Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619–2019

One World. Feb. 2021. 496p. ISBN 9780593134047. $32. HIST
Noting that most histories of Black America are written by men, award-winning editors Kendi (Ctr. for Antiracist Research Boston Univ.; Stamped from the Beginning) and Blain (history, Univ. of Pittsburgh; Set the World on Fire) compile a community history of Black America, with contributions from a range of writers, poets, activists, and more. The gem of this work is how it brings lesser-known historical events to the forefront. In examining the origins of the White Lion, the slave ship that brought the first Africans to Virginia in 1619, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones mentions that what we remember is just as important as what we forget. Collective memory is a recurring theme, as evidenced by noteworthy contributions from journalist Wesley Lowery on why we remember so little about the Stono Rebellion; Reverend William J. Barber II on the legacy of David George, who created the first Black Baptist church in the United States; and author Martha S. Jones on the significance of Mumbet, an enslaved woman who sued for her freedom. Poems interspersed between sections succeed in balancing historical and personal context. Blain concludes by thoughtfully questioning whether we really are our ancestors’ wildest dreams.
VERDICT With YA crossover appeal, this is an essential collection proving that African American history is American history, and that the two cannot be studied separately.
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