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Publisher's Summary

A chorus of extraordinary voices comes together to tell one of history’s great epics: the 400-year journey of African Americans from 1619 to the present - 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. 

Four Hundred Souls is a unique one-volume “community” history of African Americans. 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. 

This is a history that illuminates our past and gives us new ways of thinking about our future, written by the most vital and essential voices of our present. 

Read by a full cast, including:

Joniece Abbott-Pratt, Amir Abdullah, Ryan Vincent Anderson, Kristen Ariza, Dashawn Barnes, Joshua Bennett, Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Andre Blake, Torian Brackett, Donte Bonner, Mahogany L. Browne, Ron Butler, Kellie Carter-Jackson, Brianna Collette, Karen Chilton, Sean Crisden, Keith David, Angela Y. Davis, William DeMeritt, Leonard Dozier, Robin Eller, Kevin R. Free, James Fouhey, Alicia Garza, Dion Graham, Danai Gurira, Jerome Harmann-Hardeman, Jamal Henderson, Ethan Herisse, Susan Heyward, Cary Hite, Dominic Hoffman, Sherrilyn Ifill, James Monroe Iglehart, JD Jackson, Zainab Jah, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Sullivan Jones, Peter Francis James, Terrence Kidd, January LaVoy, Adam Lazarre-White, Keylor Leigh, Nicole Lewis, Dennis Logan, Chante McCormick, Desmond Manny, Jesus Martinez, Heather McGhee, Sheryl Mebane, Robin Miles, Karen Murray, Soneela Nankani, Leon Nixon, Soledad O’Brien, Leslie Odom, Jr., Adenrele Ojo, Genesis Oliver, Prentice Onayemi, Tovah Ott, Morgan Parker, Imani Parks, Lisa Renee Pitts, Imani Jade Powers, Rhett Samuel Price, Bill Quinn, Phylicia Rashad, David Sadzin, Joshua David Scarlett, Heather Alicia Simms, Shayna Small, Patricia Smith, Marisha Tapera, Tashi Thomas, Damian Thompson, TL Thompson, Ella Turenne, Bahni Turpin, Anita Welch, Jade Wheeler, Samira Wiley, Zenzi Williams, Mirron Willis, Andia Winslow, Kai Wright, and with co-editors Ibram X. Kendi, and Keisha N. Blain

©2021 Respective authors of all material within (P)2021 Random House Audio

What the critics say

“The authors, each in their individual voice, raise a Black chorus, demystify racial assumptions, connect the dots of law and jurisprudence, lay the unspoken cultural truths bare, look at the engineering of the foundational aspects of institutional racism and show an America ashamed of its history. . . . Feel the endurance and resilience of how Blacks resisted, revolted, organized, demanded, protested and rebelled. Feel the joy in the absurdity of remaining American in the face of such obstacles.” (George McCalman, San Francisco Chronicle)

“This collection teaches us that nothing about the latest crisis is new - that for four hundred years, Americans have whistled a ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ tune of national self-congratulation while reliving repeating cycles of racial violence and hypocrisy. . . . This project is a vital addition to that curriculum on race in America and should serve as a gateway to the solo works of all the voices in Kendi and Blain’s impressive choir.” (The Washington Post) 

“Two leading scholars of Black culture gather writers from across genres in this provocative, stirring anthology on the traumas and triumphs of African Americans across four centuries. From journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones on Jamestown’s first slaves to historian Annette Gordon-Reed’s portrait of Sally Hemings to the seductive cadences of poets Jericho Brown and Patricia Smith, Four Hundred Souls weaves a tapestry of unspeakable suffering and unexpected transcendence.” (O: The Oprah Magazine, “20 of the Best Books of February 2021 to Fall in Love With”) 

What listeners say about Four Hundred Souls

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Must read

Soul wrenching, eye opening experience. Beautifully done. It is a hard read for a white person because it shows the truth of what white people did in the past and present.

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  • d.design
  • 2021-02-04

Tears, trauma yet hope.

Felt like a life time of university education in a day. Once I started to listen, I could not stop. So powerful and I wish it was made mandatory reading, study and meditation for every high school student.

37 people found this helpful

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  • Scott P ODonnell
  • 2021-02-16

History never taught

I wrote history never taught. I’m sure I learned some of this in school but I honestly don’t remember much. I know the overall theme of how black history was taught. I know I was led to believe that all was well and this thing in our past was no more than a footnote in our illustrious and victorious history.

I’ve listened to a few books so far this year on this topic. Truth be told, I didn’t feel like downloading this, but it’s February and I felt like it was important to continue to learn and feed my mind on this issue. This is my promise as a white man to continue to be an ally and not feed into any more white washing. I feel I’ve always been an ally but it’s continually more difficult to stand up for what I believe. Truth be told I’m scared to confront people on their racism but what this book does is give me the tools I need to have a conversation. I need to educate others instead of arguing and fighting. Thanks for the book and all the work that went into it!

34 people found this helpful

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  • Robert
  • 2021-02-21

Must read/listen!

I am not a person of color—I am shaken to my core. I had no concept of the depth and lengths taken by so many to repeatedly conspire, hide and normalize the systematic and State sanctioned crimes against humanity that continue to be imposed upon an entire race of human beings! This book walked me through the layered complexities of incomprehensible atrocities inflicted upon Black Lives over the past 400 years that continue to infest the the very fabric of our Nation. This parasitic and invasive delusional belief system of white supremacy goes far deeper than I was able to comprehend. Even as I write this I struggle to understand why! Why have we done this, how could I not see, how can I be an instrument of change, reparation and empowerment!? Or perhaps (because I do believe this was written with the purpose of educating a person like me) the most important impact I can hope to have is to see with clearer eyes and hear that bell that once rung can never again be unheard or ignored. I am grateful to all who made this profound work come to life and Ring That Bell!

15 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2021-02-17

READ IT NOW ... DON'T DELAY ... It is EXCELLENT

10 STARS for every chapter, 10 STARS for every writer, 10 STARS for every poet. This is the BEST book of the year and I have read 6 since New Year's Day finishing this one on Valentine's Day. Every Teacher MUST Read this book and do what you do best and pass the truth of American History to your students. This is required reading for everyone who picks up a book or listens to an audiobook. Excellent body of work that will be a priceless addition to your library.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Evelyn Burnett
  • 2021-02-13

Excellent-Must Read

This is a must read for readers of all ages that goes far beyond the romantic American historical narrative. This work was brilliantly done, written and performed by some of the most important voices of our time.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Brett A. Watson
  • 2021-02-12

Excellent Book

I loved this book. It is very necessary and informative, especially in these times

8 people found this helpful

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  • Joan
  • 2021-02-17

Fantastic!

I thoroughly enjoyed this presentation. I liked learning about the circumstances, which shaped the African American experience, in context of time and place.

I liked learning how one event lead to the next; how we got where we are now.

Highly recommended for anyone who wants to understand why Colin took a knee, why Black Lives Matter was formed, what, as my neighbor and friend asked, “All the fuss is about.”

I hope this is read far and wide. It can change the world.

7 people found this helpful

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  • b d
  • 2021-02-18

A heartfelt history

Ibram Kendi & Keisha Blain have compiled an incredible history of America’s treatment of African-Americans from 1619 to the present day. This is required listening, and would be a great addition to homeschool education.

6 people found this helpful

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  • carolyn holmes
  • 2021-02-27

An education

This book is brilliantly presented in 4 year increments from 1619 to 2021. It is both elucidating and a profoundly moving history of black people in America. I bow to the editors and contributors for their amazing contributions.

3 people found this helpful

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  • catherine weaver
  • 2021-03-12

Four hundred souls

This was very educating, emotional at times . Well written and narration was perfect . I have recommended it to my friends . Educated on things I did not know and reinforced my knowledge in things I did . Highly recommend

2 people found this helpful