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His Name Is George Floyd: One Man's Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice

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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 glo 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 a series of protests in the United States and around the world, awakening millions to the dire need for reimagining this country's broken systems of policing. But behind a face that would be graffitied onto countless murals, and a name that has become synonymous with civil rights, there is the reality of one man's stolen life: a life beset by suffocating systemic pressures that ultimately proved inescapable. This biography of George Floyd shows the athletic young boy raised in the projects of Houston's Third Ward who would become a father, a partner, a friend, and a man constantly in search of a better life. In retracing Floyd's story, Washington Post reporters Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa bring to light the determination Floyd carried as he faced the relentless struggle to survive as a Black man in America. Placing his narrative within the larger context of America's deeply troubled history of institutional racism, His Name Is George Floyd examines the Floyd family's roots in slavery and sharecropping, the segregation of his Houston schools, the overpolicing of his communities, the devastating snares of the prison system, and his attempts to break free from drug dependence--putting today's inequality into uniquely human terms. Drawing upon hundreds of interviews and extensive original reporting, Samuels and 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.


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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 glo 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 a series of protests in the United States and around the world, awakening millions to the dire need for reimagining this country's broken systems of policing. But behind a face that would be graffitied onto countless murals, and a name that has become synonymous with civil rights, there is the reality of one man's stolen life: a life beset by suffocating systemic pressures that ultimately proved inescapable. This biography of George Floyd shows the athletic young boy raised in the projects of Houston's Third Ward who would become a father, a partner, a friend, and a man constantly in search of a better life. In retracing Floyd's story, Washington Post reporters Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa bring to light the determination Floyd carried as he faced the relentless struggle to survive as a Black man in America. Placing his narrative within the larger context of America's deeply troubled history of institutional racism, His Name Is George Floyd examines the Floyd family's roots in slavery and sharecropping, the segregation of his Houston schools, the overpolicing of his communities, the devastating snares of the prison system, and his attempts to break free from drug dependence--putting today's inequality into uniquely human terms. Drawing upon hundreds of interviews and extensive original reporting, Samuels and 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.

30 review for His Name Is George Floyd: One Man's Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jillian Doherty

    This immersive, readable, relatable, hopeful and brilliantly researched biography deserves far more than 5 stars. I wanted to read it from the moment it was available, while also wondering if it would carry the same needed depth as Dr. Kendi's How to Be an Antiracist. Yes, it also carries essential heartwrenching reflections and arresting honesty - but its storytelling is built with generosity - a narrative that deftly speaks of life, legacy, and the grander historical impact! Stemming from its b This immersive, readable, relatable, hopeful and brilliantly researched biography deserves far more than 5 stars. I wanted to read it from the moment it was available, while also wondering if it would carry the same needed depth as Dr. Kendi's How to Be an Antiracist. Yes, it also carries essential heartwrenching reflections and arresting honesty - but its storytelling is built with generosity - a narrative that deftly speaks of life, legacy, and the grander historical impact! Stemming from its brilliantly awarded superstars, they are perfectly primed to write this book. Interviewing thousands, they keenly illustrate George Floyd's life three generations deep, and countless people who knew Floyd, wide. By the time George was brutally murdered, within the narrative, you see him simply as the human he was. And even more deftly felt - that anyone who'd grown up in his world could have come to the same fate, due to our society's generational oppression toward people of color. This book is a compulsive page-turner; learning about his understood youthful pressures in high school to perform athletically but not supported academically. After being met with little support thereafter, fighting for his sobriety, he still strived to support his family and friends. As a father, who'd do anything for his family, and as a teddy bear with crippling claustrophobia. Samuels and Olorunnipa have given us an evergreen biography as easy to read, as it feels necessary to discuss. Galley borrowed from the publisher.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bekki Fahrer

    Someday soon I will process how I feel about this book. I have so many emotions and thoughts. For now let me say I will be pressing this book into all of your hands. I now consider this to be required reading. Update:. This book humanizes the icon. It explores his dreams, his mistakes, and tries to understand the complexities of his soul. Simultaneously, Samuels and Olorinnipa take this deeply human man, and paint the picture of the insidious ways overt and systemic racism, the war on Poverty, th Someday soon I will process how I feel about this book. I have so many emotions and thoughts. For now let me say I will be pressing this book into all of your hands. I now consider this to be required reading. Update:. This book humanizes the icon. It explores his dreams, his mistakes, and tries to understand the complexities of his soul. Simultaneously, Samuels and Olorinnipa take this deeply human man, and paint the picture of the insidious ways overt and systemic racism, the war on Poverty, the war on drugs, and even covid, robbed Floyd of the ability to become the person he wanted to be. The book reads like a case study and a memorial. Well worth reading.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ietrio

    The disgusting act of taking a body and parading it as a puppet to serve the political agenda of the authors. Truly the ”press” won't stop at anything. It reminds me of the KKK practice of exhibiting the body as a threat to the community. The disgusting act of taking a body and parading it as a puppet to serve the political agenda of the authors. Truly the ”press” won't stop at anything. It reminds me of the KKK practice of exhibiting the body as a threat to the community.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sophia

    His Name Is George Floyd: One Man's Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice by Robert Samuels & Toluse Olorunnipa Published May 17th 2022 ~I AM GOING TO TAKE A MENTAL HEALTH BREAK BEFORE GIVING MY REVIEW ON THIS #PSA #AUDIOBOOK. #STAYTUNE ❤ So I waited to write my review AND I set my ALEXA to a 5 minute timer to give me a #headups and not turn this into one of my college term papers of yesteryear. I have never heard or seen the George Floyd murder but let me tell you--listening to this audiobook His Name Is George Floyd: One Man's Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice by Robert Samuels & Toluse Olorunnipa Published May 17th 2022 ~I AM GOING TO TAKE A MENTAL HEALTH BREAK BEFORE GIVING MY REVIEW ON THIS #PSA #AUDIOBOOK. #STAYTUNE ❤ So I waited to write my review AND I set my ALEXA to a 5 minute timer to give me a #headups and not turn this into one of my college term papers of yesteryear. I have never heard or seen the George Floyd murder but let me tell you--listening to this audiobook gave me a front row seat. Like many of the traumatized people that witnessed that modern day #lynching on that day, I too was traumatized. It literally gave me chills to listen to the description and the re-enactment of his murder. I thought the chills were in my mind until it happened again the next day when I continued to listen. I cried both days. I too did silent protest with fellow activists at neighborhood police precincts here in The Bronx protesting yet another murder by a Police Officer. I have gotten calls while away at Grad School when my little brother and his friend were arrested for being accused by a kid who claimed they stolen his backpack. They released them without me having to travel back to NYC when the accuser could not get his story straight. My little brother was a pre-teen and is now engaged and in his 30s. I have another baby brother who was #raciallyprofiled on a schedule. Before he would leave the house, he would look at his watch and say yeah, "its about that time." He has never wore hoodies and or pants sagging below his waist and yet he was running across the street before the light changed and was stopped by the PoPo because he was running while Black in the middle of the afternoon, they told him he looked suspicious running across the street. His key ring at the time (as a teen) was one of those GIANT COMICAL CLOWN LOOKING SAFETY PINS; the police took that safety pin off his keys and told him it was a weapon. That other little brother is now in his 40s and is very deliberate on how his one and only son dresses. He is also very active with the local police department and volunteering with them and his son within their area. I suspect its an subconscious way to lessen the likelihood that he or his son would have a run in with the police. I had the PoPo come to my door with an attitude because the dispatcher sent him to the wrong apartment. He got funky and I got funky right back. I was a little offended that a white man who I can breast feed standing up was getting funky when it was their dispatcher that made the error. I wish I had a bodycam to record the shift in his demeanor, mannerisms and speech when I dare to respond to his accusation. I was too pissed off to be fearful of a man so little despite his gun. I had the PoPo knock on my door when I was getting ready to rise to take my morning commute to Wall Street. There were at least 3 plain clothes officers when I looked out my peep hole and several more when I opened my door that were waiting to take into custody a man on the run who apparently gave them my address as his fake address. I was shown the picture and told them if they wanted to know if he ever lived here you need to go to the Super's house because I never seen him. I was/am divorced and very single so I was sure they were not on a stake out and saw any Black Man coming to and from my home. That officer was Black, I often wondered would I have been six feet under if that officer was white. What if I had already left for work, would they have broke down my door and entered? I used to work at a police precinct and had choice words with some abusive cops when I over heard their conversations. I was a teenager and had no idea how many decades I had to look forward to within a #systemicracism saturated society. I have other stories --both good and bad as it relates to the Policing of Black America but I need to get to YOGA class. This should be a book for the school curriculum. The journalists did excellent research and interviews about policing within Black America. I had to reset my timer at least 5 times. I am going to stop now. You and everyone you know needs to read/listen this book and SAY THEIR NAMES. ❤ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 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 a series of protests in the United States and around the world, awakening millions to the dire need for reimagining this country’s broken systems of policing. But behind a face that would be graffitied onto countless murals, and a name that has become synonymous with civil rights, there is the reality of one man’s stolen life: a life beset by suffocating systemic pressures that ultimately proved inescapable. This biography of George Floyd shows the athletic young boy raised in the projects of Houston’s Third Ward who would become a father, a partner, a friend, and a man constantly in search of a better life. In retracing Floyd’s story, Washington Post reporters Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa bring to light the determination Floyd carried as he faced the relentless struggle to survive as a Black man in America. Placing his narrative within the larger context of America’s deeply troubled history of institutional racism, His Name Is George Floyd examines the Floyd family’s roots in slavery and sharecropping, the segregation of his Houston schools, the overpolicing of his communities, the devastating snares of the prison system, and his attempts to break free from drug dependence—putting today's inequality into uniquely human terms. Drawing upon hundreds of interviews and extensive original reporting, Samuels and 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.

  5. 5 out of 5

    HR-ML

    George Floyd was murdered. Non-fiction, well-researched bio of George "Perry" Floyd, written by the authors/ 2 Washington Post journalists. Gave this 3.5 stars. George Floyd, lived @ various points in North Carolina, New York, Texas, Florida & Minnesota. His parents were Larcenia, a domestic, & George Sr. a musician. George had 6 siblings. Father went on the road for his music, so George grew up w/o a positive male influence. George was 6'6" & around 220 & played basketball & football in high sch George Floyd was murdered. Non-fiction, well-researched bio of George "Perry" Floyd, written by the authors/ 2 Washington Post journalists. Gave this 3.5 stars. George Floyd, lived @ various points in North Carolina, New York, Texas, Florida & Minnesota. His parents were Larcenia, a domestic, & George Sr. a musician. George had 6 siblings. Father went on the road for his music, so George grew up w/o a positive male influence. George was 6'6" & around 220 & played basketball & football in high school. He hoped to play pro sports. George unknowingly intimidated others w/ his dark skin + size. The policeman who murdered George, D. Chauvin, was 5'9". The authors included background info on Chauvin. Per the authors, the $20. bill George used at the convenience store, on his last day, was never proven to be counterfeit. The authors interviewed friends, family members, teachers, coaches, preachers, others. George showed humor & smarts, but struggled w/ anxiety, depression & claustrophobia. His teachers reported he mostly knew the material but froze up over testing. His HS had a good football reputation & several previous young football graduates made it to the NFL. Which created pressure for George & his teammates. George tried a (4 year) college in Florida but the academics overwhelmed him. George did manual labor & sold street drugs IE coke. He worked as a security guard & delivery truck driver, eventually fired for falling asleep at the wheel. Police detained George 20 times, sometimes for trivial reasons or due to his imposing size. George received a 5 year prison sentence & served 4, even though he didn't hold a gun on a woman during an armed robbery. He & his buds had the wrong house (they sought drugs). Being in prison severely tested his claustrophobia. George received drug rehab at a Salvation Army facility in Minnesota. He had misused weed, Percocet, fentanyl & heroine. Because George had a felony record, this narrowed his employment and housing choices. I 'got' the point made by the authors that George sold street drugs, b/c of "economic desperation." Using their rationale, wouldn't all poor people sell street drugs? We know this is not the case. Also his mother + grandmother reminded him to stay out of trouble. George admitted his imperfection, that he prayed and wanted a smoother future. But Cauvin, acting as George's judge and jury, took away his future. Took away his day in court. 3 other less experienced police on the scene did nothing to stop Chauvin. Revised 06/22/22.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Emily Waller

    “But George Floyd is a movement. And his name speaks for everyone who has been affected by police violence!” Almost two years ago, on May 25, 2020, George Floyd was murdered, and his death sparked a movement within a greater community. Just days ago, a white man drove three hours from Binghamton to Buffalo and murdered ten people out of a belief in white supremacy. When this title says “…and the Struggle for Racial Justice,” it means that racism is still here, and education is still necessary. An “But George Floyd is a movement. And his name speaks for everyone who has been affected by police violence!” Almost two years ago, on May 25, 2020, George Floyd was murdered, and his death sparked a movement within a greater community. Just days ago, a white man drove three hours from Binghamton to Buffalo and murdered ten people out of a belief in white supremacy. When this title says “…and the Struggle for Racial Justice,” it means that racism is still here, and education is still necessary. And that’s what this book does: educates through George Floyd’s life, lineage, and legacy, interwoven with laws, statistics, and real-life examples of Black people being pushed down by an oppressive system again and again. But this book also shares the hope that is still there for future change, despite a system that somehow didn’t flag Derek Chauvin and his long-standing record of overly aggressive behavior, leading to Floyd’s death. This is so well done and well put together - I loved that while learning history and current laws and statistics, I was also reading the multi-generational story of George Floyd’s family. It’s one thing to read about historical events that happened in general, and another to see how one very real family was personally affected over decades. I can’t remember a time I’ve ever stayed up way too far into the night to finish a non-fiction book, but WOW this book had me hooked. Absolutely incredible and going on the antiracism “required reading” list. Thank you to Books Forward PR and Viking Books for the copy of this ARC.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Rekha

    Well researched and well written. It is not often that we get to see such a deep dive into a contemporary’s history. No matter what you believe about George Floyd, it’s an important read that helps frame a clearer picture of the man.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Caren

    This intense biography/memoir by two political enterprise reporters at the Washington Post brilliantly achieved what the authors had intended: “Here, we have documented Floyd’s struggle to breathe as a Black man in America, a battle that began long before a police officer’s knee landed on his neck.” Through the context they provided to George Floyd’s life and death, the long history of systemic racism in America, through the humanisation of the man who overnight became a symbol of the insidious This intense biography/memoir by two political enterprise reporters at the Washington Post brilliantly achieved what the authors had intended: “Here, we have documented Floyd’s struggle to breathe as a Black man in America, a battle that began long before a police officer’s knee landed on his neck.” Through the context they provided to George Floyd’s life and death, the long history of systemic racism in America, through the humanisation of the man who overnight became a symbol of the insidious discrimination that continues to plague the lives of Black men today, the authors allowed me to know the man behind the name – his strengths and his vulnerability, his dreams and his nightmares, his hopes and his failures, his happiness and his despair. I shared the grief of his family and friends, of his community and of his nation, as I came to more deeply comprehend how Floyd had been deprived of air, unable to breath, for most of his life. The authors began their immaculate research with his enslaved ancestor in 1857, Floyd’s great-great-grandfather, and journeyed through history to document the racial injustices that marked all aspects of the lives of Black Americans. Particularly, their review of the relationship between Black men and the legal and police systems were crucial to comprehend the setting that had led to Floyd’s death, his collision with Derek Chauvin. Samuels and Olorunnipa profiled Derek Chauvin and the procedures of the Minnesota Police Department with regard to its perspective on Black men, views that skewed their routine dealings with those they had identified as overly aggressive, deceptive, and dangerous in all situations. The research and data provided were compelling and disturbing in the prejudice and persecution revealed. The dedication of civil rights activists, of Floyd’s family and those who had witnessed the death, and of the legal team who succeeded in indicting Chauvin, was inspirational. Floyd’s death echoed around the globe. American VP Harris hoped that “the lessons learned in the aftermath of his death could allow the country to sing a new song when it came to racial justice.” Yet, “racism remain[s] a pernicious force, a living nightmare” for a “weathered people.”

  9. 5 out of 5

    A.J. Sefton

    2020 was a strange year. With the whole world caught up in a pandemic, there was the time and opportunity to witness the murder and consequences of a black man by a police officer in the USA. There was nothing unusual in his death, so many black people died in similar circumstances every day, but this particular death shook the world. Video after video showed the horror of it. There were protests and the world was able to watch. George Floyd became the symbol of the Black Lives Matter movement, 2020 was a strange year. With the whole world caught up in a pandemic, there was the time and opportunity to witness the murder and consequences of a black man by a police officer in the USA. There was nothing unusual in his death, so many black people died in similar circumstances every day, but this particular death shook the world. Video after video showed the horror of it. There were protests and the world was able to watch. George Floyd became the symbol of the Black Lives Matter movement, although it has been going for a long time. 'Taking the knee' was - and still is - a sign of solidarity with people of colour. Through all of this, Floyd has become more of an image than a human being. We know of his criminal past and drug use (the police used this in their defence) but little else. This book attempts to change that. It is written by two American journalists who use their reporting skills to dig out and interview the many people who knew George and his family, and to produce a comprehensive account of the man, his ambitions, achievements and the ramifications of his death. The book is divided into three sections that give a detailed account of his life before, during and after his death. There is no doubt that Floyd was a victim of poverty and prejudice, the conditions of his upbringing are truly shocking. Equally, through perhaps a few too many interviews, he was also very popular and aimed to better himself. Samuels and Olorunnipa include the history of black people in the USA and modern day challenges, such as the lack of funding for housing and education. It is very grim reading. An important and structured book that offers a tiny glint of hope that the world may be turning, ever so slightly, to a better one. Perhaps the death of George Floyd will be a catalyst. Recommended reading.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Close

    After hearing his name so many times, there's a tendency to think you already know enough about George Floyd. However, this book shows that there is so much more to know beyond just how Floyd died. This book beautifully humanizes Floyd in a way that left me missing him during the later portions of the book. It also serves as a concrete example of how systemic racism leaves its mark on generations. And finally, it is a testament to the one man's ability to hold onto hope even in the face of so ma After hearing his name so many times, there's a tendency to think you already know enough about George Floyd. However, this book shows that there is so much more to know beyond just how Floyd died. This book beautifully humanizes Floyd in a way that left me missing him during the later portions of the book. It also serves as a concrete example of how systemic racism leaves its mark on generations. And finally, it is a testament to the one man's ability to hold onto hope even in the face of so many setbacks and pain. It is a heavy book, but it will also leave you leave you feeling hopeful.

  11. 5 out of 5

    The Atlantic

    "Samuels and Olorunnipa deserve every praise for presenting Floyd as the complex character that he was—what human isn’t? Both writers are Black men and could easily have diluted portions of the book that show Floyd’s many shortcomings and poor decision making, but they resisted the urge. The result is an expertly researched and excellent biography, a necessary and enlightening read for all, especially those who, like my fellow African immigrants in the ’90s, have ever looked upon young Black men "Samuels and Olorunnipa deserve every praise for presenting Floyd as the complex character that he was—what human isn’t? Both writers are Black men and could easily have diluted portions of the book that show Floyd’s many shortcomings and poor decision making, but they resisted the urge. The result is an expertly researched and excellent biography, a necessary and enlightening read for all, especially those who, like my fellow African immigrants in the ’90s, have ever looked upon young Black men in the inner city with disdain." https://www.theatlantic.com/books/arc...

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kate Edmondson

    It really is systemic. This book makes you not just think but realise what is actually going on. It’s not ok and EVERYONE needs to be better. Well researched, well written, and timed for the two year anniversary. I hope in that time things have got better in the US and around the world

  13. 4 out of 5

    Robert Felton

    I'm genuinely torn on this one. On the one hand, the majority of the book is a thoughtful examination into the life of George Floyd. He was a man oozing charisma and athletic potential, but could not overcome his vices, and found himself on the receiving end of one of the most tragic police encounters ever seen. The book does an excellent job showing his strengths and weaknesses and what led him to that Minneapolis corner that day. I was largely enjoying it...until the latter 100 pages get hijack I'm genuinely torn on this one. On the one hand, the majority of the book is a thoughtful examination into the life of George Floyd. He was a man oozing charisma and athletic potential, but could not overcome his vices, and found himself on the receiving end of one of the most tragic police encounters ever seen. The book does an excellent job showing his strengths and weaknesses and what led him to that Minneapolis corner that day. I was largely enjoying it...until the latter 100 pages get hijacked by a more politically tinged tone. Trump and the GOP are depicted as being unsympathetic of the movement, while Biden and the Dems are shown as compassionate and sympathetic. This is especially frustrating because the book earlier explains Biden's role in crafting the 1994 Crime Bill. A piece of legislation he still expresses pride in and one that has a greater role in what happen to Mr. Floyd than a Trump photo-op. Both parties are responsible for the over policing in black communities. When the author brings political bias into her commentary, she undermines the true nature of the problem. Overall, solid read but the last 100 pages really left a bad taste in my mouth.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    Excellent journalism that helps to honor the lost life of a man who through no design of his own, changed the world.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Angelique Rudkovsky

    I didn’t hate the book, but I also didn’t love it. This book covered such an important event that occurred, but it I think it could’ve been done better.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    Truly a must-read. Robert and Tolu did a masterful job telling Floyd’s story and made it extremely readable as well. It’s not just a biography of Floyd, but a history of his entire family and systematic racism in America. Weaving these together brings a bright humanity to the horrible injustice.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Yemi

    Great read! This was a balanced account with very detailed reporting. The authors do a good job of crafting a narrative that connects the dots for the reader and provides much needed context to the experiences and policies that influenced George Floyd’s life and tragic murder

  18. 5 out of 5

    Gayle Fleming

    Simply put, this is one of the best books I have ever read. These two Black Washington Post journalists weave George Floyd's story with such care and journalistic precision that, in my view anyway, they deserve a Pulitzer Prize. Against the backdrop of the systemic and structural racism that has permeated this nation since its inception, they tell his story through the lens of his ancestors who were able to purchase land after slavery, only to have it stolen away by white people who expected Bla Simply put, this is one of the best books I have ever read. These two Black Washington Post journalists weave George Floyd's story with such care and journalistic precision that, in my view anyway, they deserve a Pulitzer Prize. Against the backdrop of the systemic and structural racism that has permeated this nation since its inception, they tell his story through the lens of his ancestors who were able to purchase land after slavery, only to have it stolen away by white people who expected Black people to remain de facto chattel no matter what the law of the land dictated. And eventually the sharecropping poverty of rural life gave way to inner city poverty with in some ways, more devastating consequences. Hillary Thomas Stewart, George Floyd's great great grandfather was born enslaved. But as a free man he acquired 500 acres of land that was a great source of pride to his family. After years of toiling first as a slave and then as a sharecropper, the land he acquired and farmed put him in the top two percent of North Carolinians, White or Black, who owned this much land at the end of the 19th century. And that didn't sit well with white people. Floyd's great great grandfather was swindled out of his land and thus began the descent back into systemic poverty that was no different from millions of descendants of formerly enslaved Black people. When he was a young boy growing in the dilapidated Cuney Homes in Houston his mother, now single, did her best to support her five children, provide structure and to keep her children out of the grip of illegal activities that often accompany communities that live in poverty. George was extremely intelligent if not a particularly diligent student. He once said he wanted to become a Supreme Court Justice. He was a talented athlete who went to college on a sports scholarship only to leave because of his inability to maintain the academic grades he needed. This book makes it impossible not to acknowledge the systemic racism and the individual biases that lead so many young black men cycle in and out of the justice system starting at very young ages. But what we learn is that despite his continued run-ins with the law, was that George Floyd never gave up trying to do better—trying to improve his position in life. He was extremely religious, He was a big softy who cried unabashedly and he was loved—really loved by so many people. He was also clearly suffering from undiagnosed depression and epigenetic trauma—although this is my own assessment and not something mentioned in the book. If you saw Ava Duvernay's documentary "18th" about the school to prison pipeline that entangles so many black men, you will recognize George's plight in a much more up close and personal way. The two young journalists who undertook this project have done a masterful job of unfurling the humanity and resilience of Big George, as he was known, and all of his friends and family as they struggle against all odds to make a way out of no way. They are compassionate and brutally honest as they detail the drugs and petty crimes that are part of the fabric of a poor and struggling community. George left Houston for Minneapolis to try to break away from this debilitating cycle. he had partially succeeded before the pandemic hit and left him unemployed and succumbing to the lure of pills to ease his physical and mental pain. As the authors describe the aftermath of Floyd's death at the hands of the sadistic cop, Derek Chauvin, readers are introduced to his family, the civil rights leaders, lawyers, politicians, religious leaders, and protesters who are the heroes who led the refrain, "Say His Name" so that the world couldn't ignore this heinous act. George Floyd always dreamed of making a mark on the world. He did so in a horrific way. This book will make a mark on your heart and you will never see the reality of poverty and racism in an abstract or academic way again.

  19. 5 out of 5

    J.L. Askew

    George Floyd’s story is a tragedy, and his death has become iconic, a marker of our times. In an age of limitless videos, the images of his final moments have been seen by millions. The book by Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa is a complete account of Floyd’s life and how he met his untimely end. The title, “His Name is George Floyd”, is taken from the chant activists shouted in the massive protests following his death. Subtitled “One Man’s Life and The Struggle for Racial Justice”, the book George Floyd’s story is a tragedy, and his death has become iconic, a marker of our times. In an age of limitless videos, the images of his final moments have been seen by millions. The book by Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa is a complete account of Floyd’s life and how he met his untimely end. The title, “His Name is George Floyd”, is taken from the chant activists shouted in the massive protests following his death. Subtitled “One Man’s Life and The Struggle for Racial Justice”, the book is much more than a biography. The first words in the book are “I love you”, a phrase Floyd often spoke before parting from family or friends. Floyd was a loving person throughout his life and when confined along with millions by the Covid lockdown, he made frequent calls to connect with those close to him. Expressions of love continued to the very end of his life where “Floyd repeatedly found his dreams diminished, deferred, and derailed – in no small part because of the color of his skin.” This is the premise of the book, that being Black was the main determinant in Floyd’s life. Guided by this theme, the authors tell of Floyd’s forty-six years leading up to the “nine minutes and 29 seconds he spent gasping for air”, as he died and of the “historic movement for civil rights that followed.” The authors’ stated hope was to put Floyd in context with externals forces, “never absolving him of responsibility or making excuses for his actions.” This is key because on his final day Floyd was “smoking weed, snorting powdered fentanyl and taking Tylenol.” The book covers at length the external forces affecting Floyd, from the legacy of slavery to his life as a Black man in America. The book is comprehensive, giving the history of racial disparities in both Houston, where Floyd grew up, and of Minneapolis, where he died. The authors delve into the ancestry of major players, especially contrasting Floyd’s roots with those of Derek Chauvin, the police officer who killed him. The resulting portrait is painted as “white privilege” enjoyed by Chauvin’s ancestors as opposed to the oppression experienced by Floyd’s forebears. While the book lists multiple reasons for Floyd’s downward trajectory, a single sentence about his final year in high school says the most. “Like Floyd, many of the young men had grown up without fathers.” This factor has proven to be the single greatest influence on a youngster’s life. But the book looks elsewhere for explanations, making a catalogue of atrocities committed against Blacks since emancipation. After what seems like an endless stream of negativity, a positive story emerges, surprisingly just before he dies, centered on Floyd’s longstanding belief that God was watching over him. In Texas after his mother’s death in 2018, he, a girlfriend and her uncle were on an impromptu road trip between Houston and Louisiana late at night when they ran out of gas. Driving his car, Floyd was to blame, but tried to calm his friend, saying, “God’s got us.” As he and the uncle tried to push the car, a loud pickup appeared from the darkness, pulling over in front of them and “the most redneck-looking White guy” got out. The girlfriend became fearful, recalling the racist killing of James Byrd, dragged to death from a pickup twenty years earlier in the same area. But Floyd had no qualms, walking up to the stranger, shaking hands, saying they’d run out of gas. The young man was sympathetic, arranging to tow them to a gas station and putting $15 of fuel in their car so they could be on their way. The pleasant memory breaks to the grim present when Floyd speaks his last words. While the book is a solid biography, it is a flawed as history, steeped in the political divisions of the present. The book would serve well as an addendum to the 1619 Project.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    A sympathetic eulogy that pretty much avoids or minimizes speaking ill of the departed. The authors clearly see Floyd as more sinned against than sinning, and the primary sinner is white society that made Floyd the less than upstanding citizen he was. My own take on Floyd, both before and after reading this book, is that one should not deny him the dignity and the responsibility for his own decisions. His choices did not ONLY harm him, they also harmed others in his community and beyond. The cri A sympathetic eulogy that pretty much avoids or minimizes speaking ill of the departed. The authors clearly see Floyd as more sinned against than sinning, and the primary sinner is white society that made Floyd the less than upstanding citizen he was. My own take on Floyd, both before and after reading this book, is that one should not deny him the dignity and the responsibility for his own decisions. His choices did not ONLY harm him, they also harmed others in his community and beyond. The crimes he committed were not victimless and he had options at each point along the way. This goes for the events on the day he died. That said, in thinking about racism and how it works, which is the central theme in the biography, I can see that one can't just dismiss the role that society played in Floyd's life. Harping on his own responsibility for his choices is a bit of a cop out. Yes, Floyd made some terrible decisions that contributed both to his downward trajectory generally and his death. But what comes into focus here is the way that the operation of the criminal justice system does not just punish Floyd but the entire community he is part of. Here is how I see it, and this is based both on the book and my own thoughts after reading it, so I don't claim this is a capsulation of the authors' views. What happens if you divide black and white populations into segregated communities and then you direct more police enforcement towards the black community? Naturally, there are people breaking drug laws, petty theft laws, loitering and the like in both communities, but by directing more enforcement to the black community, the result is pretty obvious. Like a speed trap, the police will make more arrests where there are more police. Even if the crime rate is equal, the black community will see more arrests due to more enforcement. And if you have a criminal justice system that is less forgiving of blacks than whites, you have a recipe for a larger percentage of the black community than the white ending up being convicted of crimes. This is made even worse because the black community has fewer resources and so black defendants are more often depending on public defenders and more likely to be pushed to take a plea deal. What happens to people who are so caught up in the criminal justice system? They eventually return to the community, perhaps very quickly, but now they have a record and a record severely limits the work they can get. This is tragic for the individuals but it is also tragic for the entire segregated black community because each man who cannot be fully productive represents a loss of productivity and resources of the entire community. Over time poverty is concentrated as the average productive capacity of the community is reduced as the percentage of men (and some women) with records rises. Fathers have no money to contribute to raising their children. Lacking opportunities for employment, it is easy to return to crime. And on and on.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    Although so many people seem to be consuming this book as an impressively-researched portrait of the life of George Floyd, I really think its success is in illuminating the world he inhabited, from the intergenerational poverty of his ancestors in the Jim Crow South, to the largely all-Black schools and housing of "integrated" post-Brown v. Board of Education Texas, to the well-intended but insufficient policies that produced disparately resourced communities in Minneapolis. The authors don't se Although so many people seem to be consuming this book as an impressively-researched portrait of the life of George Floyd, I really think its success is in illuminating the world he inhabited, from the intergenerational poverty of his ancestors in the Jim Crow South, to the largely all-Black schools and housing of "integrated" post-Brown v. Board of Education Texas, to the well-intended but insufficient policies that produced disparately resourced communities in Minneapolis. The authors don't seem to be using any of that to excuse George Floyd, they just seem to perceive it as vital to understanding him. The result is less sanctifying than it is convincing that George Floyd was loved by others around him in spite of his quite apparent flaws. And if it causes any of us to re-imagine how some of the underlying societal structures should work, I suspect the authors would take that as a win. I would have liked to have seen a bit more of a critical eye on some of the opportunists who have exploited Floyd's legacy for their own aims (looking at you, Sharpton), but lets not pretend that just because the authors have their own views of the social justice movement that they didn't make a fair effort to present an even-handed account -- the authors present the comments of a thorough and varied group of humans ranging from police officers to professors and schoolteachers to public officials, with notation that repeated efforts to reach Derek Chauvin for comment were declined through counsel. In the cauldron of pandemic anxiety and political tension that was 2020, in the end this book is a compelling and worthwhile read that captures the most infamous inflection point of that summer of unrest and places it artfully in a broader narrative about the American experience.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Peacejanz

    What a dummy I am! I picked up this book because I thought I would learn something new. I did not. But my beliefs were solidified to read that George Floyd was not just an underachiever. He was not very bright. He always longed for a life in primetime football, yet he could not even graduate from high school on time. He continually failed the Texas Achievement test taken before graduation. He was recruited by various colleges but could not get into most and was not academically eligible even whe What a dummy I am! I picked up this book because I thought I would learn something new. I did not. But my beliefs were solidified to read that George Floyd was not just an underachiever. He was not very bright. He always longed for a life in primetime football, yet he could not even graduate from high school on time. He continually failed the Texas Achievement test taken before graduation. He was recruited by various colleges but could not get into most and was not academically eligible even when he was admitted to colleges. He spent all of his college time in remedial classes which do not count toward a degree so he was never eligible to play. In his four years in various colleges, he never played a down in college football. He even tried to become a basketball player in college. Various people tried to help him but he could not understand that he had to work at academic subjects in order to reap the benefits of college life. When the police tried to question him about the fraudulent bill, he may or may not have given the cashier, he became confused, refused to do what the officers told him to do - stay in the car and do not move, keep his hands up. He refused to obey the police and claimed a fear of confinement (which we had never heard before). A large black man refused to obey police, a may wanted for questioning claims a new disability, What is truth? Floyd eventually fell as officers tried to pull him out of his car and put him into a police car. This book is just a rehash of all you have heard or seen on television. There is nothing new here. The high score is because these reporters did so much research, which are listed in the back if the book. If you watch tv or read a newspaper, you can skip this book. Wish I had.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Crystal Tadlock

    My God, my God. I could NOT watch the video of this man dying. I DO feel that it is my responsibility as a white person to feel discomfort in situations of racial inequality and I OWED George Floyd's memory, his friends, and family my discomfort and sadness while I read this book. I am normally a pretty fast reader and let me tell you, I had to read this in chunks. George Floyd, a man of color, was murdered by a white police officer because he was scared and claustrophobic. This man was brutally My God, my God. I could NOT watch the video of this man dying. I DO feel that it is my responsibility as a white person to feel discomfort in situations of racial inequality and I OWED George Floyd's memory, his friends, and family my discomfort and sadness while I read this book. I am normally a pretty fast reader and let me tell you, I had to read this in chunks. George Floyd, a man of color, was murdered by a white police officer because he was scared and claustrophobic. This man was brutally suffocated. In public. In front of a group of people. Undoubtedly, this, as with all other murders of people of color by police, would have gone untouched, unprosecuted, and swept under the rug had it not been for one teenage girl who stood there and recorded the entire murder. I shed so many tears reading this. I just want for EVERYONE, EACH AND EVERY HUMAN BEING, to have the equal opportunity to go home each night. To feel safe, to not be afraid of the lynchings that continue to this day. White Supremacy was created in the minds of white people and has been fed into white children's minds since the beginning of America and unfortunately, some families make the choice to continue this hate and this self-proclaimed superiority. Everyone should take the time to read this, and other books like it. Take time to learn and realize that ALL human bodies are equal, we just all come in different skin tones. We all have our own struggles and strengths, and we all deserve to be treated respectfully and kindly. #BLM #BlackLivesMatter #SayHisName #GeorgeFloydIShisname

  24. 4 out of 5

    Hellerzilla

    I said this year I wasn't going to rate/review books. I said I didn't want to make my reading competitive. I wanted this year to be the year I fall in love with books again. But this--this book broke me. It took me days to read/listen to this. I regret never having the opportunity to meet George Floyd, but to see all the love he spread through his family, his actions, and his words. Only to see this man lose his life face to the pavement crying for his Momma. It's absolutely heartbreaking. Heart I said this year I wasn't going to rate/review books. I said I didn't want to make my reading competitive. I wanted this year to be the year I fall in love with books again. But this--this book broke me. It took me days to read/listen to this. I regret never having the opportunity to meet George Floyd, but to see all the love he spread through his family, his actions, and his words. Only to see this man lose his life face to the pavement crying for his Momma. It's absolutely heartbreaking. Heartbreaking to know there was others before him, and continue to be others after him. I urge everyone to read this. It was devastatingly beautiful to recount the struggles, memories, and dreams of this brave Black man. He wanted to be someone that will change the world, and he certainly did that and so much more. I wish his family and friends the very best and wish I can hug them. I will continue to say his name as well as the many others that have lost their lives to police brutality and racism. We might not share the same skin, but we all should learn to be human and kind to one another. Again, I urge everyone to read this. Please.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Boyd

    This book is so well done and put together - I loved that while learning the history and current laws and statistics, I was also reading the multi-generational story of George Floyd's Family. It is indescribable to read the enduring legacy of institutional racism, this deeply reported account examines Floyds family roots in slavery and incarceration, and the disregard towards his struggle with drug addiction. Through out the book, they drew from hundreds of interviews with Floyds closets friends This book is so well done and put together - I loved that while learning the history and current laws and statistics, I was also reading the multi-generational story of George Floyd's Family. It is indescribable to read the enduring legacy of institutional racism, this deeply reported account examines Floyds family roots in slavery and incarceration, and the disregard towards his struggle with drug addiction. Through out the book, they drew from hundreds of interviews with Floyds closets friends and family, civil rights icons (which I love to read and get inspiration from) & disgracefully those in the highest seat of power. It is in my own opinion that America can be relentless and it is a struggle to survive as a Black Man in America. I think it is clear to say. We will and we can NEVER forget.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    I found the book to be dense but engrossing. It not only chronicles the death and aftermath of GF but also his ancestral accounts, thus interweaving a very unique and thunderclap event with the path of systemic racism and what has become all to common in this country. This book made me angry and sad and sometimes I physically separated myself from it, and while that is privilege, that is also why so many are fighting against the movement and the teaching of the past. The historical context remin I found the book to be dense but engrossing. It not only chronicles the death and aftermath of GF but also his ancestral accounts, thus interweaving a very unique and thunderclap event with the path of systemic racism and what has become all to common in this country. This book made me angry and sad and sometimes I physically separated myself from it, and while that is privilege, that is also why so many are fighting against the movement and the teaching of the past. The historical context reminded me a lot of Caste, or The Color of Law.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Gail

    The reader of the audio at the end says “we hope you have enjoyed this audio version of ….” I believe it would be a stretch for one with a beating heart, a desire for justice and an even greater understanding of the systems that oppress and kill, but this was an important and exceptionally well written, well researched and readable biography of Floyd, Chauvin, and the ancestory of both. I would even say it is more a biography of his murder as much as his life. It challenges and implores. But no, The reader of the audio at the end says “we hope you have enjoyed this audio version of ….” I believe it would be a stretch for one with a beating heart, a desire for justice and an even greater understanding of the systems that oppress and kill, but this was an important and exceptionally well written, well researched and readable biography of Floyd, Chauvin, and the ancestory of both. I would even say it is more a biography of his murder as much as his life. It challenges and implores. But no, I did not enjoy it.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Laura L

    Over 400 people were interviewed for this book. I enjoyed learning the history of George Floyd's family and ancestors, although it made me quite sad to learn how the state of Texas treated him over the years. Sadly, I believe that Floyd's story is similar to so many in this country that don't get a fair shake. I am glad that I now know this man's history and where he came from. We need to get Congress to pass the George Floyd Police Reform Act. Over 400 people were interviewed for this book. I enjoyed learning the history of George Floyd's family and ancestors, although it made me quite sad to learn how the state of Texas treated him over the years. Sadly, I believe that Floyd's story is similar to so many in this country that don't get a fair shake. I am glad that I now know this man's history and where he came from. We need to get Congress to pass the George Floyd Police Reform Act.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Emily Parrott

    I was captured by this book from the very beginning. Regardless what you might know or not know about George Floyd from the news, this is worth a read. Following Floyd from his ancestral roots through his childhood and into adulthood provides a real life look into the systemic racism and poverty that affects so many. Samuels and Olorunnipa find the balance between sharing who George was as a person while also looking into how his death revived a movement. Highly recommend.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Joann Mead

    Read and learn The authors give a balanced portrait of Floyd. It reinforced my suspicion that for some racial groups life chances are still different. Like gambling in casinos the house, Whites, always wins. The reader is left with hope but the impression America has a long way to go to have justice and inequality curbed. The writers deserve credit for excellent writing of a compelling story.

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