National Civil Rights Museum virtually hosts new book Four Hundred Souls

Editors and panelists of the highly anticipated, African American history anthology convene

Memphis, Tennessee, UNITED STATES

Memphis, TN, Jan. 29, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The National Civil Rights Museum brings award-winning authors Dr. Ibram X. Kendi and Dr. Keisha N. Blain, editors of the anticipated anthology Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019 to its Book and Author Series on Friday, February 5.  Set to release on February 2, the book is a collection of 90 voices telling one of history’s great epic stories.

Four Hundred Souls fundamentally dismantles the idea that Africans in America are a monolith by sharing a wide range of experiences that have always existed in the Black community. This is a history that illuminates the past and gives new ways of thinking about the future, written by the most vital and essential voices of the present.

The editors, Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, author of award-winning, New York Times best seller, How to Be an Antiracist, and Dr. Keisha N. Blain, author of Set the World on Fire, have assembled 90 brilliant writers, each of whom takes on a five-year period of that 400-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 and through places, laws, and objects. 

Dr. Kendi writes in the introduction, “Most of the pieces in this volume were written in 2019.  We wanted the community to be writing during the four-hundredth year.  We wanted Four Hundred Souls to write history to be history.  Readers of this communal diary will forever know what Black Americans were thinking about the past and present when African America symbolically turned four hundred years old.”

Kendi is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University and the founding director of the BU Center for Antiracist Research. He is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and a CBS News correspondent. He is the author of many books and Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2020.

Dr. Keisha N. Blaine is currently an associate professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh, the president of the African American Intellectual History Society, and an editor for The Washington Post’s "Made by History" section. Her writing has appeared in popular outlets such as The AtlanticThe Guardian, Politico, and Time.

Four Hundred Souls is a groundbreaking work. We are excited to have both Drs. Kendi and Blain as well as the panelists participate in this event, said Dr. Noelle Trent, the museum’s Director of Interpretation, Collections and Education.  “This work provides a much-needed discourse on the Black experience.”

During the book event, the editors will be joined by three panelists: journalist and author Charles Cobb, Jr.; Princeton professor of African American Studies Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor; and economic and social policy expert Heather McGee. The panelists will speak on the topics The Civil Rights Movement, Property and Bacon’s Rebellion, respectively. 

Charles Cobb, Jr. was a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) field secretary in Mississippi from 1962-1967. He has been a reporter for NPR, Frontline, and was the first black staff writer for National Geographic magazine.  In 2018 he was the recipient of a Carnegie Fellowship to facilitate his latest book project that analyzes today’s young movement for Black lives.

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor is the author of several award-winning books on Black Lives Matter, Black Feminism and LGBTQ nonfiction. Taylor is a contributing writer and columnist for The New Yorker.

Heather McGee is the former president of the inequality-focused think tank Demos, and now chairs the board of Color of Change, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization. She regularly contributes to news shows including NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

An autographed copy of Four Hundred Souls is available for purchase in the museum’s online store. The Book & Author Series virtual event is at 6:00pm Central and is free and open to the public.  Registration is required to receive the livestream link.  For more information, visit


About the National Civil Rights Museum

The NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM, located at the historic Lorraine Motel where civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, gives a comprehensive overview of the American Civil Rights Movement from slavery to the present. Since the Museum opened in 1991, millions of visitors from around the world have come, including more than 90,000 students annually. Serving as the new public square, the Museum is steadfast in its mission to honor and preserve the site of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination.  It chronicles the American civil rights movement and tells the story of the ongoing struggle for human rights, serving as a catalyst to inspire action to create positive social change.  A Smithsonian Affiliate and an internationally acclaimed cultural institution, the Museum is recognized as a 2019 National Medal Award recipient by the Institute of Museums and Library Services (IMLS), the top national honor for museums and libraries.  It is a TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Top 5% U.S. Museum, USA Today's Top 10 Best American Iconic Attractions; Top 10 Best Historical Spots in the U.S. by TLC's Family Travel; Must See by the Age of 15 by Budget Travel and Kids; Top 10, American Treasures by USA Today; and Best Memphis Attraction by The Commercial Appeal and the Memphis Business Journal.


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