Common Read

How the Word is Passed book cover

For its 2023 Common Read, SUNY Oneonta has chosen Clint Smith’s book, "How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America."

Smith combines travelogue, oral history, and extensive research to interrogate the legacy of slavery and its representation in eight iconic American locales. He transports us to Monticello Plantation in Virginia, where Thomas Jefferson wrote letters espousing liberty while enslaving more than 600 people; Whitney Plantation, one of the only former plantations devoted to preserving the experience of the enslaved people whose lives and works sustained it; Angola, a former plantation turned maximum security prison in Louisiana; and Blandford Cemetery, the final resting place of tens of thousands of Confederate soldiers. At each stop along the journey, Smith invites us to consider what histories are told and which are suppressed—and why.

"How the Word is Passed" was named a New York Times 10 Best Books of 2021; winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction and the 2022 winner of Hillman Prize for Book Journalism.

Clint Smith will be on campus Oct. 23, 2023, to deliver the Mills Distinguished Lecture. The Common Read Committee is planning supplemental programming to support the Common Read during fall semester.

About the Common Read

SUNY Oneonta’s Common Read advances diversity by encouraging students to examine and better understand topics such as equity, inclusion, and personal history through many lenses. It aims to further infuse cultural literacy into our academic program by asking the campus community to read a diversity-related book, which then is discussed in fall courses across several disciplines.

About the Mills Lecture

The Mills Distinguished Lectureship is named to honor the memory of Professor Albert Mills and his wife, Helena. Their bequest to the SUNY Oneonta Foundation led to the establishment in 1988 of a fund to bring prominent speakers to our campus.

2023 Mills Distinguished Lecture

Clint Smith
Clint Smith

October 23, 2023, at 7 p.m., in the Alumni Field House
Free and open to the public

Past Mills Distinguished Lecturers

George Takei, 2022
Dashka Slater, 2021
Ayad Akhtar, 2019
Bryan Stevenson, 2018
Margot Lee Shetterly, 2017
Janet Mock, 2016
Ishmael Beah, 2015
Marjane Satrapi, 2014
Sherman Alexie, 2013

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