Nikole Hannah-Jones Says ‘Fear’ Episode of ‘The 1619 Project’ Will ‘Always Be Relevant’

“What I hope is that, with this happening, it is possible to make these larger connections to what we’re seeing,” the creator and journalist said

Nikole Hannah-Jones conducting an interview during "The 1619 Project" docuseries
Nikole Hannah-Jones in "The 1619 Project" (Credit: Hulu)

Creator of “The 1619 Project” Nikole Hannah-Jones had a feeling that the release of the fifth episode of the docuseries, “Fear,” would either follow or precede an event similar to the release of the video footage depicting the death of Tyre Nichols.

In “Fear,” Hannah-Jones, in conversation with Michelle Alexander, trace how slavery’s forced physical labor and ownership of Black bodies transformed into slave patrols and, eventually, our modern-day police system. 

“What I hope is that, with this happening, it is possible to make these larger connections to what we’re seeing and that really is the argument of a whole series. We see these things happening in our society, and it can be hard to understand in that moment. The series tries to build that history and give us a look at the society that we’re grappling with,” she said.

Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man was pulled over Jan. 7, 2023 for alleged reckless driving. The police apprehended him, chased him and violently struck him repeatedly. He was taken to the hospital after the brutal beating, but he died three days later on Jan. 10. Nichols was 2 minutes away from his home. The “Fear” episode of the docuseries traces the roots of police brutality all the way back to slavery and the white fear of controlling Black bodies.

“I was watching all the coverage of Tyre Nichols knowing that within a few days, we were going to be releasing this “Fear” episode. Depressingly, that episode seems like it will always be relevant,” Hannah-Jones told The Wrap. “No matter when the episode came out, there was likely going to be some type of violence whether it was police brutality or domestic violence.”

The five Black officers involved in the death of Nichols — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith — were fired on Jan. 20. “The 1619 Project” debuted on Jan. 26, with the first two episodes about “Democracy and “Race,” and the final two episodes came out Feb. 9. “Fear” is adapted from an essay — written by Leslie and Michelle Alexander — in Hannah-Jones’ book. 

“I don’t know that this episode will help promote change any more than the other efforts that have been trying to push police reform. My hope always for this work has been that if we better understand the architecture that built this society, we would be more educated about that and we can make different policy choices.”

All six episodes of “The 1619 Project” are now streaming on Hulu.