Janelle Monáe Salutes New York Times '1619 Project' in Oscars Ad

Droga5 spot is set against the Academy's own struggle with race

The New York Times, which launched its revered "The Truth Is Worth It" campaign on the Oscars back in 2017, will return to the telecast this Sunday with a new spot in the campaign—this one addressing the issue of race, which should be especially resonant given the Academy's continuing difficulty recognizing people of color at the awards. 

The 30-second spot, unveiled online today, features Janelle Monáe standing on the Virginia shoreline. She speaks directly to the camera: 

"In August 1619, a ship appeared on this horizon near Point Comfort, Virginia. It carried more than 20 enslaved Africans, who were sold to the colonists. No aspect of the country we know today has been untouched by the slavery that followed. America was not yet America, but this was the moment it began."

The Truth Can Change How We See the World | The New York Times

Onscreen text then reveals that her words come from The 1619 Project, a series of articles, podcasts and more that launched in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the arrival of that ship. "The truth can change how we see the world," says the next line of copy. "The truth is worth it." 

Indeed, Monáe's lines come, in only slightly altered form, from the very first paragraph that the Times published about The 1619 Project, on Aug. 22: 

The 34-year-old singer and actress is a perfect spokeswoman for the spot. She had a memorable role in Harriet, the adaptation of Harriet Tubman's life—the only film to earn an acting nomination this year for a person of color (Cynthia Erivo is nominated for Best Actress). Monáe is also set to perform on the Oscars this year. 

Droga5 copywriter Stacy-Ann Ellis told AdAge that the agency wanted "a powerful orator who had both the expertise and the gravitas to deliver the words of such a pivotal project," adding that Monáe "was aligned with some of the truths it set out to communicate." 

Below, check out an extended version of the new spot, which will run online.

The Truth Can Change How We See the World | Extended
Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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