Review: How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith

Title: How the Word is Passed: A Reconding with the History of Slavery Across America

Author: Clint Smith

Narrator: Clint Smith 

Length: 10 hours and 6 mins

5 out of 5 stars
5 stars – I loved it!

“The history of slavery is the history of the United States. It was not peripheral to our founding; it was central to it. It is not irrelevant to our contemporary society; it created it. This history is in our soil, it is in our policies, and it must, too, be in our memories.”

Clint Smith takes us through an unforgettable tour of monuments and landmarks of slavery, from Monticello to Goree Island, to shows us how the history of slavery is being portrayed and taught. Each chapter covers a landmark of slavery, and Smith provides us with its history, his personal feelings being there, and the history they are teaching in their tours and exhibits. 

“What would it take—what does it take—for you to confront a false history even if it means shattering the stories you have been told throughout your life? Even if it means having to fundamentally reexamine who you are and who your family has been? Just because something is difficult to accept doesn’t mean you should refuse to accept it. Just because someone tells you a story doesn’t make that story true.”

This was a wonderfully informative book. It looked at how we teach history in historical places and how they individually deal with hard topics. This book shows that a lot of places still try to gloss over slavery, but there are also people out there who are determined to fight that and present the true history. I really would love to go on a tour with some of the guides in this book because they actually care and want to teach real history. History is supposed to be uncomfortable and if you are on a tour and it isn’t then it’s probably wrong. 

“I think that history is the story of the past, using all the available facts, and that nostalgia is a fantasy about the past using no facts, and somewhere in between is memory, which is kind of this blend of history and a little bit of emotion…I mean, history is kind of about what you need to know…but nostalgia is what you want to hear.”

Overall, this is a very impactful book. Clint Smith’s writing is poetic and really hits hard. I loved that he shared his own feelings and emotions about these places with us. I actually wish this was a longer book and he had included more of the sites he visited because I want to know more about how history is being presented at historical sites. 

Goodreads | Amazon

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