#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A chorus of extraordinary voices tells the epic story of the four-hundred-year journey of African Americans from 1619 to the present—edited by Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Antiracist, and Keisha N. Blain, author of Set the World on Fire.
“A vital addition to [the] curriculum on race in America . . . a gateway to the solo works of all the voices in Kendi and Blain’s impressive choir.”—The Washington Post
“From journalist Hannah P. Jones on Jamestown's first slaves to historian Annette Gordon-Reed’s portrait of Sally Hemings to the seductive cadences of poets Jericho Brown and Patricia Smith, Four Hundred Souls weaves a tapestry of unspeakable suffering and unexpected transcendence.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
The story begins in 1619—a year before the Mayflower—when the White Lion disgorges “some 20-and-odd Negroes” onto the shores of Virginia, inaugurating the African presence in what would become the United States. It takes us to the present, when African Americans, descendants of those on the White Lion and a thousand other routes to this country, continue a journey defined by inhuman oppression, visionary struggles, stunning achievements, and millions of ordinary lives passing through extraordinary history.
Four Hundred Souls is a unique one-volume “community” history of African Americans. The editors, Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain, have assembled ninety brilliant writers, each of whom takes on a five-year period of that four-hundred-year span. The writers explore their periods through a variety of techniques: historical essays, short stories, personal vignettes, and fiery polemics. They approach history from various perspectives: through the eyes of towering historical icons or the untold stories of ordinary people; through places, laws, and objects. While themes of resistance and struggle, of hope and reinvention, course through the book, this collection of diverse pieces from ninety different minds, reflecting ninety different perspectives, fundamentally deconstructs the idea that Africans in America are a monolith—instead it unlocks the startling range of experiences and ideas that have always existed within the community of Blackness.
This is a history that illuminates our past and gives us new ways of thinking about our future, written by the most vital and essential voices of our present.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
This powerful collection explores the complex history of race and racism in America, reflecting on 400 years’ worth of deeply important experiences, movements, and perspectives. Historian Keisha N. Blain and activist author Ibram X. Kendi curated contributions from more than 90 writers, each of whom takes on a five-year period. The resulting pieces explore racially charged events like Bacon’s Rebellion and Hurricane Katrina, along with the awe-inspiring accomplishments of grassroots movements including the Black Panthers and Black Lives Matter. Collectively, these essays, histories, and even some poems—contributed by everyone from ’70s revolutionary Angela Davis and NAACP lawyer Sherrilyn Ifill to novelist Bernice L. McFadden and minister William J. Barber II—connect history’s dots with stunning clarity. We learned about obscure legal adjustments that had calamitous consequences for the Black community and were uplifted by the meditations on the Civil Rights leaders who set an example of resilience for today’s activists. Stirring and life-affirming, Four Hundred Souls will change the way you see history—and maybe even the way history is written.