My new book HOW THE WORD IS PASSED is out today. It explores how different places across the country reckon with, or fail to reckon with, their relationship to the history of slavery. I gave this book everything I have. Here are the places I visited 🧵:
And if you need some more convincing, here is an excerpt of the book:
I want to also thank the historians @agordonreed, @DainaRameyBerry, @ProfLMH, @KevinLevin, and @abufelix12 who a year ago read this manuscript and gave me feedback that was more helpful and generative than I have the words to express. I’m so grateful for their time and engagement
This book wouldn’t be possible without the remarkable generosity of all of the public historians, tour guides, descendents, incarcerated individuals, museum curators, artists, activists, teachers, and students who told me their stories. So many people doing such incredible work.
And I traveled to the National Museum of African American History and Culture with my grandparents. Walking through a museum that documents so much of the violence and history they experienced first-hand. Interviewing them and getting insights into their lives I had never known.
I also traveled abroad to Dakar, Senegal in an effort to explore how slavery was taught and remembered in Western Africa. I visited the famous House of Slaves at Gorée Island to explore how a single door in a single home became one of the primary symbols of the slave trade.
I traveled to New York City to explore how slavery was memorialized in what was once the second largest slave port in the US & whose mayor wanted to secede from the Union. And where I learned things like how the Statue of Liberty was intended to celebrate the abolition of slavery
I traveled to Galveston, TX for Juneteenth and spent time in this building, Ashton Villa, with the people who work to keep the memory of Juneteenth alive on the island where in 1865 Union General Granger issued General Order No. 3 which proclaimed in Texas “all slaves are free”
I traveled to Blandford cemetery, one of the largest Confederate cemeteries in the country—where the remains of 30,000 Confederate soldiers are buried—and spent time with the Sons of Confederate Veterans. This is the entrance to the cemetery which reads “OUR CONFEDERATE HEROES”
I traveled to Angola prison, the largest maximum security prison in the country and a place where incarcerated people continue to work for virtually no pay on land that was once a plantation. A prison that has a gift shop where where people can purchase coffee mugs like this...
I traveled to the Whitney Plantation, the only plantation in Louisiana (and one of the only in the country) that is dedicated to telling the story of slavery from the perspective of the enslaved. A plantation surrounded by many plantations where people continue to hold weddings.
I traveled to Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, trying to explore how a place remembers a man who both wrote one of the most important documents in the history of the western world, and who also enslaved over 600 people during his life including four of his own children.
I start in my hometown of New Orleans, thinking about what it meant that I grew up in majority Black city in which there were more homages to enslavers than there were to enslaved people. I started the book after watching the Confederate statues come down in the city in May 2017
Before the pandemic, I traveled to one of the largest Confederate cemeteries in the country & spent the day with the Sons of Confederate Veterans to understand how the Lost Cause lives on.
This excerpt from my new book is the cover story for @TheAtlantic.