How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America

How the Word is Passed

By Clint Smith. Leads readers on a tour of monuments and landmarks—those that are honest about the past and those that are not—that offer an intergenerational story of how slavery has been central in shaping our nation’s collective history, and ourselves.

It includes the Monticello Plantation in Virginia — the estate where Thomas Jefferson wrote letters espousing the urgent need for liberty while enslaving more than four hundred people, the Whitney Plantation — one of the only former plantations devoted to preserving the experience of the enslaved people whose lives and work sustained it, Angola — a former plantation–turned–maximum-security prison in Louisiana that is filled with Black men working the 18,000-acre land for virtually no pay and Blandford Cemetery –the final resting place of tens of thousands of Confederate soldiers.

It’s an exploration of the legacy of slavery and its imprint on centuries of American history; it illustrates how some of the country’s most essential stories are hidden in plain view—whether in places we might drive by on our way to work, holidays such as Juneteenth, or entire neighborhoods like downtown Manhattan, where the brutal history of the trade in enslaved men, women, and children has been deeply imprinted. Read more.