Black AF History: The Un-Whitewashed Story of America

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From acclaimed columnist and political commentator Michael Harriot, a searingly smart and bitingly hilarious retelling of American history that corrects the record and showcases the perspectives and experiences of Black Americans.

America’s backstory is a whitewashed mythology implanted in our collective memory. It is the story of the pilgrims on the Mayflower building a new nation. It is George Washington’s cherry tree and Abraham Lincoln’s log cabin. It is the fantastic tale of slaves that spontaneously teleported themselves here with nothing but strong backs and negro spirituals. It is a sugarcoated legend based on an almost true story.

It should come as no surprise that the dominant narrative of American history is blighted with errors and oversights—after all, history books were written by white men with their perspectives at the forefront. It could even be said that the devaluation and erasure of the Black experience is as American as apple pie.

In Black AF History, Michael Harriot presents a more accurate version of American history. Combining unapologetically provocative storytelling with meticulous research based on primary sources as well as the work of pioneering Black historians, scholars, and journalists, Harriot removes the white sugarcoating from the American story, placing Black people squarely at the center. With incisive wit, Harriot speaks hilarious truth to oppressive power, subverting conventional historical narratives with little-known stories about the experiences of Black Americans. From the African Americans who arrived before 1619 to the unenslavable bandit who inspired America’s first police force, this long overdue corrective provides a revealing look into our past that is as urgent as it is necessary. For too long, we have refused to acknowledge that Americanhistory is white history. Not this one. This history is Black AF.

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47 reviews for Black AF History: The Un-Whitewashed Story of America

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  1. Berni

    If you are put off by history books because they are dry and boring, have no fear: this book is not dry or boring in the slightest. Harriot relates American history as it’s not generally taught, told in an amusing, folksy style. (Don’t let the informal tone fool you into thinking that this is not a serious piece of scholarship. It’s obviously meticulously researched and documented.) Its target audience may be Black, but I would highly recommend that white people read it, too. Heck, we white folks need the information even more as we’ve only been told one, very biased version of events. This has some hard truths in it, but as a popular meme says, if young Black children could live it, white children (and adults!) can learn it.

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  2. ReadingIsMySuperPower

    There is truly no review I can give this book other than to say it should absolutely be used in every school curriculum moving forward.African Americans are the strongest, most resilient, group of people in history of our country.Just read this book.

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  3. I.W.C.

    This is what every American needs to hear.I just started the Audible book. Michael Harriot put his foot in this! He does a masterful job of presenting the history that has been hidden, even though the evidence and citations are available for the public’s purview at any time. His insight is astounding, his humor wittingly sharp, and, above all, his storytelling is par excellence. Extra props for narrating the audio version himself.In a particular interview, James Baldwin invites this nation to ask itself the most poignant question “What [YT] people have to do, is to try to find out in their own hearts why it was necessary to have a [🥷🏽] in the first place. Because I’m not a [🥷🏽] I’m a man. … If I’m not a [🥷🏽] here and you invented him- you, the [YT] people, invented him- then you’ve got to find out why.”Though not [YT], Harriot is the first person I have heard, with historical accuracy, attempt to answer this question.This brotha may go down as THE Griot of this generation.Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.Those who hide history intend to repeat it.#BlackHistoryIsAmericanHistory

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  4. KellyKelly

    Loved this! Mr. Harriot weaves nuggets of history unknown, forgotten, or simply ignored, with his personal history, and his trademark wit. I realized, @4 am, that I was only halfway through. If you like great writing, this is the book.

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  5. Kylie Larson

    This is a powerful, funny (when did you last say that about a history), and insightful history of the United States with unit review questions and everything–they are unlike anything I, and probably you, have ever seen before. Harriot focuses on history from the other side of the main stream narrative. Instead of Blacks being “dehumanized by simply remaining anonymous,” he puts names to stolen Africans when possible and at least their probable place of origin.Harriot isn’t afraid to call things as he sees them instead of the enshrined pretty ideals white people want to present. He calls white European “settlers” invaders. In particular, he describes the English as incompetent because they arrived in America without having skills in farming and the only reason they didn’t starve to death was because the Native Americans decided to take pity on them (which I’m sure they regretted). He also names people who fought for the South during the Civil War as traitors.There is a lot of disturbing information in this book. It is one thing to know about the torture, splitting of families and the lynchings. Or how the English started using enslaved Africans in America as early as in Jamestown, the systematic enshrinement of dehumanizing Blacks in the foundation of local and national government and the institutionalized abuses that continue to exist today. It is another to read the details of the heart-wrenching events, the terror, the actual words people used and the statements they made in their objectives of organizations and movements. The hatred and arrogance are stomach turning. The ignorance mind blowing. The violence appalling.However, this is not just a depressing book. Harriot relates some of the information in an off-beat way, tells amusing stories of his family and expresses a dry wit. There are some suggestions on how to make things better and there is an important discussion about reparations. Then there is Harriot’s most important point. It is not the twisted white-washed version of American history that has become mainstream. It is that Black people have not been defeated! In spite of everything that has been thrown at them, they have resisted, survived and thrive. Thank them for their indomitable spirit and great achievements!!!There were Africans with the earliest European explorers in the Americas. They went further than the most well-known names. There were a lot more revolts of enslaved people beyond Nat Turner. And Rosa Parks was not the first Black woman involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Read this book to find out just how many more Blacks did amazing things (and they a lot more out there that aren’t mentioned in this book because one book couldn’t do it all).Unless this was a multivolume series, Harriot cannot cover everything here. That said, I wish there was a little bit more of the post-Civil Rights movement era. I also think he understates the terribleness of other types of slavery. He explained Black slavery was the worst because it was based on color, they had no rights or a way to get their freedom. However, he has pointed out over and over again that Black rights were subverted and denied even when theoretically they had rights once they were free. It is worse when people are enslaved. In particular, women everywhere, throughout history and to this day are subjected to more violence, exploitation of all sorts and often have less rights under the law. Slavery is a terrible thing in any form because it fundamentally denies the person rights and subjects them to so many awful things.I am not Black but I am a woman. I have experienced prejudice, know dear ones who were subjected to physical violence and sexual violation because they were women, exposed to the in-built inequality of the very foundation of society and people’s mind set that they aren’t always even aware of, so I think I have some sympathy to what Harriot is talking about. However, I do not know the Black experience (as if there is just one). I cannot say I understand what it is like. I can only say my knowledge has expanded and I hope so has my sensitivity. The legacy of slavery, dehumanization and continued prejudice still fundamentally affect Black people, shape our country to its detriment and the humanity of us all.Read this! It is important.

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  6. Zelda T

    Have only had the book a few days and learned so much already.

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  7. Henry Dunn

    Excellent Book.

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  8. Roxx

    You find yourself smiling, relating, then reflecting on the actual horrors that took place and the story you have been spoon fed was administered by the “victor”…challenge so-called truths; I always have, always will. Thanks!

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  9. OutlawPoet

    Oh, this book was awesome.This is the real history and the author pulls no punches. Understand – he doesn’t just tell you the good – he gives it to us warts and all. But it’s also all the parts that the history books have chosen not to tell us.Black history is full of heroes – and villains and geniuses and trailblazers. The author gives us the un-whitewashed history and it’s all kinds of glorious.The writing style is perfect – it’s like a conversation around my aunt Margie’s kitchen table.Loved this!

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  10. Blessed

    This book delivers unfiltered instruction in Black/African American history. Well written, meticulously researched and delivered with a sprinkle of wit, pride, and sadness. It is a must read for all.

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  11. Victor Jones

    A powerful model of how history Could Be and Should Be taught. With complete honesty instead of crafty omissions. With authentic humanity instead of quasi human falsehoods. With modern day contextual parallels instead of klepto-centric moral fantasy.Humans have always known right from wrong, and greedy humans have always dehumanized the people they desired to rob, rape and exploit. History is not boring. No fiction story is as rich and intriguing as the TRUTHFUL telling of history.Michael, Thank You for this timeless gift. This work changes the history-telling game.

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  12. Y. Alexander

    Ok. So I am only on chapter 2, however I am loving this version of American History. I have become a history buff in my later years and as a world traveler since retiring, I’m intriqued by what I’ve been discovering as I travel to these distant lands. However, growing up in the USA and being taught throughout my juvenile years that America was the greatest country on earth with absolutely no flaws beacuse everything we did was justified for the greater good of the citizens, I’m becoming more aware of the truth. I recall reading “Hiroshima” in Junior High School as a required reading (this was in the late 1950’s) and now realizing it was an attempt to justify killing all of those innocent civilians in Japan.As an African American, more truth has been presented regarding slavery, Juneteenth, Black Wall Street, etc, history that had been hidden for centuries because it didn’t measure up to America’s idology. I throughly enjoyed the biography “Hamilton” by Ron Chernow, followed by the stage production of Lin- Manuel Miranda, provided an insight into the true beliefs and personalities of the Founding Fathers.Although I’ve only read 2 chapters of this historical interpretation of US history, I’m loving the comical and “woke” aspect that the author is injecting into an ugly truth of this nation. Looking forward to reading more.

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  13. Malcohm

    This book does not need my review. If you read it you will come to the same conclusion as I. This book is the bomb. Already out of stock at many venues. I absolutely loved it and as they say, “could not put it down.” It is well worth the read. It is filled with information and crumbs to lead the reader down other paths should they so desire. It will be banned by somebody, somewhere. More than likely it will be condemned by some who will never read it for fear of how the folks they most identify with are talked about. These are the same folks who do not identify with John Brown, Angelina Grimke or WL Garrison, but do identify with confederates. But I digress.I received this book and immediately started reading. From the beginning I knew it was gonna be a page-turner. I am in deep and laughing all the way.This Black AF History literally describes how some have Forest Gumped their way to prominence and left out whole swaths of information. It is like that line from, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence: “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”The questions at the end of each section are engaging as well.Bottom line is, if you like history, if you enjoy a good read, and if you like to laugh while you learn, you just might like this un-whitewashed story of America.I feel like I am in conversation with a seasoned family member.Good read!

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  14. CH

    This book is a gem! Everyone should read it!

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  15. Pat B.

    What a great read. This writer is telling the truth about America’s past. Perhaps the most accurate history. We usually get history from the “winners”. This is history from the real “winners”: those who observed the supremes’ acts to retain their status.

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  16. MMC

    I ordered this book in June of 2021. After waiting over 2 years to see what the author has to say Amazon made me reorder the book because their interface wouldn’t update my 2 year old payment info. I sincerely hope I didn’t pay for the same book twice. I thought I paid for it when I pre-ordered. After taking the time to read the first half of this book, I’m not angry anymore. I was hooked from the introduction, and I’ll probably finish it this weekend.

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  17. Chris Prussing

    but discovered it’s a real page-turner, brilliantly managing to recount a history of resistance and achievement in the face of horrific oppression, seasoning the story with wry wit and humor.A great complement to Howard French’s eye-opening “Born In Blackness: Africa, Africans, and the Making of the Modern World, 1471 to the Second World War.”Sold me on the necessity of reparations, no doubt about it. If that makes you gasp and clutch your pearls, read the book.

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  18. Read-A-Lot

    When you go beneath the surface of American history and you employ a comic’s wit with genius research centering Black people you get Black AF History. This is a must read book, not because it breaks new ground, but it unearths the underground so that you may see clearly the truth behind the sanitized version of history that has been mainstreamed during our lifetimes.If you truly examine any success that happened in the colonies from planting crops to inoculation, when you go deep enough you will find an African responsible for by any weight and measure the so-called “success.” And those worm deep stories are consistently uncovered in these pages, making this a revelatory read while also providing you with side splitting moments.There is an imagined conversation with RB(Racist Baby) that brings the discussion of racism to a level that even a baby could grasp. When we start to tell the unvarnished truth about America, only then can the healing begin. Perhaps Black AF History can be the starting point, because hard truths are more digestible with doses of humor and Black AF History delivers greatly on that maxim.

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  19. Patrizia

    I am the opposite of the target audience. I am a white middle-aged woman who lives in the suburbs of the south and I’m conservative.(although I did grow up with a healthy dose of Earth, Wind and Fire, lol) I picked up the sample of the book through my Kindle since it was a history book and really didn’t expect much. I was so wrong !!This book is beyond fabulous it’s funny. It’s informative and as a history nerd It’s accurate though I did Learn quite a bit. This is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. I’m starting it all over again because there’s so much to grasp. I don’t want to miss anything.I love that is told with humor and not dry and not the least bit boring. It is entertaining and amazing . Don’t hesitate to get this wonderful book. It should be an every high school in the country.

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  20. Donna L. Givens

    I could not love this book more. I recommend the audiobook because listening to Michael Harriott read the book is amazing. Absolutely wonderful!

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  21. N.B. Smith

    The author does a tremendous job of taking us both on a family journey, and also sharing such wonderful essential parts of information. There were so many elements in this book that were familiar, but even more that I had no idea, existed, or even happened in the past I would highly recommend this book to anyone Who wants to learn more about this country.

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  22. Peter Hinds

    Get this book! You need it!

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  23. TXCR

    Not only is this history book going to open some eyes but it’s a fun read that’s often wry and witty while being brutally honest about the real history of the USA. ‘Muricans might get a little butt hurt but maybe a few minds will be awakened.

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  24. JayefromJersey

    I found out about this book by watching the author interview on a morning show. After reading the first paragraph of the sample book purchased it immediately. I have not been able to put it down . Thanks for writing it Michael!

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  25. eyo116

    Love Michael Harriot and this book did not disappoint. I learned so much. It’s unfortunate that we don’t learn American History in school.

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  26. Tehuti B.

    Started following Michael Harriet on Twitter (was only on Twitter because of his posts). This book is excellent so far. I’m deliberately reading it slowly, in order to take in all of its richness.

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  27. DavidJ

    Mr. Harriot has done a wonderful job taking us through the history of these United States of America. This is America. We can’t get better as a nation or a people who make up U.S.A. until we fully interrogate, honestly, our history. Because we have been in denial, we get the politics that we get today, where serves no one. Maybe the rich. Mr. Harriot’s well researched history lesson comprised in this book is a great start. He is a great storyteller and he will have you laughing, cursing, crying, and exasperated as you read this book. It is well worth your time.

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  28. Joebeimon

    And had to get the book. I live in Florida and bBlack history is being shut down here. Crazy. This is payback .

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  29. Amazon CustomerAmazon Customer

    To read BlackAF History is to get a consistent reminder that black people are the most resilient people ever to walk the earth. Listening to the accounts of how black people excelled in almost every arena imaginable despite so many obstacles left me know that anything is possible.

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  30. North Shore Gal

    I have been thoroughly enjoying Black AF History: The Un-Whitewashed Story of America by Michael Harriot. It is well-written with abundant citations and humor, juxtaposed with the stark truths from history. It’s opened my eyes and heart to what was never taught to me as a child in school, and I readily recommend it to everyone.

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  31. Tiffany

    Must read.

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  32. Latrina Hollingsworth

    I’m not completely finish with the book but it’s a must read. This man is brilliant and well versed on history and not HIS-story . I wish they taught this in schools.

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  33. Amy

    It is shameful what we were never taught and retaught in school. I am not a history buff. But this is by far the most intriguing non-fiction book I have ever read. It is sooooooo good. Kudos to the author ;). I can’t wait to get my book signed!

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  34. New Mexico

    I would love to hear ‘conservatives’ talk about the last couple of paragraphs in the book.I might have liked a bit more about American religion and the politics of racial oppression. For instance, one of the foremost leaders of the Great Awakening, the proto-Methodist minister, George Whitefield, lead the campaign to legalize slavery in the Georgia colony. Why do you ask? Go find out.

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  35. LaShanda

    Once I saw the title and cover artwork for this book, I knew I had to read it, and I couldn’t wait to dive right in. It exceeded my expectations.As I began reading, I became completely engrossed in its contents. I found myself entirely absorbed in its captivating narrative, which skillfully intertwined engaging storytelling with humor, making it impossible to set aside. Michael Harriot possesses a unique skill for masterfully conveying a story. In this work, he provides key elements of history while also highlighting the historical mistreatment of Black people in America, shedding light on often overlooked perspectives and adding just the right amount of humor. This book is a must-read for everyone, particularly those with an unquenchable thirst for a comprehensive understanding of the enduring struggle that has shaped the very core of our nation. It’s no ordinary history book; it’s a revelation, a rich tapestry that doesn’t skimp on the significant elements of our country’s multifaceted story. It’s akin to a tantalizing tell-all for America and her unimaginable history.I wholeheartedly recommend this book to others. Its pages not only serve as a treasure trove of invaluable information but also present readers with a wealth of thought-provoking questions at the conclusion of each chapter, providing ample intellectual nourishment. If you revel in the fusion of history and humor, you will love this book!

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  36. Carmilla Stokes

    This book is the truth, the whole truth and well overdue. Finally the lies about America are exposed. Get it before it’s banned. Read with an open mind.

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  37. Michael Irving

    Having a hard time putting it down.

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  38. Dutchess

    TRUE REAL HISTORY!!

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  39. Mimi

    A must read for all!

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  40. Conscience OtterConscience Otter

    I’ve been a longtime reader of Mr. Harriot’s work for The Root and have always loved his signature acerbic wit and emotive storytelling. After having preordered this book heaven knows how long ago, Black AF History finally arrived today. I was so excited, I sat right down on the porch, tore open the box and started reading immediately. And then my kid’s bus pulled up.I’ve only read the introduction so far and will hopefully remember to update this review after completing the book, but I’ve already had to put it down several times to process what I’ve just read. Hilarious, touching, and kick you in the feels, The Un-whitewashed Story of America is introduced in a way that only Mr. Harriot can: through the lens of personalized, unapologetic Blackness in a country that is deluded and patronizing at best and hatefully violent at worst.One of my favorite things about his writing is how he begins with a seemingly unrelated story from his childhood, fully immersing the reader into the visceral experience of confusion, pride, and injustice so familiar to anyone who has experienced the trials of growing up. Then he’ll switch to what appears to be another topic altogether, only to tie in the story at the end in a way that bypasses abstract thinking to fully illuminate the essence of our shared, flawed humanity. Gets me every time.Just for funsies, here’s a quote that encapsulates why I love his writing so much:“Although we now understand that ADHD is a common mental neurodevelopment issue that affects millions of children, I was diagnosed as ‘bad.’” And now I know why publishing was delayed. YayDHD!

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  41. Hells Kitchen

    This book should be required reading in all high schools. I’m so ashamed that I didn’t know a majority of the history in here. I’m probably gonna have to re-read this every couple of years to keep all these facts present in my mind. The book is fascinating, disheartening, heartening, funny, angry, joyful. White parents, share these stories with your children. I can’t recommend this book highly enough!

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  42. Lamont Robertson

    Omg omg omg, so much info, I just love knowledge, they say knowledge is power, then you feel like a super hero after reading this book, super powerful💪🏾💙💙

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  43. Unknown

    For too long we have he’d white history shoved down our throats and I am so glad that we finally get to read the ugly truth about the racist treatment of Black people in this land of the free and home of the brave. Every Black person should read this book so that they Will know the full truth about how our oppressors have had their knee on our necks for centuries. Great book and I will recommend it to others.

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  44. D. Pierre

    I love Michael Harriot’s work. An amazingly engaging writer who can find and convey facts that most of us don’t have the patience to even look for. His seemingly unrelated family/childhood stories which always leads you to the facts at hand will have you roaring with laughter, which is a nice reprieve from some of the intensity of the facts he conveys.

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  45. Chai and a Good Book

    I’ve always been interested in American history, but I sure missed a lot.This book has educated me on: the Carolina rice industry and enslaved black women, the way enslaved people used the American revolution to their benefit, the number of slave rebellions and how they influenced the whites, Islam and slavery in America, the role Harriet Tubman played in the Civil War, and the extent to which black people freed themselves during the Civil War….. and on and on.I hadn’t realized how fascinating the fresh look at American history would be – much more gripping than the almost-totally-white version.

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  46. beach woman

    Michael Harriot is a writer extraordinaire. The way he breaks subjects down is masterful. I have waiting for this book and he did not disappoint. Outstanding.

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  47. Angella Mack

    If you’re not ready for some hard truths, this is not the book for you. If you are sensitive, this is not the book for you. If you only got the book to sit in your shelf just to say you got it, again, this is not the book for you. I feel this needs to be in every person of color’s library. This is not the watered down history they are trying to force feed our children. It’s up to us and WE NEED to pass this knowledge down to our children and so on so we won’t forget who we are all r how we go where we are. This is raw, cut filtered truths and I LOVE IT!!! Tyvm for this body of work.

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    Black AF History: The Un-Whitewashed Story of America
    Black AF History: The Un-Whitewashed Story of America

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