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How the Word Is Passed
Cover of How the Word Is Passed
How the Word Is Passed
A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America
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"We need this book." —Ibram X. Kendi, #1 New York Times bestselling author of How to be an Anti-RacistThe Atlantic staff writer and poet Clint Smith's revealing, contemporary portrait of America...
"We need this book." —Ibram X. Kendi, #1 New York Times bestselling author of How to be an Anti-RacistThe Atlantic staff writer and poet Clint Smith's revealing, contemporary portrait of America...
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  • "We need this book." Ibram X. Kendi, #1 New York Times bestselling author of How to be an Anti-RacistThe Atlantic staff writer and poet Clint Smith's revealing, contemporary portrait of America as a slave owning nationBeginning in his hometown of New Orleans, Clint Smith leads the reader on an unforgettable tour of monuments and landmarks—those that are honest about the past and those that are not—that offer an intergenerational story of how slavery has been central in shaping our nation's collective history, and ourselves.It is the story of the Monticello Plantation in Virginia, the estate where Thomas Jefferson wrote letters espousing the urgent need for liberty while enslaving more than four hundred people. It is the story of the Whitney Plantation, one of the only former plantations devoted to preserving the experience of the enslaved people whose lives and work sustained it. It is the story of Angola, a former plantation–turned–maximum-security prison in Louisiana that is filled with Black men who work across the 18,000-acre land for virtually no pay. And it is the story of Blandford Cemetery, the final resting place of tens of thousands of Confederate soldiers.A deeply researched and transporting exploration of the legacy of slavery and its imprint on centuries of American history, How the Word Is Passed illustrates how some of our country's most essential stories are hidden in plain view—whether in places we might drive by on our way to work, holidays such as Juneteenth, or entire neighborhoods like downtown Manhattan, where the brutal history of the trade in enslaved men, women, and children has been deeply imprinted.Informed by scholarship and brought to life by the story of people living today, Smith's debut work of nonfiction is a landmark of reflection and insight that offers a new understanding of the hopeful role that memory and history can play in making sense of our country and how it has come to be.

About the Author-

  • Clint Smith is a staff writer at The Atlantic and the author of the poetry collection Counting Descent. The book won the 2017 Literary Award for Best Poetry Book from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and was a finalist for an NAACP Image Award. He has received fellowships from New America, the Emerson Collective, the Art For Justice Fund, Cave Canem, and the National Science Foundation. His writing has been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Poetry Magazine, The Paris Review and elsewhere. Born and raised in New Orleans, he received his B.A. in English from Davidson College and his Ph.D. in Education from Harvard University. 
     

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from March 22, 2021
    Poet and Atlantic staff writer Smith debuts with a moving and perceptive survey of landmarks that reckon, or fail to reckon, with the legacy of slavery in America. Visiting Monticello plantation, Smith describes how Thomas Jefferson’s self-perception as a “benevolent slave owner” often conflicted with his actions. On a tour of Angola prison, Smith discusses how nonunanimous jury verdicts fueled the “convict leasing system” that replaced slave labor in post-Reconstruction Louisiana, and notes that when the state switched from the electric chair to lethal injection in 1991, Angola inmates refused to build the prison death bed. At the Blandford Cemetery for Confederate soldiers in Petersburg, Va., Smith questions on-site historians about the ethical implications of preserving a place of honor for the defenders of slavery. He also checks in at the annual Juneteenth festival in Galveston, Tex., and takes an illuminating walking tour of underground railroad sites in New York City. Suffused with lyrical descriptions and incisive historical details, including Robert E. Lee’s ruthlessness as a slave owner and early resistance by Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. Du Bois to the Confederate general’s “deification,” this is an essential consideration of how America’s past informs its present. Agent: Alia Habib, the Gernert Co.

  • AudioFile Magazine Poet and journalist Clint Smith's debut work of nonfiction captivates as he explores the ways that we Americans confront and reckon with the legacy of slavery in the United States. His resonant voice moves with a poet's rhythm as he takes listeners to former plantations, on historical tours, and to Angola Prison. Many sites are in the American South, though he also includes eye-opening experiences in New York City and in Dakar, Senegal. Listeners meet those who are working to explore the gaps in our historical records and helping to uncover the true history of these sites. He also points out those who are willfully ignoring the historical record, relying on shared nostalgia instead. Smith's personal reflections, especially his conversations with his grandparents, make a lasting impact. E.E.C. � AudioFile 2021, Portland, Maine

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How the Word Is Passed
How the Word Is Passed
A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America
Clint Smith
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Clint Smith
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