Too much knowledge has been lost, too many stories distorted, too many people forgotten. We mourn for all we do not know. Yet the vision and resilience of Black America are shaping this nation. Our future demands that we unbury the past.
Beginning today, The Atlantic is launching “Inheritance,” a multiyear journalism and tech project that will endeavor to fill the blank pages of Black history: to piece together, through reporting and data, the crucial events and conversations that have been intentionally left out of America’s narrative. Chapter 1 debuts today online and on the cover of The Atlantic’s March issue, with reporting, essays, and poetry publishing throughout the week from Danielle Allen, Cynthia Greenlee, contributing writer Jemele Hill, Anna Holmes, senior editor Vann R. Newkirk II, Joy Priest, and staff writer Clint Smith.
“Inheritance” also marks the Atlantic writing debut of the playwright, author, and actor Anna Deavere Smith, who with this issue becomes an Atlantic contributing writer. In this role, Deavere will contribute on topics across history, art, and culture.
Since 1857, when this publication was founded, in part, to further the cause of abolition, The Atlantic has explored the question of how the American narrative reflects the story of Black people. Telling the stories of everyday Black people—the all-but-forgotten ones—was an important goal when bringing “Inheritance” to life, as was honoring the many different Black identities and perspectives. In an editor’s note to lead the project, editor in chief Jeffrey Goldberg recalls a conversation he had with managing editor Gillian White, the visionary for this project, in which White told him: “I look at my daughter and my niece and my nephew and wish I had more of their history to share with them. I really want them to see themselves represented in the story of this country and to know that America has always been ours, too. And yet Black people are left out of so many commonly shared American histories.”