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

February 5, 2021  •  Virtually 6:00pm Central

 

Panelists & TOPICS
  • Dr. Ibram X. Kendi – Editor, AwARD-WINNING AUTHOR
  • DR. Keisha N. Blain – Editor, AwARD-WINNING AUTHOR
  • Charles Cobb, Jr. – The Civil Rights Movement, 1959-1964
  • Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor – Property, 1969-1974
  • Heather McGhee – Bacon’s Rebellion, 1674-1679

In Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African Americans, 1619-2019, a chorus of extraordinary voices comes together to tell one of history’s great epics: the four-hundred-year journey of African Americans from 1619 to the present. The book is edited by Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Antiracist, and Keisha N. Blain, author of Set the World on Fire.

The story begins in 1619—a year before the Mayflower—when the White Lion disgorges “some 20-and-odd Negroes” onto the shores of Virginia, inaugurating the African presence in what would become the United States. It takes us to the present, when African Americans, descendants of those on the White Lion and a thousand other routes to this country, continue a journey defined by inhuman oppression, visionary struggles, stunning achievements, and millions of ordinary lives passing through extraordinary history. 

This collection of diverse pieces from ninety different minds, reflecting ninety different perspectives, fundamentally deconstructs the idea that Africans in America are a monolith—instead it unlocks the startling range of experiences and ideas that have always existed within the community of Blackness

The editors, Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain, have assembled ninety brilliant writers, each of whom takes on a five-year period of that four-hundred-year span. The writers explore their periods through a variety of techniques: historical essays, short stories, personal vignettes, and fiery polemics. They approach history from various perspectives: through the eyes of towering historical icons or the untold stories of ordinary people; through places, laws, and objects. While themes of resistance and struggle, of hope and reinvention, course through the book, this collection of diverse pieces from ninety different minds, reflecting ninety different perspectives, fundamentally deconstructs the idea that Africans in America are a monolith—instead it unlocks the startling range of experiences and ideas that have always existed within the community of Blackness.

Ibram X. Kendi is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University and the founding director of the BU Center for Antiracist Research. He is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and a CBS News correspondent. He is the author of many books including Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, which won the National Book Award for Nonfiction, and three #1 New York Times bestsellers, How to Be an Antiracist; Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, co-authored with Jason Reynolds; and Antiracist Baby, illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky. In 2020, Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Keisha N. Blain is an award-winning historian, professor, and writer. She is currently an associate professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh, the president of the African American Intellectual History Society, and an editor for The Washington Post's "Made by History" section. Her writing has appeared in popular outlets such as The Atlantic, The Guardian, Politico, and Time. She is the author of Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom and Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer's Enduring Message to America.

 

Journalist and author Charles Cobb, Jr. was a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) field secretary in Mississippi from 1962-1967. He has been a reporter for NPR, Frontline, and was the first black staff writer for National Geographic magazine, writing for them from 1985-1997. He helped found the online news site AllAfrica.com, the world largest online internet site providing news and information from and about Africa. He is the author of several books on the civil rights movement, among them On the Road to Freedom: A Guided Tour of the Civil Rights Trail. His latest book is This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible. In 2018 he was the recipient of a Carnegie Fellowship to facilitate his latest book project, analyzing today’s young Movement for Black Lives.

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor is an Assistant Professor of African-American Studies at Princeton University. She is author of Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership, published in 2019 by the University of North Carolina Press, longlisted for a National Book Award for nonfiction and a 2020 finalist for the Pulitzer in History. Taylor's book From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation, won the Lannan Cultural Freedom Award for an Especially Notable Book in 2016. She is also editor of How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective, which won the Lambda Literary Award for LGBQT nonfiction in 2018. Taylor has been appointed as a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians by the Organization of American Historians. Taylor is a contributing writer and columnist for The New Yorker.

Heather McGhee is an expert in economic and social policy. The former president of the inequality-focused think tank Demos, McGhee has drafted legislation, testified before Congress and contributed regularly to news shows including NBC's Meet the Press. She now chairs the board of Color of Change, the nation's largest online racial justice organization. McGhee holds a BA in American studies from Yale University and a JD from the University of California at Berkeley School of Law.