Two Washington Post reporters that reveal how systemic racism shaped George Floyd's life and legacy—from his family’s roots in the tobacco fields of North Carolina, to ongoing inequality in housing, education, health care, criminal justice, and policing—telling the story of how one man’s tragic experience brought about a global movement for change.
It is a testament to the power of His Name Is George Floyd that the book’s most vital moments come not after Floyd’s death, but in its intimate, unvarnished and scrupulous account of his life ... a brilliantly revealing portrait of the structures of poverty, land theft and racism that shaped not only Floyd but also his kinship networks in the South ... does an impressive job of contextualizing Floyd’s struggles with drug addiction, frequent arrests and afive-year prison sentence for aggravated robbery in a crime that he insisted he had nothing to do with. Throughout, we get the portrait of a flawed man trying to come to terms with diminished dreams, one whose muscular physical exterior hid a gentle soul who battled pain, anxiety, claustrophobia and depression ... Samuels and Olorunnipa take pains to offer capsule histories of the structural roots of racism in the criminal justice and education systems — with their impact on wealth and homeownership — to better tell Floyd’s story holistically. This does not always make for a seamless narrative, but in many ways the book is stronger for it ... By focusing on the disparate parts of the system of structural racism that impacted Floyd’s life, the authors allow readers to better comprehend and experience the final indignity that greeted him on May 25, when Chauvin, an officer with a history of brutalizing suspects, casually ended his life.
Samuels and Olorunnipa deserve every praise for presenting Floyd as the complex character that he was—what human isn’t? Both writers are Black men and could easily have diluted portions of the book that show Floyd’s many shortcomings and poor decision making, but they resisted the urge. The result is an expertly researched and excellent biography, a necessary and enlightening read for all, especially those who, like my fellow African immigrants in the ’90s, have ever looked upon young Black men in the inner city with disdain ... it is confounding that the authors shy away from more pointedly calling out the hypocrisy of governments and corporations and all manners of institutions that immediately took the knee, vigorously condemned Chauvin, and pledged their allegiance to anti-racism, not because it was just but because it suited them. The authors know this, and yet a good portion of this book is spent on the Chauvin trial and the theatrics of the aftermath of the killing, as if all the superficial changes in the world will prevent future tragedies of this nature ... Perhaps I am transferring my disappointment with America onto Samuels and Olorunnipa. Perhaps I am unfairly asking them to do more than bear witness. I imagine they would say, in their defense, that putting America on trial for the death of George Floyd is an impossibility, and beyond the scope of this book. Fair enough, but deep down I know, many of us know, that even with Chauvin in prison, justice has not been fully served. Those entities that created the conditions for Floyd’s death carry on. They thrive. Their next victim awaits ... This, perhaps, was why at the end of reading this book, I felt nothing but a deep exasperation.
... detailed, vivid and moving ... Perhaps for legal reasons, Samuels and Olorunnipa are uncharacteristically vague about other figures involved in leading Floyd to this fateful step, as well as in later getting him to appear in an amateur porn video ... In the page-turner second half of the book, the authors largely put aside efforts to link Floyd to broader racial trends and statistics as they follow him to Minneapolis, where he moved in 2017 in hopes of starting over ... The ups and downs of the last part of the book, which chronicles the aftermath of Floyd’s murder, also make for poignant reading.