DC Reads 2022: A City-Wide Discussion of “How the Word is Passed”

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DC Reads 2022: A City-Wide Discussion of “How the Word is Passed”


This month, join readers throughout the city for a series of discussions and events as part of DC Reads, the DC Public Library’s month-long literary event.

DC Reads brings the city together each year to read and discuss one book. This year, the selection is the award-winning “How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America,” by local author Clint Smith. In the book, Smith takes readers to eight locations, including the Monticello Plantation in Virginia, the Whitney Plantation in Louisiana, the Angola prison in Louisiana, New York City, and Gorée Island in Senegal. Through interviews with tour guides, tourists and others, Smith documents which monuments and landmarks are honest about slavery and which are not.


Princeton University Professor Frederick F. Wherry, Author Clint Smith and Library Executive Director Richard Reyes-Gavilan after the DC Reads kick off book discussion at the National Book Festival Saturday, September 3, 2022

Events will focus on the book and District locations with connections to slavery, ending with a visit from Smith for a discussion and book signing at 6:30 pm on September 29 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. The conversation will be led by Hannah Oliver Depp of Loyalty Bookstores, and copies of "How the Word is Passed" will be available for purchase following the discussion. RSVP here: dclibrary.libnet.info/event/6929575 

Additional copies of “How the Word is Passed” have been added to the Library's collection in print and electronic formats. In addition, a limited number of free copies are available at each Library location courtesy of the DC Public Library Foundation.

About the How the “Word is Passed”

While the United States acknowledges that slavery was a driving force of the country's development, history and its impacts are often misrepresented. In "How the Word is Passed," Smith transports readers to several places tied to slavery in the United States.

Smith writes: Across the United States, and abroad, there are places whose histories are inextricably tied to the story of human bondage. Many of these places directly confront and reflect on their relationship to that history; many of these places do not. But in order for our country to collectively move forward, it is not enough to have a patchwork of places that are honest about this history while being surrounded by other spaces that undermine it. It must be a collective endeavor to learn and confront the story of slavery and how it has shaped the world we live in today.

About DC Reads

DC Reads is a program that promotes reading for pleasure by hosting a month of citywide discussions and events focusing on one book. In the past, DC Reads has focused on books such as "The Refugees" by Viet Thanh Nguyen;" The Other Wes Moore" by Wes Moore; "Reading Lolita in Tehran "by Azar Nafisi, and "A Lesson Before Dying "by Ernest J. Gaines.

DC Reads was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. To learn more about the program, including the schedule of events and downloadable discussion guides for "How the Word is Passed," visit dclibrary.org/dcreads

For reasonable accommodations, please contact the Center for Accessibility at least seven (7) days in advance at 202-727-2142 or DCPLaccess@dc.gov