Kendi & Blain Four Hundred Souls: A Community History Of African America

Last updated date: December 6, 2021

DWYM Score

9.6

Kendi & Blain Four Hundred Souls: A Community History Of African America

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We looked at the top Biography & History Books and dug through the reviews from some of the most popular review sites. Through this analysis, we've determined the best Biography & History Book you should buy.

Update as December 2, 2021:
Checkout The Best Biography & History Books for a detailed review of all the top biography & history books.

Overall Take

Ibram X. Kendi's "Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019" lays out the story of African American history from 1619 to the present day, seen from the eyes of 90 different writers. It's a powerful look at an important story.


In our analysis of 14 expert reviews, the Kendi & Blain Four Hundred Souls: A Community History Of African America placed 1st when we looked at the top 6 products in the category. For the full ranking, see below.

From The Manufacturer

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.

Expert Reviews

Expert Summarized Score

9.6
3 expert reviews

User Summarized Score

9.6
5,620 user reviews

What experts liked

Ibram X Kendi and Keisha N. Blain did an amazing job if editing the history of African America for over four hundred years, with over 80 contributors in the form of poem, memoirs, bios and essays. If you are looking for an in-depth look into African American history, this is definitely the book to start with.
- Good Reads
An impeccable, epic, essential vision of American history as a whole and a testament to the resilience of Black people.
- Kirkus Reviews
It's a story of hope and struggle, of resistance and oppression, and historical icons and ordinary folks that dispels the idea that any one people are a monolith.
- Good Housekeeping

What experts didn't like

Some of the chapters were not as strongly written.
- Good Reads

An Overview On Biography & History Books

Historical non-fiction books tell the stories of past ages with realistic details and facts. Some center around historical events, like the bombing of Pearl Harbor or the Holocaust, while others focus on powerful figures from history, like Martin Luther King, Jr. These books often depict broader views of past societies and reflect on how the events impacted peoples’ lives and brought us to our present reality.

Meanwhile, books of historical fiction transport readers back in time with made-up narratives set in real places and eras of history. Information about the traditions, manners and social norms are accurate and authentic, as are much of the events and people described.

But in the case of historical fiction, the setting, plot, dialogues, characters and conflicts can be a mix of fiction and non-fiction. Thus, these works can bring readers to another time and place, but at the expense of some accuracy.

Historical non-fiction and historical fiction are similar genres, but purists generally prefer non-fiction historical books, including personal accounts (memoirs) that retell exactly how things happened.

When shopping for historical books to buy as gifts, think about what the recipient’s hobbies and interests are. For example, a child who wanted to dress up as Cleopatra for Halloween might be interested in Egyptian history. Someone who is really into making their own clothes might like to read about Coco Chanel, and a biography about Malcolm X might be perfect for a reader who wants to learn more about African American history.

The Biography & History Book Buying Guide

  • Historical books make great holiday gifts for readers of all ages. However, if you are buying for children, make sure the book is suitable for the age and reading level of your young recipient. If it is too complicated or describes upsetting historical events, you might consider finding a different book.
  • World War II history buffs love to read books that detail the entire war, as well as more focused ones about specific battles, key players like Harry Truman and other war heroes.
  • Read the reviews on the back covers of these books. Typically, such reviews are from literary critics or other authors. This is a great source of insight about the texts.