2020 Common Read Announced

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Dear campus community, 

We write to announce the 2020-2021 Mount Holyoke Common Read. After much consideration, this year’s selection will be selected prose essays from The New York Times Magazine’s ongoing initiative The 1619 Project.

The 1619 Project was published in August of 2019 as a special issue of the New York Times Magazine to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in Virginia. While the project has expanded to a multimedia offering for engagement, inclusive of podcasts, events and web-based materials, the selection committee has selected only a subset of the essays for this year's Common Read in order to ensure a common set of experiences and to be mindful of accessibility and access. We want to encourage our entire community to read the first essay by Nikole Hannah-Jones, this year’s recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, and we encourage everyone to make use of the LITS Reading Guide. The essays are available at no cost to our student, faculty and staff community via the LITS Reading Guide.

We know that these essays and the topics explored within them will resonate with and impact each of us in different ways. We recognize that each of our identities will shape how we engage with this selection, along with how our thinking will be challenged, how we will learn new information, and how we will reflect on our engagement with systems of oppression. In particular, we understand the relevance of The 1619 Project now in light of the significant impact of the global movements for #BlackLivesMatter and #SayHerName, which has ultimately challenged us to think more deeply about experiences described by our Black, Indigenous and People Of Color (BIPOC) members of the Mount Holyoke Community. 

We acknowledge that The 1619 Project is United States-centric, and yet we feel it is essential to foundationally understand the racial hierarchy that exists and remains pervasive globally, but particularly at American higher education institutions.

We believe that if our Mount Holyoke community is to challenge and change the structures of systemic racism, racial injustice and white supremacy - at and within our own College and outside of it - we must all understand the roots of these injustices. We know that challenging these injustices and changing systemic inequities is the work of a lifetime, and as such we will be dedicating more time to programming and resources connected to The 1619 Project in coordination with the ongoing anti-racist work that the College will continue to engage in. This will be led by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

A programmatic team has been brought together representing curricular and co-curricular efforts. The 1619 Project Planning Group at Mount Holyoke will coordinate, develop and finalize a robust calendar of offerings for students and our whole community. These efforts will build off content new students are engaging with through the Orientation program and will include InterGroup Dialogue, Racial Healing Groups, Trauma Informed Pedagogical Sessions for Faculty, Affinity-Based Dialogues, and intentional staff trainings focused on ending racism.We also hope soon to announce the keynote event connected to The 1619 Project.

We wish to thank this year’s common read selection committee, who engaged in many hard conversations before ultimately choosing this year’s selection. Common Read Selection Committee: Ali Aslam, Alicia Erwin, Amber Douglas, Amy Martin, Elizabeth Markovits, Shloka Gidwani (student representative, ended in April), Kim Parent, Kaia Zimmerman, Annabelle MacKson (student representative, ended in April), Michelle Markley, and Mary Stettner. For those who want to know more about the selection committee’s thoughts, please check out this news story.


Dorothy, Marcella, and Kijua


Dorothy E. Mosby
Interim Dean of Faculty
Vice President for Academic Affairs

Marcella Runell Hall
Vice President for Student Life
Dean of Students

Kijua Sanders-McMurtry
Vice President for Equity and Inclusion
Chief Diversity Officer