A 'choral history' of African Americans covering 400 years of history in the voices of 80 writers, edited by the bestselling, National Book Award-winning historian Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain. They've gathered together eighty black writers from all disciplines — historians and artists, journalists and novelists — each of whom has contributed an entry about one five-year period to create a dynamic multivoiced single-volume history of black people in America.
... an inspiring book of historical observations, poetry, scholarship, and vignettes ... For me, what is exciting about Four Hundred Souls are the voices of scholars who, with their own rich and diverse Black experiences, use their journalistic, literary, and scholarly muscle to inform a wider public about the continuous historical struggles of their kith and kin in shaping the United States. Surely historian Carter G. Woodson, one of the founding organizers of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915, and his generational cohort are smiling down at this book. All of the essays in Four Hundred Souls are powerful and beautifully succinct ... All of the poets in the volume lift this history into song ... This superbly edited book comes right on time in this unenlightened moment in US history and serves as a reminder of a different set of democrats who have creatively turned 400 years of painful, uplifting ugliness into beautiful Blackness, inspiring histories of lifelong democratic struggle to be an unshackled people. If I were a teenager today, I would carry it in my backpack.
Whether you know only a little about Black history or a great deal, it’s a rich and rewarding book ... In all of the essays, a Black perspective is brought to things history has often treated in terms of white experiences ... Some of the essays on individuals shine new light on well-known figures like Phillis Wheatley and Booker T. Washington. Others bring forward people history has largely left behind ... Other threads bind other essays together, with stories that are sometimes tragic, but often triumphant. Each of the book’s 10 sections is punctuated at the end by a poem, original works by brilliant Black poets like Jericho Brown, Patricia Smith and Ishmael Reed.
African American history is a communal quilt, crisscrossed with the stitches of elders, youth, LGBTQ folk, mothers, fathers, revolutionaries, and poets ... Some essays address events and legislation, others cover cultural elements as diverse as spirituals and queer sexuality, and such icons as Sally Hemings, Jack Johnson, and Anita Hill. The poems enhance and elaborate on the historical narratives ... Like the poem, this seamless collection crackles with rage, beauty, bitter humor, and the indomitable will to survive.