- This event has passed.
- June 10, 2021
- Event Category:
- Author Events
presenting How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America
in conversation with MIN JIN LEE
Harvard Book Store’s virtual event series welcomes acclaimed writer, poet, and scholar CLINT SMITH—author of the award-winning Counting Descent: Poems—for a discussion of his latest book, How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America. He will be joined in conversation by MIN JIN LEE, author of the celebrated, bestselling novels Fast Food for Millionaires and Pachinko.
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While payment is not required, we are suggesting a $5 contribution to support this author series, our staff, and the future of Harvard Book Store—a locally owned, independently run Cambridge institution. In addition, by purchasing a copy of How the Word Is Passed on harvard.com, you support indie bookselling and the writing community during this difficult time.
About How the Word is Passed
Beginning in his hometown of New Orleans, Clint Smith leads the reader on an unforgettable tour of monuments and landmarks—those that are honest about the past and those that are not—that offer an intergenerational story of how slavery has been central in shaping our nation’s collective history, and ourselves.
It is the story of the Monticello Plantation in Virginia, the estate where Thomas Jefferson wrote letters espousing the urgent need for liberty while enslaving more than four hundred people. It is the story of the Whitney Plantation, one of the only former plantations devoted to preserving the experience of the enslaved people whose lives and work sustained it. It is the story of Angola, a former plantation–turned–maximum-security prison in Louisiana that is filled with Black men who work across the 18,000-acre land for virtually no pay. And it is the story of Blandford Cemetery, the final resting place of tens of thousands of Confederate soldiers.
A deeply researched and transporting exploration of the legacy of slavery and its imprint on centuries of American history, How the Word Is Passed illustrates how some of our country’s most essential stories are hidden in plain view—whether in places we might drive by on our way to work, holidays such as Juneteenth, or entire neighborhoods like downtown Manhattan, where the brutal history of the trade in enslaved men, women, and children has been deeply imprinted.
Informed by scholarship and brought to life by the story of people living today, Smith’s debut work of nonfiction is a landmark of reflection and insight that offers a new understanding of the hopeful role that memory and history can play in making sense of our country and how it has come to be.
Praise for How the Word Is Passed
“Clint Smith chronicles in vivid and meditative prose his travels to historical sites that are truth-telling or deceiving visitors about slavery. Humans enslaved Black people, and then too often enslaved history. But How the Word Is Passed frees history, frees humanity to reckon honestly with the legacy of slavery. We need this book.” —Ibram X. Kendi, National Book Award-winning and #1 New York Times bestselling author of How to Be an Anti-Racist and Stamped from the Beginning
“A work of moral force and humility, How the Word Is Passed offers a compelling account of the history and memory of slavery in America. Writing from Confederate Army cemeteries, former plantations, modern-day prisons, and other historical sites, Clint Smith moves seamlessly between past and present, revealing how slavery is remembered and misremembered—and why it matters. Engaging and wise, this book combines history and reportage, poem and memoir. It is a deep lesson and a reckoning.” —Matthew Desmond, Maurice P. During Professor of Sociology and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Evicted
“Clint Smith has given us a new lens for seeing the spaces we inhabit, the stories they tell, and the people who tell those stories. How the Word Is Passed sheds light on the contested narratives beneath the surface of our collective national identity, inviting us to dig a little deeper, reminding us never to take received histories for granted.” —Eve L. Ewing, author of 1919 and Ghosts in the Schoolyard