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14 Books About Race to Read Right Now

“The only way to undo racism is to consistently identify and describe it — and then dismantle it.”

Ibram X. Kendi, Founding Director, Antiracist Research and Policy Center, American University, and author of How to Be an Anti-Racist.

There are a plethora of resources available to the modern reader that will inspire a better world. One major theme resounding through all works is to listen, get educated, and think about your own responses. It is important work to do because, to paraphrase Maya Angelou, when you know better, you do better. 

While many recently published books, including How to Be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi, and White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo have been selling out on Biblio, there are plenty of other books you can read to explore and educate yourself about the history of race in America. 

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America

By Ibram X. Kendi

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, published in 2016, won the National Book Award for Non-Fiction. This book is by Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Anti-Racist. Using the life stories of five major American intellectuals: Puritan minister Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. Du Bois, and legendary activist Angela Davis, Kendi shows that racist ideas did not arise from ignorance or hatred but were orchestrated to justify and rationalize deeply entrenched discriminatory policies and the nation’s racial inequities. By shedding light on this history, Stamped from the Beginning offers the tools needed to expose racist thinking. 

Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America

By Michael Eric Dyson

The New York Times Book Review calls Michael Eric Dyson’s Tears We Cannot Stop “One of the most frank and searing discussions on race…a deeply serious, urgent book, which should take its place in the tradition of Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time and King’s Why We Can’t Wait.

Published by St. Martin’s Press in 2017, it is a provocative and deeply personal call for change, arguing that for real racial progress means that we must face difficult truths, including being honest about how black grievance has been ignored, dismissed, or discounted.

Why We Can’t Wait

By Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

First published in 1964, Why We Can’t Wait includes King’s complete Letter from Birmingham Jail and his personal assessment of the future of the Civil Rights Movement. 

This first edition of King’s Why We Can’t Wait is listed by Raptis Rare Books

Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together In The Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations About Race

By Beverly Daniel Tatum

Beverly Daniel Tatum, a renowned authority on the psychology of racism, argues that straight talk about our racial identities is essential if we are serious about enabling communication across racial and ethnic divides.

Me And White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change The World, And Become A Good Ancestor

By Layla Saad

Author Layla Saad first began an Instagram challenge called #meandwhitesupremacy by encouraging people to own up and share their racist behaviors, big and small. Thousands of people participated in the challenge, and nearly 100,000 people downloaded the “Me and White Supremacy Workbook“. Me and White Supremacy, published January 29th, 2020 with a foreword written by Robin DiAngelo, is updated and expanded from the original workbook, adding more historical and cultural contexts, sharing moving stories and anecdotes, and including expanded definitions, examples, and further resources.

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity In A World Made For Whiteness

By Austin Channing Brown

Dealing with racial justice primarily in the Christian community, this book looks at how white, middle-class, Evangelicals have participated in rising racial hostility, and how they can work to change that. 

Between the World and Me

by Ta-Nehisi Coates 

Published in 2015, Between the World and Me is a non-fiction book written as a letter from the author to his 15-year-old son, based on the style of James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time. Between the World and Me won the National Book Award in 2015.

This first edition is listed by Brian Cassidy Bookseller at Type Punch Matrix

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

By Bryan Stevenson

Acclaimed lawyer and social justice advocate Bryan Stevenson offers a glimpse into the lives of the wrongfully imprisoned and his efforts to fight for their freedom. Originally published in by Spiegel & Grau on October 21st, 2014, this book has an adaptation for young people, and it has recently been adapted into a major motion picture starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx.

So You Want to Talk About Race

by Ijeoma Oluo

Published in 2018, So You Want to Talk About Race is a comprehensive conversation guide for readers of all races to have open and honest conversations about race and racism.

The Fire Next Time

By James Baldwin

The Fire Next Time is a collection of James Baldwin’s essays on race relations in the United States. First published in 1963 by Dial Press, it contains two essays: “My Dungeon Shook – Letter to my Nephew on the One-Hundredth Anniversary of Emancipation”, and “Down At The Cross – Letter from a Region of My Mind”. The first of these is written as a letter to Baldwin’s 14-year-old nephew, discussing the central role of race in American history. The second essay deals with the relations between race and religion, focusing in particular on Baldwin’s experiences with the Christian church as a youth, as well as the Islamic ideas of others in Harlem. Both essays had been previously published in The Progressive and The New Yorker before being published in book form.

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration

By Isabel Wilkerson

The Warmth of Other Suns follows the mass migrations of almost 6 million African-Americans from the South to Northern urban areas from 1915 – 1970. Wilkerson highlights the racial tensions and terrorism that caused so many people to give up everything they knew and move North to save their own lives and provide something better for their families. The diverse histories and masterfully written stories are engaging and show a breadth of experiences previously untold.  

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

by Michelle Alexander

Considered one of the most important and influential books of the 21st century, The New Jim Crow discusses how systemic racism did not end with Civil Rights but was rather reinvented through the criminal justice system, resulting in a disproportionate amount of African-American men losing their rights either behind bars or with records.  Michelle Alexander is a highly acclaimed civil rights lawyer, advocate, legal scholar, and author.

Unexampled Courage

by Richard Gergel

Decorated veteran Sergeant Isaac Woodard was returning from serving in WWII and still in uniform when he challenged a white bus driver’s treatment of him. He was removed from the Greyhound bus and put into police custody and beaten so severely that he was blinded. When President Harry Truman learned of the incident he was outraged. This is one of many incidents that contributed to an awakening to the racial disparity and led to the landmark Civil Rights trials in the 1960s.

Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory

by David Blight

Historian David Blight examines how the memory of the Civil War was constructed in the aftermath and how that memory has had tragic costs to race relations in the United States. Racial divisions served to unite a fractured country and the South’s rewriting of the causes of the war and the romanticism of the lost cause has proved dangerous for black people throughout the generations following.

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