Clint Smith's "How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America" became an instant No. 1 New York Times bestseller when it was published in June.
America may never properly reckon with its racism, but Atlantic magazine writer Clint Smith attempted to do exactly that while researching his instant No. 1 New York Times bestseller, "How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America," visiting eight sites, from within his native Louisiana to Senegal's Goree Island, which were "pivotal in perpetuating slavery and its aftermath." Now longlisted for the 2021 National Book Award for Nonfiction, "How the Word Is Passed" asks us to look at both the obvious and subtle physical monuments to slavery, in hopes of giving greater perspective and voice to the millions of enslaved people who were foundational in the building of this country. As the journalist and poet—also author of the award-winning 2017 poetry collection "Counting Descent"—told The Root, "The vast majority of people were people, who were trying to carve out opportunity and meaning and purpose and love in their lives in the midst of just unfathomable circumstances."