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Excerpt from His Name Is George Floyd by Robert Samuels, Toluse Olorunnipa, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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His Name Is George Floyd

One Man's Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice

by Robert Samuels, Toluse Olorunnipa

His Name Is George Floyd by Robert Samuels, Toluse Olorunnipa X
His Name Is George Floyd by Robert Samuels, Toluse Olorunnipa
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  • First Published:
    May 2022, 432 pages

    May 2024, 432 pages


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Print Excerpt

Chapter 1
An Ordinary Day

"It's Memorial Day. Y'all wanna grill?"

George Perry Floyd Jr. wasn't particularly skilled at flipping burgers, but he was glad when his friend Sylvia Jackson suggested the diversion. The coronavirus pandemic had left him jobless and listless, a shadow of the gregarious man his friends and family once knew. He had been trying to avoid spending more time in the darkness, feeding the addiction he could not seem to escape.

Jackson's modest home in North Minneapolis served as a family-friendly refuge. In May 2020, Floyd would spend most days on her couch, watching iCarly and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse with her three girls. Other times, he'd help her craft TikTok videos in hopes that one day they might go viral.

"Let's do this one," she'd say, before dancing in her kitchen to the music of Mariah Carey's "Fantasy." Floyd would stare at the camera with mock-seriousness.

They were often joined by two friends who had worked with them at the Salvation Army, a quarantine quartet meant to keep one another company as they waited for the world to go back to normal. Jackson, thirty-two, rolled her eyes as Floyd would go on about chopped-and-screwed music, the hip-hop genre that emerged from his Houston hometown. In the evening, Floyd would talk throughout whatever movie they were watching, then shower her with questions about the plot afterward. Her daughters loved camping, so they sometimes set up tents and slept under the stars. Other nights, they'd throw some hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill and play music, which was the plan on May 25, 2020, the day George Floyd would die.

That day, Jackson had to work an eight-to-two shift as a security guard, so she tasked Floyd with picking up some lighter fluid and charcoal. She handed him the keys to her car, a 2001 navy-blue Mercedes-Benz SUV, and $60 to pay for supplies.

"I'll be back home around three," Jackson told him.

Jackson trusted Floyd; she had loaned him the car several times before. Floyd had no other plans, so he called his friend Maurice Hall around ten a.m. to see if he wanted to hang out. Many of Floyd's friends warned him about Hall, forty-two, who had been sleeping between hotels and his vehicle, dealing drugs while trying to avoid arrest warrants. Floyd had tried for years to move on from using, but Hall provided some kinship during this empty part of his life. The two men would smoke weed or ingest pills, which Floyd would chase down with Tylenol to dilute the impact.

This was not the life either had envisioned when they left Houston's Third Ward for Minneapolis, seeking sobriety and opportunity. Hall told Floyd that he felt he had exhausted his options. Outstanding warrants had driven him underground, and he didn't want to turn himself in to police--he was a father now, with freckled, curly-haired children, and he couldn't stomach the idea of being locked up far away from them. Floyd could empathize with Hall's predicament: he felt guilty being so far away from his young daughter, Gianna.

On the other end of the line, Hall told Floyd he had a day's worth of errands and suggested they complete his to-do list together. Hall was eager to jump into the Benz--he had been borrowing a friend's old truck ever since a woman he had hooked up with in his hotel room had driven off with his ride, taking his clothes, shoes, and video games with her.

Hall suggested that Floyd meet him at a LensCrafters at the Rosedale Commons shopping center off Interstate 35 in nearby Roseville. Floyd could then follow him back to his hotel to exchange vehicles.

"What do you mean I can't come in?" Floyd said to the sales representative when he arrived, turned away by the store's COVID-19 protocol.

Hall bought a pair of clear-framed glasses and then stepped outside, where he saw Floyd dressed in a dirty tank top and blue sweatpants.

Excerpted from His Name Is George Floyd by Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa. Copyright © 2022 by Robert Samuels. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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