Clint Smith’s ‘How the Word is Passed’ announced as 2022-23 One Book One Northwestern selection


Daily file illustration by Laya Neelakandan

As the faculty chair, History Prof. Leslie Harris will organize content for the new One Book selection “How the Word is Passed” by Clint Smith.

Joanna Hou, Assistant Campus Editor

One Book One Northwestern announced Clint Smith’s “How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America” as its 2022-23 academic year selection Monday.

Smith’s novel focuses on landmarks and monuments around the country to examine how slavery has shaped large parts of United States history, from holidays, like Juneteenth, to major locales, like Manhattan. 

“The programming will be related to themes of the legacy of slavery, American identity and the role of memory and history in our lives,” the One Book Instagram announcement read. 

“How the Word Is Passed” was a No. 1 New York Times bestseller, a winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction and a Stowe Prize recipient. The book also made top 10 lists in The New York Times, TIME magazine and New York Public Library in 2021.

This is Smith’s debut nonfiction work, though he released “Counting Descent,” a nationally acclaimed poetry collection, in 2017. He is a staff writer at The Atlantic and has been published in multiple literary magazines. 

“Informed by scholarship and brought alive by the story of people living today, Clint Smith’s debut work of nonfiction is a landmark work of reflection and insight that offers a new understanding of the hopeful role that memory and history can play in understanding our country,” the One Book Fellow application reads. 

The application is open until Friday. The selection team will choose five or six students to work on planning and program development. 

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