Review: Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019

Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019 Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019 by Ibram X. Kendi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A beautifully collective work of writers capturing the past to reflect back on the present moment. Keisha N. Blain and Ibram X. Kendi bring together scores of writers to write essays about different people and different moments within Black history in the United States from 1619 (the first year Africans were taken from their homes and enslaved in the British colonies) until 2019. Most authors write about a particular figure during a given 5 year period while every 9th piece (every 40 years), is a poem by a Black writer. The work in its totality is a powerhouse of Black history that captures both known and lesser-known aspects of the Black experience in American history; some heartbreaking, some inspiring, and some that are equal parts both. Meanwhile, the author list is a fantastic collection of Black writers that readers interested in this book, would do well to follow up and read more about. From Nikole Hannah-Jones (The 1619 Project) to Ijeoma Oluo (So You Want to Talk About Race) to Heather C. McGhee (The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together) to William J. Barber (The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement), to Clint Smith (How the Word Was Passed), to Robin D. G. Kelley (Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination), and Angela Y. Davis (Women, Race & Class), each writer brings a distinct angle for their piece that still vibes with the overarching work. It becomes a wonderful blending of contemporary legends and advocates who are at the forefront of racial justice reflecting back on the many different angels upon whose shoulders they stand upon. There are many rich histories out there that explore the Black experience in the US that I would strongly recommend, but hands down, I think this is one of the most effective in capturing both the surface and depth by its use of individual stories told by effective writers blended richly with poetry to capture the soul of this history.

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