2022–2023 Common Read: How the Word Is Passed


“The history of slavery is the history of the United States. It was not peripheral to our founding; it was central to it. It is not irrelevant to our contemporary society; it created it. This history is in our soil, it is in our policies, and it must, too, be in our memories.” Clint Smith.

America’s founding is still being debated today, but the fact that slavery is embedded in the story of America can be seen in our institutions and our society as a whole. Despite the fact that the legacy of slavery is constantly visible in America, the current divisiveness around the topic can blur our view of it.  There has never been a complete acknowledgment and reckoning with slavery and racial discrimination in this country. 

Reckoning with history is something that is difficult to do, especially when it is unclear where or how to start. Despite these challenges, there is always hope in a new generation to acknowledge the reality of the past and move forward knowing the truth and working to build a better future. This is why we have chosen How The Word is Passed by Clint Smith to be our next common text to allow us to work towards a reckoning with history! 

Common Theme Book Cover

In How The Word is Passed, Smith goes on a journey throughout the United States, providing readers with an understanding of how deeply slavery and its legacy continue to shape American life. Smith emphasizes how the truth can be difficult to reveal and pursue. In addition, Smith explores his own personal story and familial history. 

Like many institutions with deep roots in the past, St. Edward’s must reckon with its own role in history. We have begun to take steps to acknowledge our role benefiting from land taken from Indigenous communities, and stealing people from their homes to be enslaved on land now owned by our campus. It is past time for our school and community to acknowledge our history.  Moving forward in a just way is not an easy endeavor, but it is still one that students, faculty, and staff continue to strive for. Smith states, “At some point, it is no longer a question of whether we can learn this history but whether we have the collective will to reckon with it.’’ 

We welcome the incoming class of 2026 and encourage you to think critically about St. Edward’s role in history and the legacy of slavery in America, and to go out into the world and continue the fight for justice.

Michael Baquet III
St. Edward’s University, Class of 2023