How the Word Is Passed Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: How the Word Is Passed talks about the cult of slavery that overshadows a large part of America’s history and how past experiences often dictate the future, or in our case, even the present, which is why we as a people should look into our history and learn from our ancestor’s mistakes to build a better world.

Read in: 4 minutes

Favorite quote from the author:

How the Word Is Passed Summary

History has a way of repeating itself, especially when people forget about it and its lessons. A nation that doesn’t value its history will fail to evolve and therefore will stagnate or even move backward. For the USA, people will always associate the word history with slavery, whether they like it or not.

How the World Is Passed by Clint Smith highlights the uncomfortable truths about America’s slavery by taking the reader through nine historical sites, starting with New Orleans. We’ll explore how the world remembers slavery, but also how it often forgets about this part of our history.

Unfortunately, some institutions and customs are still a toxic product of our past doings. To get past them, we must make peace with yesterday, take action today, and actively shape our tomorrow.

To do so, we’ll take a look at three of the most relevant lessons from the book: 

  1. Black people’s culture and their unfortunate past embed America’s streets.
  2. Oppressed black men and women and their work are what built the USA as we know it today.  
  3. Black people still suffer from racial inequality and financial burdens even two hundred years after slavery ended. 

Even though slavery is a thing of the past, its deep roots are difficult to get rid of. So we can still notice it today. Learning about it is the first step toward healing black communities from its effects. That is why we’ll explore each lesson in detail.

If you want to save this summary for later, download the free PDF and read it whenever you want.

Download PDF

Lesson 1: From street names to statues and buildings, black people’s history fills the USA.

The author begins his journey in New Orleans, which is both his hometown and a landmark in black people’s history. From street and park names to public statues of Confederate leaders (Robert E. Lee’s statue) and buildings (the Omni Royal Orleans Hotel), the history of slavery remains engraved in the public domains. 

Clint was surprised to find out that his hometown had so much history tied to black communities. People were sold and enslaved just two hundred years ago in these hotels, parks, and streets by the leaders whose statues are still kept under maintenance. 

In a world dominated by democracies, this was unacceptable for the author. He decided to take his quest to other sites and explore the roots of slavery. How deep were they? The journey continues to Monticello, the former home of Thomas Jefferson. 

Here he discovered the old plantation fields as a guide walks them through the history of slavery. The tour focused mainly on Jefferson’s life and the history of slavery. It included his relationship with a 16-year-old slave and the trade they did with black people

Lesson 2: We now know that the lavishness we know in the USA emerges from the lifelong work of the black community.

The USA rose to fame as the land of opportunity, freedom, justice, capitalism, and luxury. However, it wasn’t always like this. To build today’s infrastructure, the justice system, community values, and overall the country itself, white communities exposed and put at risk many black lives. And often only for the benefit of the white communities.

The author’s journey takes him to the Whitney Plantation and the Angola prison. There, he discovers that white supremacists were exploiting black slaves for reproduction, railroad work, profits from the slave trade, and many other horrific acts. 

Clint then has a breakthrough discovery. Wherever he goes, he finds that the lavish and the developed communities emerge from the sweat of black men and women. While men were used to carrying out physical-demanding tasks such as building railroads, buildings, and plantations, women were used for reproduction.

They then sold their babies for profit. The most gruesome part was that only white men impregnated the women. And were also the only ones allowed to do so. That means that eventually, they’d be selling their offspring. Clint was horrified by the history that was hiding behind everything he touches, yet intrigued to pursue it even more

Lesson 3: Slavery is a thing of the past, but its consequences remain alive in the present.

What followed the year 1600 was a period of disgrace and darkness for the USA. As Europeans started to treat Africans like lesser beings and use them for physically demanding jobs, a new wave of racial injustice emerged: the entire world considered the black race inferior and liable for the wrongs of humanity. 

Black people became burdened with building the infrastructure and doing the work for white people while receiving nothing but the bare minimum in return. In exchange, the white people got rich and passed on generational wealth to their children. 

As Lincoln abolished slavery in the late 19th century, black people found themselves at a late starting line. With no educational, financial, or social background and no means to achieve them, they had to build their community from scratch. 

Two centuries later, black communities still live in much poorer conditions than white people, they have smaller chances of receiving an education due to all the gaps in their upbringing, and they own less than 4% of the country’s wealth. The ironic part is that they were responsible for creating it in the beginning.

How the Word Is Passed Review

How the Word Is Passed presents the history of the American culture with black communities at its center. From its origins of slavery and racial inferiority to its current state of theoretical equality, this racial group faced all sorts of limitations that are still very much actual even today. 

The book takes the readers through nine historical sites popular for black history and educates them on the power of racial injustice, its negative effects on human morale and development, and how history can easily repeat itself if we’re not paying attention to it.

Who would I recommend the How the Word Is Passed summary to?

The 23-year-old black person who wants to educate themselves on their ancestors and their origins, the 40-year-old American citizen who wants to learn more about the USA’s past, or the 35-year-old person who is passionate about the history of black communities.

Last Updated on October 6, 2022

Rate this book!
This book has an average rating of 4.8 based on 5 votes.

Maria Deac

While working with my friend Ovi's company SocialBee, I had the good fortune of Maria writing over 200 summaries for us over the course of 18 months. Maria is a professional SEO copywriter, content writer, and social media marketing specialist. When she's not writing or learning more about marketing, she loves to dance and travel all over the world.