400 Souls Book Tour

Monday, March 1st at 7pm ET:

In Conversation: Dr. Keisha N. Blain with Imani Uzuri

The Brooklyn Academy of Music welcomes historian and writer Dr. Keisha N. Blain (Set the World on Fire) and vocalist and composer Imanu Uzuri for an interdisciplinary conversation to celebrate the release of Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019. Edited by Dr. Blain and anti-racist scholar Ibram X. Kendi (How to Be an Antiracist), the collection engages 90 brilliant writers who use historical essays, short stories, personal vignettes, and fiery polemics to explore the range of experiences and ideas that have always excited with the community of Blackness.

This event is free and open to the public, with registration.

Link to register:


About the Book:

A chorus of extraordinary voices tells the epic story of the four-hundred-year journey of African Americans from 1619 to the present—edited by Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Antiracist, and Keisha N. Blain, author of Set the World on Fire.

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.

About the Panelists:


Keisha N. Blain is an award-winning historian, professor, and writer. She 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 Atlantic, The Guardian, Politico, and Time. She is the author of Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom and Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer’s Enduring Message to America.

Imani Uzuri is an award-winning vocalist, composer, librettist, and improviser—called “a postmodernist Bessie Smith” by the Village Voice—who composes, performs, and creates interdisciplinary works. She is a Jerome Foundation Composer/Sound Artist Fellow and a 2019—20 Harvard University W. E. B. DuBois Hutchins Center Fellow, and has been commissioned by Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, The Ford Foundation, and The Momentary. Her recent Chamber Music America New Jazz Works commission, She Knows Suite, premiered at Lincoln Center Atrium in 2020.