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Black/African Americans

  • Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, by Isabel Wilkerson, 2020
    Examines the unspoken caste system that has shaped America
  • Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own, by Eddie S. Glaude, Jr. 2020
    “Glaude’s endeavor, following Baldwin, to bear witness to the difficult truth of race in America today.” Goodreads
  • Unlearning Race – Self-Portrait in Black and White by Thomas Chatterton Williams
    A memoir and meditation on race and identity.
  • Odetta: A Life in Music and Protest, by Ian Zack, 2020
    The first in-depth biography of the legendary singer and “Voice of the Civil Rights Movement,” who combatted racism and prejudice through her music.
  • The Strange Career of Jim Crow, by C. Vann Woodward, 1955
    Published in 1955, a year after the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education ordered schools desegregated, Strange Career was cited so often to counter arguments for segregation that Martin Luther King, Jr. called it “the historical Bible of the civil rights movement.”
  • They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South, Stephanie Jones-Rogers
  • American Uprising: The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt, Daniel Rasmussen
  • Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow, Henry Louis Gates
  • The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander
    Mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness.
  • Loving, Interracial Intimacy in America and the Threat to White Supremacy, Sheryll Cashin
    How interracial love and marriage changed history and may soon alter the landscape of American politics.
  • White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide, Carol Anderson
    “White Rage is a riveting and disturbing history that begins with Reconstruction and lays bare the efforts of whites in the South and North alike to prevent emancipated black people from achieving economic independence, civil and political rights, personal safety, and economic opportunity.” – The Nation
  • Wilmington’s Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy by David Zucchino
    “Pierces layers of myth and invented history . . . Wilmington’s Lie reconstructs the only violent overthrow of an elected government in U.S. history, tying the white supremacist bloodshed to political goals that are still relevant today.” ―Shelf Awareness
  • Overground Railroad: The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in America, Candacy Taylor
    “…a fascinating history of black travel.. telling the sweeping story of black travel within Jim Crow America across four decades.” – The New York Times Book Review
  • Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You, Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
    “A deep (and often disturbing) chronicling of how anti-black thinking has entrenched itself in the fabric of American society.” -The Atlantic
  • American Poison: How Racial Hostility Destroyed Our Promise, Eduardo Porter
    The author exposes all the ways in which racism has infected everything from unions to welfare to education and immigration policy. Colleen Mondor, Booklist
  • The Wretched of the Earth, A Negro Psychoanalyst’s Study of the Problems of Racism and Colonialism in the World Today,Franz Fanon
    “This is a book which must be read by all who wish to understand what it means to fight for freedom, equality and dignity.” – Alex Quaison-Sackey, President, U.N. General Assembly
  • The Broken Heart of America,Walter Johnson
    A searing portrait of the racial dynamics that lie inescapably at the heart of our nation, told through the turbulent history of the city of St. Louis.
  • The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America, Khalil Gibran Muhammad
    A brilliant and deeply disturbing biography of the idea of black criminality in the making of modern urban America, Elizabeth Hinton, The Nation
  • Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
    A powerful, painful and personal account of the reality of life for blacks in the U.S., written in the form of a cautionary letter to his son, Samori, on the occasion of his 15th birthday.
  • Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo”
    A non-fiction work by Zora Neale Hurston, based on her interviews in 1927 with Cudjoe Lewis, the last presumed living survivor of the Middle Passage, a stage of the transport of millions of Africans forcibly transported to the New World as part of the Atlantic slave trade.
  • The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, Isabel Wilkerson 2010
    Named one of Time’s ten best nonfiction books of the decade, Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life. From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America.
  • Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America, James Forman, Jr.
    Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction
    “An engaging, insightful, and provocative reexamination of over-incarceration in the black community. James Forman Jr. carefully exposes the complexities of crime, criminal justice, and race. What he illuminates should not be ignored.”
    ―Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative
  • I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness, 2018, Austin Channing Brown. NEW YORK TIMES bestseller from a leading voice on racial justice, an eye-opening account of growing up Black, Christian, and female that exposes how white America’s love affair with “diversity” so often falls short of its ideals.
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou, 1969…captures the longing of lonely children, the brute insult of bigotry, and the wonder of words that can make the world right. Maya Angelou’s debut memoir is a modern American classic beloved worldwide.
  • The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the
    Constitution,
    by Eric Foner, Pulitzer Prize–winning scholar. A timely history of the constitutional changes that built equality into the nation’s foundation and how those guarantees have been shaken over time.
  • Notes of a Native Son, James Baldwin
    #26 on The Guardian’s list of 100 best nonfiction books of all time
    “He named for me the things you feel but couldn’t utter . . . articulated for the first time to white America what it meant to be American and a black American at the same time.” —Henry Louis Gates Jr.
  • Have Black Lives Ever Mattered? Mumia Abu-Jamal
    “A must-read for anyone interested in social justice and inequalities, social movements, the criminal justice system, and African American history.”
    ―Library Journal, Starred review
  • My Brother Moochie, Issac Bailey
    “With a keen understanding of systemic racism…My Brother Moochie delves into a rarely explored side of the criminal justice system: the families of the perpetrators…powerful.” —New York Times Book Review
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  • An Anti-Racist Reading List Ibram X. Kendi, May, 2019
  • Life of a Klansman: A Family History in White Supremacy by Edward Ball, August 2020
    “In writing a micro-history about [his great-great-grandfather], [Ball] builds a psychological portrait of white supremacy, which then radiates outward and across time, to explain the motives and historical background behind racist violence . . . Ball offers a particularly piercing psychoanalytic reading of the present, even though his subject is the past.” ―Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic
  • The Kidnapping Club: Wall Street Slavery and Resistance on the Eve of the Civil War, by Jonathan Daniel Wells, Bold Type Books, October 2020
  • American Prison: A Reporter’s Undercover Journey Into The Business of Punishment, by Shane Bauer. Penguin Press. September 2018
    A thoroughly researched history of for-profit prisons in America from their origins in the decades before the Civil War. Private prisons became entrenched in the South as part of a systemic effort to keep the African-American labor force in place in the aftermath of slavery, and the echoes of these shameful origins are with us still.
  • A Black Women’s History of the United States by Daina Ramey Berry and Kali Nicole Gross. Beacon Press, 2020
    In spite of the described racism, violence and misogyny, there are revealed here many unknown stories of Black women of great strength and courage.
  • Busted in New York and Other Essays by Darryl Pinckney
    Farrar, Straus and Giroux, November 2019
    Pinckney reminds us that “white supremacy isn’t back; it never went away.” In these twenty-five essays, the author has given us a view of our recent racial history that blends the social and the personal and wonders how we arrived at our current moment.
  • West of Jim Crow: The Fight Against California’s Color Line by Lynn M. Hudson, 2020
    Focuses on the African Americans who moved to California to escape Jim Crow, expecting freedom and the benefits of full citizenship but instead realising that Jim Crow and racial segregation were all too present in the west.
  • Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man by Emmanuel Acho, 2020
    An essential guide to the truths Americans need to know to address the systemic racism that has recently electrified protests in all fifty states.
  • His Truth is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope by Jon Meacham, 2020
    #1 New York Times bestseller • An intimate and revealing portrait of civil rights icon and longtime U.S. congressman John Lewis, linking his life to the painful quest for justice in America from the 1950s to the present.
  • The Dead are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X, by Les Payne, Tamara Payne
    Liveright Publisher, 2020
    Malcolm X is still a powerful, influential figure, and getting this definitive biography, which sometimes corrects the historical record (and even corrects some dates and facts on Malcolm’s autobiography) feels necessary and timely given today’s racial unrest. In fact, this biography isn’t just important; it should be required reading.” — Gabino Iglesias ― NPR
  • A Peculiar Indifference: The Neglected Toll of Violence on Black America, by Elliott Currie, Metropolitan Press, 2020
    As acclaimed criminologist Elliott Currie makes clear, this pervasive violence is a direct result of the continuing social and economic marginalization of many Black communities in America. Those conditions help perpetuate a level of preventable trauma and needless suffering that has no counterpart anywhere in the developed world.
  • Black Futures, by Kimberley Drew and Jenna Wortham, One World, 2020
    New York Times Editor’s Choice – An archive of collective memory and exuberant testimony. What does it mean to be Black and alive right now?
    The authors have brought together this collection of work—images, photos, essays, memes, dialogues, recipes, tweets, poetry, and more—to tell the story of the radical, imaginative, provocative, and gorgeous world that Black creators are bringing forth today.

  • Dispatches from the Race War, by Tim Wise.
    Drawing on events from the killing of Trayvon Martin to the Black Lives Matter protests, Wise calls to account his fellow white citizens and exhorts them to combat racist power structures City Lights, 2021
  • Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619 By Ibram X. Kendi
    Consists of eighty chronological chapters that bring to life the numerous and previously overlooked facets of slavery, segregation, resistance and survival. In these pages, dozens of extraordinary lives and personalities resurface from archives and are restored to their rightful place in the narrative of American history.” — The Root

  • The Rebellious life of Mrs. Rosa Parks by Jeanne Theoharris, Beacon Press, 2013
    The definitive political biography of Rosa Parks examines her six decades of activism, challenging perceptions of her as an accidental actor in the civil rights movement.

  • Manchild in the Promised Land by Claude Brown
    Scribner, Reprint edition December 2011
    “He writes about his life –and Harlem – with frank, brutal and beautiful power. Mr. Brown’s graphic narrative will make you laugh, cry, think and possibly understand.”
    Atlanta Journal

  • The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, by Edward Baptist
    Basic Books, September 9, 2014
    A groundbreaking history demonstrating that America’s economic supremacy was built on the backs of slaves.

  • Sword and the Shield by Peniel E. Joseph, Basic Books; Updated edition (October 5, 2021)
    To most Americans, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. represent contrasting ideals: self-defense versus nonviolence, Black Power versus civil rights, the sword versus the shield. Joseph reveals a nuanced portrait of two men who, despite markedly different backgrounds, inspired and pushed each other throughout their adult lives. Now updated with a new afterword, this is a strikingly revisionist account of Malcolm and Martin, the era they defined, and their lasting impact on today’s Movement for Black Lives.