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How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery across America

di Clint Smith

UtentiRecensioniPopolaritàMedia votiCitazioni
1,2314015,950 (4.57)49
History. Sociology. Nonfiction. HTML:

Instant #1 New York Times bestsellerPEN America 2022 John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction FinalistFinalist for the National Book Critics Circle AwardsNBC News, one of 10 Books about Black History to Read in 2022A New York Times 10 Best Books of 2021A Time 10 Best Nonfiction Books of 2021Named a Best Book of 2021 by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Economist, Smithsonian, Esquire, Entropy, The Christian Science Monitor, WBEZ's Nerdette Podcast, TeenVogue, GoodReads, SheReads, BookPage, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Fathom Magazine, the New York Public Library, and the Chicago Public LibraryOne of GQ's 50 Best Books of Literary Journalism of the 21st CenturyLonglisted for the National Book AwardLos Angeles Times, Best Nonfiction GiftOne of President Obama's Favorite Books of 2021Beginning 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 c… (altro)

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I'm so glad I read this. I hope it's widely read and respected. ( )
  iszevthere | Feb 16, 2024 |
Thoughtful, beautifully written, powerfully felt—Clint Smith's How the Word is Passed is a meditation on how slavery, its history, and its legacy is reckoned with (or elided) at various sites in the U.S. and west Africa. Smith has a poet's ear for language and voice. Reading the chapter on his visit to the state penitentiary in Louisiana, and the horrific conditions endured by Black people in the American carceral system, was a nauseating experience in many respects (especially coming so soon after the latest reminder of how absolutely fucked up everything about the US 'justice system' is; Ireland's not perfect and Mountjoy's no picnic but at a minimum we don't go around thinking maybe we should, like, beat a shoplifter to death with a brick because it's what the signatories of the 1916 Proclamation would have wanted or something). Highly recommended though as usual I fear that the people who need to read this most will be the least likely to pick it up. ( )
  siriaeve | Feb 15, 2024 |
A timely book, for the nation's perennial struggle to acknowledge (let alone reconcile) its own atrocities. Clint Smith views this through the lens of visiting places strongly tied to slavery: Monticello and Whitney plantations (with differing presentation options); Angola Prison in Louisiana (a direct link from plantation enslavement to modern day incarceration); Blandford Cemetery during a Confederate memorial event; Galveston, TX where Juneteenth was first celebrated; New York City for a walking tour through Seneca Village's destruction for Central Park and the African Burial Ground; and Gorée Island in Senegal.

The theme on my mind in light of contemporary rightwing rage against history education is how we're taught about a place, or that titular word is passed. I attended Clemson University, on John C. Calhoun's old plantation Fort Hill where the Old Main clocktower was renamed in 1946 after "Pitchfork" Ben Tillman by his son's lobbying, arguing that Tillman advocated for the creation of the university during his governorship. Much to my horror, I didn't learn about Tillman's lynching activities until after graduation, which breaks the illusion that removing Confederate statues and names would be "erasing history"- how do you erase something that isn't adequately taught?

There's a great line in the epilogue that goes, "At some point, it is no longer a question of whether we can learn this history, but whether we have the collective will to reckon with it." Several of the people Smith interviews are startled or surprised when confronted with the actual brutality of a place, as it is dissonant with the comforting nostalgia of the familiar narrative they know to be American history. I think of this when I see Gadsen stickers on cars or a social media cover cover photo with both American & Confederate flags captioned, "WE THE PEOPLE WILL DEFEND BOTH!" (willfully missing the entire purpose of why secession occurred). If I knew how to shake people into being more curious, to being unafraid of discomfort in order to seek the truth of our shared history. Slavery isn't just BLACK history, it's AMERICAN history and our economic and societal infrastructures exist because of it. It isn't a southern-only thing, as the New York chapter points out colonial enslavement in addition to the heterogenous views of abolitionists (with some wanting to move all Black Americans overseas... somewhere) and how southern cotton and sugarcane supplied the mills of industry up north.

The epilogue concludes with Smith interviewing his grandparents about their own experiences, and that is yet another thing not acknowledged at large in this country- that the repercussions of slavery and racist laws still reverberate in living people today. My grandparents ran a grocery store in a Black neighborhood, likely because white Georgians wouldn't have let Chinese people buy property in their spaces (for further reading in a similar community, see [b:Chopsticks in the Land of Cotton: Lives of Mississippi Delta Chinese Grocers|5941567|Chopsticks in the Land of Cotton Lives of Mississippi Delta Chinese Grocers|John Jung|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1348389395l/5941567._SX50_.jpg|6114071]). Ruby Bridges, the girl who desegregated a Louisiana elementary school is only 67 as of the writing of this review, younger than my mother. The past is present and pretending that "it's over so why dwell on it" is a very near-sighted take.

The topic may be difficult for some readers but the book overall is very approachable, not a dry academic tome but part travelogue in some ways as he describes these visits to sites with context about their history or what interviewed folks say and think. Highly recommend. ( )
  Daumari | Dec 28, 2023 |
A phenomenal read. ( )
  LizzK | Dec 8, 2023 |
Clint Smith's voice and words are compelling. Equal parts poet and prophet (one who names things as they truly are), Smith brings together first-person interviews, his visits to specific geographic sites, and thoughtful research as he does the heavy lifting: revealing the origin, history, and present realities of slavery in the now United States of America.

Necessary and brilliant reading for every person who cares about reckoning with history and understanding the ways a country and its culture depend(ed) on enslavement of people for hundreds of years, the way enslavement shadows millions of lives today, how evolved forms of this practice (ie, the industrial prison complex) continue today. ( )
  rebwaring | Aug 14, 2023 |
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It's not enough to have a patchwork of places that are honest about this history while being surrounded by other spaces that undermine it. It must be a collective endeavor to learn and confront the story of slavery and how it has shaped the world we live in today. (p.289)
...oppression is never about humanity or lack thereof. It is, and always has been, about power. (p.68)
we can't continue to view enslaved people only through the lens of what happened to them...we have to talk about their strength, their determination, and the fact that they passed down legacies. (p.71-2)
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History. Sociology. Nonfiction. HTML:

Instant #1 New York Times bestsellerPEN America 2022 John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction FinalistFinalist for the National Book Critics Circle AwardsNBC News, one of 10 Books about Black History to Read in 2022A New York Times 10 Best Books of 2021A Time 10 Best Nonfiction Books of 2021Named a Best Book of 2021 by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Economist, Smithsonian, Esquire, Entropy, The Christian Science Monitor, WBEZ's Nerdette Podcast, TeenVogue, GoodReads, SheReads, BookPage, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Fathom Magazine, the New York Public Library, and the Chicago Public LibraryOne of GQ's 50 Best Books of Literary Journalism of the 21st CenturyLonglisted for the National Book AwardLos Angeles Times, Best Nonfiction GiftOne of President Obama's Favorite Books of 2021Beginning 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 c

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