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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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    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    May 2022, 432 pages

    Paperback:
    May 16, 2023, 432 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rose Rankin
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About this Book

Book Summary

A landmark biography by two prizewinning Washington Post reporters that reveals how systemic racism shaped George Floyd's life and legacy - from his family's roots in the tobacco fields of North Carolina, to ongoing inequality in housing, education, health care, criminal justice, and policing - telling the singular story of how one man's tragic experience brought about a global movement for change.

The events of that day are now tragically familiar: on May 25, 2020, George Floyd became the latest Black person to die at the hands of the police, murdered outside of a Minneapolis convenience store by white officer Derek Chauvin. The video recording of his death set off the largest protest movement in the history of the United States, awakening millions to the pervasiveness of racial injustice. But long before his face was painted onto countless murals and his name became synonymous with civil rights, Floyd was a father, partner, athlete, and friend who constantly strove for a better life.

His Name Is George Floyd tells the story of a beloved figure from Houston's housing projects as he faced the stifling systemic pressures that come with being a Black man in America. Placing his narrative within the context of the country's enduring legacy of institutional racism, this deeply reported account examines Floyd's family roots in slavery and sharecropping, the segregation of his schools, the overpolicing of his community amid a wave of mass incarceration, and the callous disregard toward his struggle with addiction—putting today's inequality into uniquely human terms. Drawing upon hundreds of interviews with Floyd's closest friends and family, his elementary school teachers and varsity coaches, civil rights icons, and those in the highest seats of political power, Washington Post reporters Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa offer a poignant and moving exploration of George Floyd's America, revealing how a man who simply wanted to breathe ended up touching the world.

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...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The history of George Floyd's family can be traced to North Carolina, the state where his ancestors were enslaved. Floyd's great-great-grandfather, Hillery Thomas Stewart Sr., managed to amass a significant amount of wealth after emancipation thanks to the land he owned—land which was then seized from him. Why do you think Stewart was targeted in such a way, and what conditions made it so easy for the land to be taken from him? In your view, what repercussions did this event have on the economic condition of Floyd's family line—and other similar families—across generations?
  2. The Floyd family's new life in Texas took them to Cuney Homes, otherwise known as "the Bricks," a government housing project in Houston's Third ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The authors' diligence in reporting from those who knew Floyd intimately as well as religious leaders, police officers and scholars creates a seamless narrative of Floyd's life embedded within larger forces of over-incarceration, a lack of job opportunities for those with a criminal record, and ever-present poverty with its associated stress and health damages. Eloquently told and expertly navigating the emotion and polarization that calcified after his murder, His Name Is George Floyd leaves readers better educated than it finds them and humanizes the man whose murder has been and can remain a catalyst for change...continued

Full Review Members Only (844 words).

(Reviewed by Rose Rankin).

Media Reviews

New York Times
It is a testament to the power of His Name Is George Floyd that the book's most vital moments come not after Floyd's death, but in its intimate, unvarnished and scrupulous account of his life. The Washington Post journalists Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa, backed by hundreds of interviews along with extensive reporting by their colleagues, offer a brilliantly revealing portrait of the structures of poverty, land theft and racism that shaped not only Floyd but also his kinship networks in the South.

Washington Post
[D]etailed, vivid and moving...poignant reading.

Booklist (starred review)
This gripping oral history offers a behind-the-scenes look at the man, his loved ones and community, and the aftermath of his horrific death...A wrenching chronicle of one of the most devastating events of our time...vital and illuminating.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Writing with cogency and compassion, the authors free Floyd from the realm of iconography, restoring his humanity...A brilliant biography, history book, and searing indictment of this country's ongoing failure to eradicate systemic racism.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Impeccably researched...Interwoven with the biographical details are incisive sketches of the political and historical events that have shaped life for Floyd's family and other Black Americans. This multifaceted and exceptionally informative account is both a moving testament to Floyd and a devastating indictment of America's racial inequities.

Author Blurb Abby Phillip, CNN anchor and senior political correspondent
A vivid, necessary portrait of a Black man in America, in all its nuance, tragedy, and fullness. In his death, George Floyd's name became a rallying cry for the entire world. And this extraordinary book brings to life, with thoroughly reported detail, the indispensable context of systemic racism in which he lived.

Author Blurb Henry Louis Gates, Jr., author of The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song
A much-needed portrait of the life, times, and martyrdom of George Floyd, a chronicle of the racial awakening sparked by his brutal and untimely death, and an essential work of history I hope everyone will read.

Author Blurb Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Antiracist
In painstaking detail and textured storytelling, Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa reveal how George Floyd fought to live his entire life. Since we know George Floyd's death with tragic clarity, we must know Floyd's America—and life—with tragic clarity. His Name Is George Floyd is essential for our times.

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Beyond the Book

The Collapse of Reconstruction

In His Name Is George Floyd, authors Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa explain how Floyd's ancestors were dispossessed of their lucrative North Carolina farmlands via shady financial documents and restrictions on their literacy rendering them unable to read those very documents. This is just one example of the reassertion of white supremacy following the post-war period known as Reconstruction, and it fits into a larger pattern of discrimination that accompanied the collapse of government efforts to enfranchise and protect formerly enslaved people.

At the close of the Civil War, Congress passed a series of Constitutional amendments and other legislation that established equal rights for newly emancipated Black Americans. ...

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Readalikes

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