, NIU Arts and Culture Fee, NIU College of Visual and Performing Arts, Mortensen Construction, Target, NIU Student Government Association, NIU Office of Military and Veterans Services, NIU Office of Student Conduct, the Egyptian Theatre, NIU Division of Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the DeKalb Area Belonging Council.

A week later, on October 27, the CLAS Rebuilding Democracy Lecture Series features the editor of The 1619: A New Origin Story, Nikole Hannah-Jones, the Knight Chair of Race and Journalism at Howard University.

Nikole Hannah-Jones

Nikole Hannah-Jones

Hannah-Jones will engage in a discussion, conducted on Zoom with CLAS Dean Robert Brinkmann and Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer Vernese Edgehill-Walden on a range of topics including equity in American democracy, the long-term consequences of slavery and segregation, the state of American history education, and the power of journalism to bring change in society. A moderated question and answer session will follow the discussion.

The event is free and open to the public. Advanced registration is required due to the limited capacity of 500 seats on Zoom. Go to to request a link to the event prior to Oct. 27.

Hannah-Jones has been named one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in the World, and writes for The New York Times Magazine. She is working on founding the Center for Journalism & Democracy at Howard University.

Hannah-Jones has spent years chronicling the way official policy has created—and maintains—racial segregation in housing and schools. Her reporting earned her the MacArthur Fellowship, a Peabody Award and two George Polk Awards. She is a three-time winner of the National Magazine Award.

She is editor of The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story, which includes essays exploring the legacy of slavery in present-day America, as well as poems and works of fiction illuminating key moments of oppression, struggle, and resistance. Hannah-Jones won a Pulitzer Prize in 2020 for the project’s opening essay. In addition to being an instant #1 New York Times bestseller, it was selected as one of Amazon’s best history books of the year, and soon it will be adapted into a graphic novel and four publications for young readers.

She earned the John Chancellor Award for Distinguished Journalism and was named Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists and the Newswomen’s Club of New York. In 2020, she was inducted into the Society of American Historians and in 2021 she was named a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. In 2016, Hannah-Jones co-founded the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting, which seeks to increase the number of reporters and editors of color. Hannah-Jones is also the founder of the 1619 Freedom School, a free, afterschool literacy program in her hometown of Waterloo, Iowa.

This event is sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Division of Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and their diversity and cultural resource centers, College of Visual and Performing Arts, College of Law, Center for Black Studies, Office of Social Justice Education and the Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) Campus Center.