Read Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America 1619–2019

edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blaine

I’ve just finished this amazing piece of literature that’s the product of so many contributors and as you read, you realize that it is truly a labor of love, pain, depth, breadth, and covers a wide range of experiences across the timeline of the presence of Black people within the landscape of America.

This beautiful volume breaks the four hundred year timeline of 1619 to 2019 into 5 year increments and one contributor is responsible for one 5 year increment until the entire four hundred years is revealed. It’s also broken up into ten parts and at the end of each part, there’s a poem. There are ninety contributors to this entire work and it was so insightful, thoughtful, and revealing. It is also important to note that this book was written by Black people (across a range of gender identities and ages) about Black people for Black people and it comes through in the writing that this is something different than has been told from before.

I have a tendency to read books from the library first before I’m willing to buy one for my own personal library collection. I’m quite picky with what I have the time and space to carry in my own home, that I need to make sure that it’s the kind of book that I’ll want to reference. This is one of those books.

The experience of reading this literally had chills running up and down my spine, because these authors and poets are extraordinarily talented. I’m also picking up a copy for my collection, because there’s a huge resources section at the end of the book that I want to reference and remind myself to explore the individual work of specific authors and poets.

It is crucial that we each individually take it upon ourselves to educate us, because it is clear that there are many shortcomings to having other people set the syllabus for us. There’s so much in world history and in American history that I, as a product of the American public school system, didn’t have a full account of and that was by design. I think this is a fantastic place to start to get an overview, but it will require more than just this book to realize the scope of the damage that has been done to Black people in America. It is also now the responsibility of us, right now, at this point in time, to learn and rectify and change right now, so history never has to repeat itself.

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