Reviews for His Name Is George Floyd (Pulitzer Prize Winner): One Mans Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice

by Robert Samuels

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

An intimate look at the life of the Black man whose murder sparked worldwide protests and a reinvigoration of the movement for racial justice. On May 25, 2020, George Floyd died beneath the knee of White Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. The video of the killing made Floyd “a global icon for racial justice,” write Washington Post journalists Samuels and Olorunnipa. Through painstaking research and more than 400 interviews, the authors sought to learn, “Who was George Floyd? And what was it like to live in his America?” As a child, Floyd dreamed of making a name for himself. “He was young, poor, and Black in America—a recipe for irrelevance in a society that tended to push boys like him onto its margins,” write the authors. “But he assured everyone around him that, someday, he would make a lasting impact.” As an adult, Floyd faced challenges related to addiction, mental health, education, employment, poverty, and criminal activity. Samuels and Olorunnipa trace more than 300 years of American history and Floyd’s family history, placing his death within the context of the systemic racism that shaped his life. The authors got haircuts from Floyd’s barber, visited the communities he called home, and talked to his extended family, friends, lovers, teachers, and acquaintances “to help the world to see Perry [as Floyd was known] as they saw him.” Writing with cogency and compassion, the authors free Floyd from the realm of iconography, restoring his humanity. In these powerful pages, he emerges as a sensitive man with ambitions, successes, and failures. Both his loving nature and his despair are palpable, conveyed in heartbreaking detail. The recounting of his death is devastating to read, and the aftermath, despite his killer’s conviction, is somber. Sadly, the congressional police reform bill named for Floyd remains unpassed. A brilliant biography, history book, and searing indictment of this country’s ongoing failure to eradicate systemic racism. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.