The process behind writing this week’s writing prompt, Write a Journal Entry About a Book You Read on Black History, has included a lot of moments of reflection for me.
I still have a few sections of Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America 1619-2019 edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain to read before drafting my journal entry. But from what I’ve read of the book so far, Kendi and Blain have done a phenomenal job at compiling a “cohesive and connected narrative with strikingly different—yet unified—voices. A choir.”(p.xv) I have never read a Black History book quite like this book before. Its unique format— a compilation of diverse voices and writing styles— insists that the reader experience Black History as it truly was and as it is still being written, in all its diversity.
I was originally drawn to this book because of how it was arranged and compiled, and because of the amount of time in history it covered (four hundred years!). The data and information gleaned in these pages can’t go unnoticed either. And fortunately, it’s all presented in a way that is easy to read, even if not necessarily easy to digest (although it must be digested). And that makes this book even more resonant and distinct.
While reading Four Hundred Souls, I underlined passages in the book that stood out to me and resonated with me. I also jotted down quite a few historical documents and cases that were mentioned and parsed, to look up and read about more thoroughly later. I also took note of many of the writers who contributed pieces of their writing to this book so that I could look up some of their work as well. While I was familiar with some of the writers in this book before reading it, I am now gladly acquainted with many more of their voices and work. This Black History book includes perspectives of sincere intellectual, artistic, political, historic, poetic powerhouses of our time.
While reading Four Hundred Souls I also found myself naturally pausing between pieces of writing to absorb them and how each piece was so unique on its own yet still so deeply connected and united to the other pieces included in the book. While I got the sense that each piece was uniquely distinct, I also got the sense that each piece was a thread in the woven tapestry of Black History, a Black History that is still being woven to this day.
As I read Four Hundred Souls, other voices of Black authors and activists came to mind too. As I read, I also heard the voices of Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou and bell hooks and Audre Lorde and James Baldwin and Ralph Ellison and Martin Luther King Jr., and so many others.
Reading this book has made Black History resonate with me in ways that it never has before. Through so many voices and pieces of writing, stories and facts and documents and history (history remembered, lost, or neglected) and narratives and customs all connect and come alive in the present.
Mostly, as I was reading Four Hundred Souls, I was reflecting on what I was reading and not writing much yet at all. I wrote notes for important bits of information to remember, and work and writers to look into and discover more about. But mostly, I just wanted to absorb everything I was reading as I was reading it.
What has your reading and writing process been like this week for your journal entry on the Black History book you’ve read or are currently reading? Share with us in the comments at the bottom of the page.
Don’t forget to tag me @kecreighton on social: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Medium with a link to your completed writing prompt for the week, or to share more about your experience completing this prompt.
Stay tuned for the draft of my journal entry on Four Hundred Souls. It’ll be posted on the blog tomorrow.
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