How to Tell 400 Years of Black History in One Book

Karin Wulf in Smithsonian:

In August of 1619, the English warship White Lion sailed into Hampton Roads, Virginia, where the conjunction of the James, Elizabeth and York rivers meet the Atlantic Ocean. The White Lion’s captain and crew were privateers, and they had taken captives from a Dutch slave ship. They exchanged, for supplies, more than 20 African people with the leadership and settlers at the Jamestown colony. In 2019 this event, while not the first arrival of Africans or the first incidence of slavery in North America, was widely recognized as inaugurating race-based slavery in the British colonies that would become the United States.

That 400th anniversary is the occasion for a unique collaboration: Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019, edited by historians Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain. Kendi and Blain brought together 90 black writers—historians, scholars of other fields, journalists, activists and poets—to cover the full sweep and extraordinary diversity of those 400 years of black history. Although its scope is encyclopedic, the book is anything but a dry, dispassionate march through history. It’s elegantly structured in ten 40-year sections composed of eight essays (each covering one theme in a five-year period) and a poem punctuating the section conclusion; Kendi calls Four Hundred Souls “a chorus.”

More here. (Note: At least one post throughout the month of February will be devoted to Black History Month. The theme for 2022 is Black Health and Wellness)