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Check It Out: Four Hundred Souls edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Kiesha N. Blain

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This is Jessi Wakefield with the Sioux City Public Library and you’re listening to Check It Out. 

Today I would like to highly recommend the 2021 book of essays Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619 – 2019. The essays have been curated and edited by author and historian Ibram X. Kendi known for books such as How to be an Antiracist and Stamped from the Beginning as well as historian Keisha N. Blain. 

This is a very ambitious collection written by over 80 Black voices covering the 400-year history. Each writer is given a 5-year block of time to write about. They can discuss major events which occurred during that time, or tell a more intimate story of one person who shaped the author. Each essay discusses a person, event, movement, art form, judicial decision, or law and there are also 10 poetry interludes throughout the book. 

Four Hundred Souls begins with the arrival of the ship the White Lion to the British colony in mainland America in 1619. The ship contained twenty some odd enslaved Ndongo people. It was the first slave ship to come to these shores.  The next 79 chapters tells a chronological account of topics including slavery and restoration, Black Lives Matter, The Great Migration, The Code Noir, Black Power, Queer Sexuality, Racial Passing, The War on Drugs, Hurricane Katrina, Black Immigrants, Civil War, Anita Hill and that’s just to name a few. This collection is solidly written and well researched. Each individual author makes their writing come to life in a very immediate and intimate way. Every chapter offers information that forces you to learn and maybe unlearn the history you were taught.

Contact the Sioux City Public Library to get a copy of Four Hundred Souls. It’s definitely a title that I will be revisiting time and time again. 

Support for Check It Out on Siouxland Public Media comes from Avery Brothers.