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How the Word Is Passed


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About the Author

Clint Smith is a staff writer at The Atlantic and the author of the poetry collection Counting Descent. The book won the 2017 Literary Award for Best Poetry Book from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and was a finalist for an NAACP Image Award. He has received fellowships from New America, the Emerson Collective, the Art For Justice Fund, Cave Canem, and the National Science Foundation. His writing has been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Poetry Magazine, The Paris Review and elsewhere. Born and raised in New Orleans, he received his B.A. in English from Davidson College and his Ph.D. in Education from Harvard University.


A beautifully readable reminder of how much of our urgent, collective history resounds in places all around us that have been hidden in plain sight. Clint Smith chips away at their disguise with lyricism and grace
*Afua Hirsch*

By blending journalistic inquiry with historical insights and poetic descriptions, the author turns a complex and traumatic subject - racism and the legacy of slavery in America - into a beautiful, insightful and even enjoyable journey
*Economist Best Books of 2021*

Suffused with lyrical descriptions and incisive historical details, including Robert E. Lee's ruthlessness as a slave owner and early resistance by Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. Du Bois to the Confederate general's "deification," this is an essential consideration of how America's past informs its present.
*Publisher’s Weekly*

...a devastating portrait with unforgettable details...a vivid portrait of the extent to which venues have attempted to redress past wrongs...A brilliant, vital work about 'a crime that is still unfolding

Through Smith's clear-eyed storytelling, he illustrates just how deeply the consequences of this intergenerational history manifest in the present day, both politically and personally.

An important and timely book about race in America.
*Harvard Magazine*

Poet and journalist Clint Smith's debut examines the legacy of slavery in modern America, looking at historical monuments and landmarks across the country, ruminating on the ideas they represent in the narrative of our national identity and how that identity is bound to, and requires, anti-Black racism.

In this exploration of the ways we talk about-and avoid talking about-slavery, Smith blends reportage and deep critical thinking to produce a work that interrogates both history and memory.
*Boston Globe*

Sketches an impressive and deeply affecting human cartography of America's historical conscience...an extraordinary contribution to the way we understand ourselves.
*New York Times Book Review*

With careful research, scholarship, and perspective, Smith underscores a necessary truth: the imprint of slavery is unyieldingly present in contemporary America, and the stories of its legacy, of the enslaved people and their descendants, are everywhere.

Clint Smith, in his new book "How the Word Is Passed," has created something subtle and extraordinary.
*Christian Science Monitor*

Part of what makes this book so brilliant is its bothandedness. It is both a searching historical work and a journalistic account of how these historic sites operate today. Its both carefully researched and lyrical. I mean Smith is a poet and the sentences in this book just are piercingly alive. And it's both extremely personal-it is the author's story-and extraordinarily sweeping. It amplifies lots of other voices. Past and present. Reading it I kept thinking about that great Alice Walker line 'All History is Current'.
*John Green*

How the Word is Passed frees history, frees humanity to reckon honestly with the legacy of slavery. We need this book
*Ibram X. Kendi*

An extraordinary contribution to the way we understand ourselves
*New York TImes Book Review*

The detail and depth of the storytelling is vivid and visceral, making history present and real

This isn't just a work of history, it's an intimate, active exploration of how we're still constructing and distorting our history
*The Washington Post*

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