According to his website, Michael Harriot is a “Wypipologist: a professional who has specialized knowledge in the field of Caucasian culture, including the political, economic, and social habits of white people and their history.” He’s also an acclaimed writer for the Root and host of TheGrio Daily podcast, and his debut book, Black AF History: The Un-Whitewashed Story of America (Dey Street/HarperCollins, Sept. 19), illustrated by Jibola Fagbamiye, is a masterwork.

Like The 1619 Project, Harriot’s book is a significant reconfiguration of American history, injecting the Black experience into the center of the narrative, where it belongs. According to our starred review, Harriot provides a necessary reframing of “conventional [American] history, showing us how the slave trade was human trafficking, plantations were ‘forced labor enterprises,’ Jim Crow was American apartheid, and lynch mobsters were serial killers and ethnic cleansers.” This massively researched book is also consistently funny, as Harriot and Fagbamiye interweave wit and, occasionally, laugh-out-loud humor into the proceedings.

Early on, the author lays out his mission, a methodical, thorough debunking of the “whitewashed” history of America, a tale built on fabrications, lofty mythmaking, and outright lies. “That story of America is a fantastical, overwrought, and fictive tale,” he writes. “It is a fantasy where Christopher Columbus discovered a land that he never set foot in. It is the story of the Pilgrims on the Mayflower building a new nation. It is George Washington’s cherry tree and Abraham Lincoln’s log cabin. It is the story of slaves who spontaneously teleported themselves here with nothing but strong backs and a brainful of negro spirituals. It is Betsy Ross’s sewing kit and Paul Revere’s horse and Thomas Jefferson’s pen and Benjamin Franklin’s eyeglasses and George Washington’s teeth and liberty and justice for all. And it is a history predicated on lies.”

Harriot is completely unafraid to call bullshit where it is warranted, and the humorous sidebars, digressions, and reader activities add further value to a history that every American would do well to read. The author offers a series of key terms—e.g., “MOORS: Originally used to described Africans who conquered parts of the Iberian Peninsula, later to mean anyone with dark skin, worshippers of Islam, or any group of Africans that was smarter than white people….WHITE PEOPLE: An arbitrary, non-scientific, phenotypical classification for people of European descent created by people of European descent. People who don’t use washcloths.” He also delivers a devastatingly spot-on and amusing take-down of the Confederacy, its flag, and the legend of the “Lost Cause” (“it wasn’t only about slavery. South Carolina left the Union in part because Northern abolitionists apparently kept reading books and showing pictures to enslaved people. My bad. They probably promote the myth of the Lost Cause”). The result is a reinvigoration of many of the elements of American history that right-wing bigots would choose to ignore.

He presents the material in a way that promises to keep readers engaged and, when required, agitated and spurred to action, and documentation offers ample opportunity for anyone to dig further into a particular topic. As our critic notes, “Fresh eyes and bold, entertaining language combine in this authoritative, essential work of U.S. history.”

Eric Liebetrau is the nonfiction and managing editor.