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Pulitzer Book Club Inclusion Guide


"The Known World" by Edward P. Jones



• 19-year old Mark Zuckerberg co-founds Facebook
• First legal same-sex couple married in the U.S. in Massachusetts



Jones started thinking about people who “take a turn and do something that just seems very, very opposite from what their people had been about” when he read a paperback in high school about a Jewish man who joined the Nazi party.


Featured Reader Wanted!

Featured Reader

– Share your key take-away about inclusion in this book in a sentence or two.
– Write a paragraph or two (up to 250 words) to describe your thoughts on exclusion/inclusion in the book, why you related or did not connect with the book, and why you think reading, inclusion and dialog about inclusion matter.
– Identify the name and website address of a cause you support with an inclusive mission.


Fates of those from freed Black slave owner's plantation


A slave patroller vindictively eats the manumission paper – sole proof of free status – of a free man who is then kidnapped, abused and sold back into slavery.


Novel revolves around a Black man, once a slave, who owned a plantation as well as human beings. The matter-of-fact presentation of oppression, blatant racism, brutality, cruelty, hypocrisy, and abuse of power reveals the depth of the evils of the institution of slavery.


432 or 14+ listening hours; non-linear, so take your time


Morality trumps the system. Evil is evil no matter what the law permits and who has done wrong.


Shows the evils of slavery and profound race discrimination toward Black people as well as reality that there were some Black people who owned slaves.


Compare what different people were able to eat: fatback and ashcakes with a mouthful of kale or rape (aka broccoli rabe), a pail of blueberries, muddy water and some nails, biscuits with and without molasses, and a feast of meat pies, cake, and rabbit.


"Whenever people in that part of the world asked Patterson about the wonders of America, the possibilities and the hope of America, Patterson would say that it was a good and fine place but all the Americans were running it into the ground and that it would be a far better place if it had no Americans.” 


You’re going to your doting, brave abolitionist parents’ home which is an Underground Railroad waystation. There are many artfully carved walking sticks in that house; you’ll feel the business end of one of those sticks when you reveal what a horrible thing you’ve done.


Why and how does Henry rise to power?
How do Black and White people respond to Black plantation owners and Free Black citizens?
Discuss the interracial relationships in the novel.
Compare how cousins John and Counsel Skiffington treat people.
Are any of the characters in the novel completely good or pure evil?
Which of the stories of the people in Henry Townsend’s life were most revealing and memorable from the perspective of failed justice, bigotry, and oppression?
How did the use of dialect and the detachment of storyteller influence your reaction to The Known World?
What do you think would have happened if the master of the plantation who died was White?


Learn the truth about slavery at a museum dedicated to African American History. The Whitney Plantation Slavery Museum is located about an hour’s drive from New Orleans; the National Museum of African American History & Culture Slavery and Freedom exhibition in the Smithsonian and The African American Museum and Lest We Forget Slavery Museum are both in Philadelphia; The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History is in Detroit and the Ozarks Afro-American Heritage Museum is in Ash Grove Missouri.


"“The Known World” is a Yale Course on You Tube.
No movie or TV adaptations found for “The Known World.”


Jones short story collections: “Lost in the City” 1992 and “All Aunt Hagar’s Children” 2006.
DIY online research to better understand myths and realities of slavery.

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