13. Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019 edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain
A collection of 80 essays spanning the 400 year history of African America written in a chronological timeline with each essayist touching on a 5 year time period. The book is further broken into 40 year time periods with each section ending in a poem. The time periods are a jumping off point for each essayist to talk about an issue, a person, a historical event, or an idea. The book is not just a straightforward history book. Editor Ibram X. Kendi calls it a choir of voices and that is the perfect description. They are all singing something slightly different but creating a beautiful song.
I actually found the layout of the book to create a very profound reading experience. With each essay covering a 5 year time period and being roughly of equal length it really created a sense of time that you don’t necessarily get when you just hear dates. I realized how far I had into the book before we even got to the official establishment of the country, then the Civil War, and finally how few essays I had to read from the Civil War or the Civil Rights Era to get to today.
There were a lot of historical things that I had never heard about before especially from the 1600s. There were also a lot of really beautifully written personal essays. I can’t stop thinking about the essay by Ijeoma Oluo on skin color. If I had been highlighting this book as I was reading it probably 95% of it would be highlighted.
It’s an absolutely incredible work and should be required reading for everyone. I give it a 10 out of 10.