Clint Smith, author of How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with The History of Slavery Across America, will be the keynote speaker for “One Book One Northwestern” on Tuesday, Oct. 18, an event open to the greater Evanston community. 

Smith, an American writer and poet, examines in the book how slavery shaped America’s history and how that history is remembered. Smith shares his own journey to sites of enslavement in the U.S. while presenting historical research and interviews with everyday people. 

“One Book One Northwestern” serves as a community connector, since the entire university reads the same book and goes to events centering on the book’s themes throughout the academic year, said Nancy Cunniff, director of One Book. 

The book was the 2022-2023 selection because of its relevance to current-day debates on critical race theory, book bans and the overall precarious time for education, Cunniff said.

“Smith exemplifies in his journeys, we all have the power to witness and interrogate the history presented to us in monuments, landscapes and museums – and yes, even in classrooms,” writes History Professor and One Book faculty chair Leslie M. Harris in a blog post on the book selection.

One Book recruits five to six students every year to serve as One Book Fellows, who work part-time for a one-year term planning and managing events, serving as representatives to students and student groups further promoting the book selection on campus.

Izzy Nielson, One Book student engagement fellow, said it’s “important for the Northwestern and Evanston community to recognize and reckon with this history.”

Nielson said that people try to “look at the past and leave out all the bad parts because it’s, like, harder to talk about, but that’s exactly what you shouldn’t do. This event is going to make like that important discussion happen.”

On Tuesday, Smith will be joined by Harris from 5 to 6 p.m. at the Mary B. Galvin Hall on the Evanston campus to discuss the book, its themes, why Smith wrote it and his writing process. There will be a Q&A session followed by a book signing. Galvin Hall is located in the Ryan Center for the Musical Arts building, 70 Arts Circle Drive, at the south end of campus.

One Book will also hold a tour, “Understanding the Historic Evanston Black Community,” an exhibit lecture “Freedom for Everyone: Slavery and Abolition in 19th Century America” and many more events that are open to the greater Evanston community. The full list of events can be found here: Upcoming Events: One Book – Northwestern University

Sara Ibrahim is a third year student at Northwestern University studying Political Science and Legal Studies. She has written for The Daily Northwestern, North by Northwestern and Northwestern's Undergraduate...