How the Word is Passed, by Clint Smith

I know I’ve raved about several great books I’ve read about the history of anti-Black racism, and Black history, in the United States, but I’ve got to move everything on that bookshelf over a little make room for How the Word is Passed — and specifically for the book in the format in which I read it, the audiobook narrated by the author.

How the Word is Passed is about history and memory. Author Clint Smith visits several sites — mostly, but not exclusively, in the American South — and explores both the Black history that occurred at that site, and how that history is commemorated today. The journey takes us to former plantations and slave markets, to a graveyard filled with Confederate soldiers, to the site where the famous “Juneteenth” emancipation proclamation was read in Texas, and to an island in Senegal where captured people were held before being shipped off to a life in chains. There is a lot of valuable history here, but there’s also some important reflection on how we do and don’t tell the stories of our history. There’s also beautiful writing — Smith is a poet (even if you don’t think you know who he is, you may have read some of his poems online, particularly the often-shared “When people say ‘we have made it through worse before’.”) The poetry of his prose is evident in this book’s beautiful and evocative descriptions and reflections, and is made even more evident by the author’s wonderful reading of the audiobook.

I highly, highly recommend this book.


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