The Common Read Committee is pleased to announce How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith as the 2023 Common Read. Smith combines travelogue, oral history, and extensive research to interrogate the legacy of slavery and its representation in eight iconic American locales. He transports us to Monticello Plantation in Virginia, where Thomas Jefferson wrote letters espousing liberty while enslaving more than 600 people; Whitney Plantation, one of the only former plantations devoted to preserving the experience of the enslaved people whose lives and works sustained it; Angola, a former plantation turned maximum security prison in Louisiana; and Blandford Cemetery, the final resting place of tens of thousands of Confederate soldiers. At each stop along the journey, Smith invites us to consider what histories are told and which are suppressed—and why.
How the Word is Passed was named one of the New York Times 10 Best Books of 2021, the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, and the 2022 winner of the Hillman Prize for Book Journalism. Clint Smith will be on campus on October 23, 2023, to deliver the Mills Distinguished Lecture.