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“Four Hundred Souls”: Ibram X. Kendi & Keisha Blain on African American History from 1619 to Today


As the U.S. deals with the aftermath of the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, we speak with Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha Blain, co-editors of a new book that situates the white supremacists who rallied around Trump in the longer arc of U.S. history. “Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019” brings together prominent Black writers to collaborate on what they call a “choral history” of Black American life in 80 short essays, including by the renowned scholar and activist Angela Davis, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones and others. “We wanted to bring together so many different voices from so many different backgrounds within the Black community to really share the history of this incredibly diverse and complex community,” says Kendi, director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research. Blain, associate professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh, says despite the mammoth undertaking in the midst of the pandemic, all the contributors were excited to take part. “They shared our enthusiasm,” she says. “They recognized the significance of this project as a work of history — being history in and of itself.”



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