Black Voices & Anti-Racist Material Selections at the Pollard
As we approach Juneteenth, it’s important to recognize that Lowell has always been a diverse community and the Pollard Memorial Library remains an open and inclusive environment for all our citizens regardless of race, gender, or identity. This guide represents some materials on black voices and the issues of racism in our country from its roots to the experiences of people of color today.
For those looking for suggestions for children, the Youth Services Department curated a list of suggested reading.
If you request items that are in the library through your account, we will contact you as soon as they are available and curbside pickup begins to fulfill your request. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
Topics – Click on link to jump to the listing further down the page:
Activism, Community Organizing, and Movements
Anti-Racism, Racism, White Supremacy, and White Privilege
Biography, Autobiography, and Memoirs
Civil Rights Era
Class & Income Inequality
Criminal Justice & Incarceration
Housing & Segregation
Poetry & Literary Criticism
Race & Gender, Sexuality & Sexual Orientation
Films, Shows & Documentaries
Resource Lists & Websites
The Next American Nation: The New Nationalism and the Fourth American Revolution by Michael Lind
The question of American identity has exploded in a series of debates about immigration, racial preference, education, family values, and the writing of American history.
Activism, Community Organizing, and Movements
On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case For Hope by DeRay Mckesson
In August 2014, twenty-nine-year-old activist DeRay Mckesson stood with hundreds of others on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, to push a message of justice and accountability. These protests, and others like them in cities across the country, resulted in the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement. Now, in his first book, Mckesson lays down the intellectual, pragmatic, and political framework for a new liberation movement.
Waiting ’Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America by Peniel E. Joseph
In 1966, a group of black activists, including Stokely Carmichael and Huey P. Newton, turned their backs on Martin Luther King’s pacifism in order to build on the legacy of Malcolm X. The result? The Black Power movement, a radical new approach to the fight for equality. Joseph traces the history of the men and women of the movement – many famous and infamous, some forgotten. Drawing on original archival research and more than 60 original oral histories, this narrative history vividly reports the way in which Black Power redefined black identity in the USA.
When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele with a foreword by Angela Davis
A memoir by the co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement explains the movement’s position of love, humanity, and justice, challenging perspectives that have negatively labeled the movement’s activists while calling for essential political changes.
Anti-Racism, Racism, White Supremacy, and White Privilege
Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism by Safiya Umoja Noble
A revealing look at how negative biases against women of color are embedded in search engine results and algorithms Run a Google search for “black girls”—what will you find? “Big Booty” and other sexually explicit terms are likely to come up as top search terms. But, if you type in “white girls,” the results are radically different. In Algorithms of Oppression, Safiya Umoja Noble challenges the idea that search engines like Google offer an equal playing field for all forms of ideas, identities, and activities. Data discrimination is a real social problem; Noble argues that the combination of private interests in promoting certain sites, along with the monopoly status of a relatively small number of Internet search engines, leads to a biased set of search algorithms that privilege whiteness and discriminate against people of color, specifically women of color.
Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do by Jennifer L. Eberhardt, PhD.
Unconscious bias can be at work without our realizing it, and even when we genuinely wish to treat all people equally, ingrained stereotypes can infect our visual perception, attention, memory, and behavior. This has an impact on education, employment, housing, and criminal justice. In Biased, with a perspective that is at once scientific, investigative, and informed by personal experience, Jennifer Eberhardt offers us insights into the dilemma and a path forward.
Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America’s Heartland by Jonathan M. Metzl
A physician reveals how right-wing backlash policies have mortal consequences — even for the white voters they promise to help. In the era of Donald Trump, many lower- and middle-class white Americans are drawn to politicians who pledge to make their lives great again. But as Dying of Whiteness shows, the policies that result actually place white Americans at ever-greater risk of sickness and death. Physician Jonathan M. Metzl’s quest to understand the health implications of “backlash governance” leads him across America’s heartland. Interviewing a range of everyday Americans, he examines how racial resentment has fueled progun laws in Missouri, resistance to the Affordable Care Act in Tennessee, and cuts to schools and social services in Kansas. And he shows these policies’ costs: increasing deaths by gun suicide, falling life expectancies, and rising dropout rates. White Americans, Metzl argues, must reject the racial hierarchies that promise to aid them but in fact lead our nation to demise.
How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
Combines ethics, history, law, and science with a personal narrative to describe how to move beyond the awareness of racism and contribute to making society just and equitable.
Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla F. Saad
When Layla Saad began an Instagram challenge called #meandwhitesupremacy, she never predicted it would spread as widely as it did. She encouraged people to own up and share their racist behaviors, big and small. She was looking for truth, and she got it. Thousands of people participated in the challenge, and nearly 100,000 people downloaded the Me and White Supremacy Workbook. Updated and expanded from the original workbook, Me and White Supremacy, takes the work deeper by adding more historical and cultural contexts, sharing moving stories and anecdotes, and including expanded definitions, examples, and further resources.
Download the ebook from Overdrive
Download the audiobook from Overdrive
The N Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn’t, and Why by Jabari Asim
The debate over the N word touches almost every aspect of American popular culture. Does it ever have an appropriate place in the media? Are rappers justified in using it? Should Huckleberry Finn, which repeats it 215 times, be taught in high school? As the cultural critic Jabari Asim explains, none of these questions can be addressed effectively without a clear knowledge of the word’s bitter legacy. Here he draws on a wide range of examples from science, politics, the arts, and more to reveal how the slur has both reflected and spread the scourge of bigotry in America over the last four hundred years.
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
In So You Want to Talk About Race, Editor-at-Large of the Establishment Ijeoma Oluo offers a contemporary, accessible take on the racial landscape in America, addressing head-on such issues as privilege, police brutality, intersectionality, micro-aggressions, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the “N” word. Perfectly positioned to bridge the gap between people of color and white Americans struggling with race complexities, Oluo answers the questions readers don’t dare ask, and explains the concepts that continue to elude everyday Americans.
Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi
Award-winning historian Ibram X. Kendi argues, racist ideas have a long and lingering history, one in which nearly every great American thinker is complicit. In this deeply researched and fast-moving narrative, Kendi chronicles the entire story of anti-black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. He uses the life stories of five major American intellectuals to drive this history: Puritan minister Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. Du Bois, and legendary activist Angela Davis. As Kendi shows, racist ideas did not arise from ignorance or hatred. They were created to justify and rationalize deeply entrenched discriminatory policies and the nation’s racial inequities.
Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson
As the country grapples with racist division at a level not seen since the 1960s, one man’s voice soars above the rest with conviction and compassion. In his 2016 New York Times op-ed piece “Death in Black and White,” Michael Eric Dyson moved a nation. Now he continues to speak out in Tears We Cannot Stop—a provocative and deeply personal call for change. Dyson argues that if we are to make real racial progress we must face difficult truths, including being honest about how black grievance has been ignored, dismissed, or discounted.
Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving
After a blissfully sheltered, upper-middle-class suburban childhood, Debby Irving found herself simultaneously intrigued and horrified by the racial divide she observed in nearby Boston. Her career began in a variety of urban performance-art and community-based non-profits, where she repeatedly found that her best efforts to “help” caused more harm than the good she intended. Her one-step-forward-two-steps-back experience of racial understanding eventually lead her to dig deeply into her own white privilege, where she found truths she never knew existed. Waking Up White describes that journey and the lessons learned along the way.
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo
In this groundbreaking and timely book, antiracist educator Robin DiAngelo deftly illuminates the phenomenon of white fragility. Referring to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and by behaviors including argumentation and silence. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium and prevent any meaningful cross-racial dialogue. In this in-depth exploration, DiAngelo explores how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what we can do to engage more constructively.
Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race by Beverly Daniel Tatum
The classic, bestselling book on the psychology of racism—now fully revised and updated Walk into any racially mixed high school and you will see Black, White, and Latino youth clustered in their own groups. Is this self-segregation a problem to address or a coping strategy? 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. These topics have only become more urgent as the national conversation about race is increasingly acrimonious. This fully revised edition is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the dynamics of race in America.
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
In 2014, award-winning journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge wrote about her frustration with the way that discussions of race and racism in Britain were being led by those who weren’t affected by it. She posted a piece on her blog, entitled: ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’. Her words hit a nerve. The post went viral and comments flooded in from others desperate to speak up about their own experiences. Galvanised by this clear hunger for open discussion, she decided to dig into the source of these feelings. Exploring issues from eradicated black history to the political purpose of white dominance, whitewashed feminism to the inextricable link between class and race, Reni Eddo-Lodge offers a timely and essential new framework for how to see, acknowledge and counter racism. It is a searing, illuminating, absolutely necessary exploration of what it is to be a person of colour in Britain today.
Biography, Autobiography, and Memoir
The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X
The Muslim leader, firebrand, and anti-integrationist, tells the extraordinary story of his life and the growth of the Black Muslim movement. His fascinating perspective on the lies and limitations of the American Dream, and the inherent racism in a society that denies its nonwhite citizens the opportunity to dream, gives extraordinary insight into the most urgent issues of our own time. The Autobiography of Malcolm X stands as the definitive statement of a movement and a man whose work was never completed but whose message is timeless.
The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Paul Coates was an enigmatic god to his sons: a Vietnam vet who rolled with the Black Panthers, an old-school disciplinarian and new-age believer in free love, an autodidact who launched a publishing company in his basement dedicated to telling the true history of African civilization. Most of all, he was a teacher, storyteller, and tactician, whose mission was to carry his sons through the shoals of inner-city adolescence–by any means necessary–and into the safe arms of Howard University, where he worked so that his kids could attend for free. Ta-Nehisi Coates combines a beautifully rendered evocation of the terrors and wonders of growing up in Baltimore in the 1980s–the age of crack, when murder rates hit historic highs, but also an era when the black community improvised the resources with which to save itself–with a humorous and affectionate portrayal of a family led by a maverick patriarch.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America, she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private. A deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden? Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder.
Black Like Me: The Definitive Griffin Estate Edition, Corrected from Original Manuscripts by John Howard Griffin
Writer JOHN HOWARD GRIFFIN (1920-1980) decided to perform an experiment in order to learn from the inside out how one race could withstand the second class citizenship imposed on them by another race. Through medication, he dyed his skin dark and left his family and home in Texas to find out. The setting is the Deep South in the late 1950’s. What began as scientific research ended up changing his life in every way imaginable. When he decided the real story was in his journals, he published them, and the storm that followed is now part of American history.
Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barak Obama
Barack Obama learns that his father–a figure he knows more as a myth than as a man–has been killed in a car accident. This sudden death inspires an emotional odyssey–first to a small town in Kansas, from which he retraces the migration of his mother’s family to Hawaii, and then to Kenya, where he meets the African side of his family, confronts the bitter truth of his father’s life, and at last reconciles his divided inheritance.
Free Cyntoia: My Search for Redemption in the American Prison System by Cyntoia Brown-Long with Bethany Mauger
In her own words, Cyntoia Brown shares the riveting and redemptive story of how she changed her life for the better while in prison, finding hope through faith after a traumatic adolescence of drug addiction, rape, and sex trafficking led to a murder conviction.
The Grace of Silence by Michele Norris
In the wake of talk of a “postracial” America upon Barack Obama’s ascension as president of the United States, Michele Norris, cohost of National Public Radio’s flagship program All Things Considered, set out to write, through original reporting, a book about “the hidden conversation” on race that is unfolding nationwide. She would, she thought, base her book on the frank disclosures of others on the subject, but she was soon disabused of her presumption when forced to confront the fact that “the conversation” in her own family had not been forthright. Extraordinary for Norris’s candor in examining her own racial legacy and what it means to be an American, The Grace of Silence is also informed by rigorous research in its evocation of time and place, scores of interviews with ordinary folk, and wise observations about evolving attitudes, at once encouraging and disturbing, toward race in America today.
Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon
In Heavy, Laymon writes eloquently and honestly about growing up a hard-headed black son to a complicated and brilliant black mother in Jackson, Mississippi. From his early experiences of sexual violence, to his suspension from college, to time in New York as a college professor, Laymon charts his complex relationship with his mother, grandmother, anorexia, obesity, sex, writing, and ultimately gambling.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local “powhitetrash.” At eight years old and back at her mother’s side in St. Louis, Maya is attacked by a man many times her age–and has to live with the consequences for a lifetime. Years later, in San Francisco, Maya learns that love for herself, the kindness of others, her own strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors (“I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare”) will allow her to be free instead of imprisoned.
The Light of Truth: Writings of an Anti-Lynching Crusader by Ida B. Wells
This volume covers the entire scope of Wells’s remarkable career, collecting her early writings, articles exposing the horrors of lynching, essays from her travels abroad, and her later journalism. The Light of Truth is both an invaluable resource for study and a testament to Wells’s long career as a civil rights activist.
Men We Reaped: A Memoir by Jessmyn Ward
In five years, Jesmyn Ward lost five young men in her life-to drugs, accidents, suicide, and the bad luck that can follow people who live in poverty, particularly black men. Dealing with these losses, one after another, made Jesmyn ask the question: Why? And as she began to write about the experience of living through all the dying, she realized the truth-and it took her breath away. Her brother and her friends all died because of who they were and where they were from, because they lived with a history of racism and economic struggle that fostered drug addiction and the dissolution of family and relationships. Jesmyn says the answer was so obvious she felt stupid for not seeing it. But it nagged at her until she knew she had to write about her community, to write their stories and her own.
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American slave by Frederick Douglass and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: Written by Herself by Harriet Jacobs
This Modern Library edition combines two of the most important African American slave narratives–crucial works that each illuminate and inform the other. Frederick Douglass’s Narrative, first published in 1845, is an enlightening and incendiary text. Born into slavery, Douglass became the preeminent spokesman for his people during his life; his narrative is an unparalleled account of the dehumanizing effects of slavery and Douglass’s own triumph over it. Like Douglass, Harriet Jacobs was born into slavery, and in 1861 she published Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, now recognized as the most comprehensive antebellum slave narrative written by a woman. Jacobs’s account broke the silence on the exploitation of African American female slaves, and it remains essential reading.
Negroland: A Memoir by Margo Jefferson
At once incendiary and icy, mischievous, and provocative, celebratory and elegiac, a deeply felt meditation on race, sex, and American culture through the prism of the author’s rarefied upbringing and education among a black elite concerned to distance itself from whites and the black generality, while tirelessly measuring itself against both.
The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
Two kids with the same name were born blocks apart in the same decaying city within a few years of each other. One grew up to be a Rhodes Scholar, army officer, White House Fellow, and business leader. The other is serving a life sentence in prison. Here is the story of two boys and the journey of a generation.
Unafraid of the Dark by Rosemary L Bray
In this stunning memoir, Rosemary Bray describes growing up poor in Chicago in the 1960s and becoming one of the first black women at Yale–and she shows why changes in the welfare system make it virtually impossible for her inspiring story to happen today.
What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker A Memoir in Essays by Damon Young
For Damon Young, existing while Black is an extreme sport. The act of possessing black skin while searching for space to breathe in America is enough to induce a ceaseless state of angst where questions such as “How should I react here, as a professional black person?” and “Will this white person’s potato salad kill me?” are forever relevant. What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker chronicles Young’s efforts to survive while battling and making sense of the various neuroses his country has given him.
Civil Rights Era
The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B. Tyson
In 1955, white men in the Mississippi Delta lynched a fourteen-year-old from Chicago named Emmett Till. His murder was part of a wave of white terrorism in the wake of the 1954 Supreme Court decision that declared public school segregation unconstitutional. Only weeks later, Rosa Parks thought about young Emmett as she refused to move to the back of a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Five years later, Black students who called themselves “the Emmett Till generation” launched sit-in campaigns that turned the struggle for civil rights into a mass movement. Till’s lynching became the most notorious hate crime in American history.
Freedom Summer: The Savage Season That Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy by Bruce Watson
In the summer of 1964, with the civil rights movement stalled, seven hundred college students descended on Mississippi to register black voters, teach in Freedom Schools, and live in sharecroppers’ shacks. But by the time their first night in the state had ended, three volunteers were dead, black churches had burned, and America had a new definition of freedom. Using in- depth interviews with participants and residents, Watson brilliantly captures the tottering legacy of Jim Crow in Mississippi and the chaos that brought such national figures as Martin Luther King Jr. and Pete Seeger to the state. Freedom Summer presents finely rendered portraits of the courageous black citizens-and Northern volunteers-who refused to be intimidated in their struggle for justice, and the white Mississippians who would kill to protect a dying way of life.
March: Books One, Two, and Three by John Lewis; Co-Written by Andrew Aydin; Art by Nate Powell
March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.
A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School by Carlotta Walls LaNier with Lisa Frazier Page
A personal account of the nation’s most famous school integration recounts the author’s decision to attend Little Rock’s all-white Central High and describes how subsequent events affected her family’s beliefs about dedication, perseverance, and sacrifice.
Turn Away Thy Son: Little Rock, the Crisis That Shocked the Nation by Elizabeth Jacoway
In September 1957 nine black children tried to integrate Arkansas’ Little Rock Central High School in accordance with the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education. Claiming he was acting to keep the peace, Gov. Orval Faubus used the Arkansas National Guard to keep them out of the school. After a lengthy standoff, President Eisenhower called in the 101st Airborne and reluctantly, slowly, but forcibly began to integrate the school. Turn Away Thy Son, told from the point of view of sixteen key participants, brings the nine students, their tormentors, the school administration, the governor, and the press to vivid life. It shows the truth about Little Rock, beyond the caricatures to the fundamental driving forces that made school desegregation the hottest of hot-button issues in the Jim Crow South.
Class and Income Inequality
Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America by Eugene Robinson
This book explains how years of desegregation and affirmative action have led to the revelation of four distinct African American groups who reflect unique political views and circumstances, in a report that also illuminates crucial modern debates on race and class.
The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap by Matt Taibbi; Illustrations by Molly Crabapple
In this new work, the author takes readers into the biggest, most urgent story in America: a widening wealth gap that is not only reshaping our economic life, but changing our core sense of right and wrong. The wealthy 1% operate with near impunity, while everyone else finds their very existence the subject of massive law enforcement attention: from stop-and-frisk programs and the immigrant dragnet to invasive surveillance and the abuse of debtors. Driven by immersive reporting, this is a stunning look into the newest high-stakes divide in our country: between a lawless aristocracy of hyperwealth and the rest of us, living under the shadow of an incipient American police state.
White Trash: The 400-year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg
A history of the class system in America from the colonial era to the present illuminates the crucial legacy of the underprivileged white demographic, citing the pivotal contributions of lower-class white workers in wartime, social policy, and the rise of the Republican Party.
Criminal Justice and Incarceration
The Black and the Blue: A Cop Reveals the Crimes, Racism, and Injustice in America’s Law Enforcement by Matthew Horace and Ron Harris
A CNN contributor and former law enforcement officer offers a personal account of the racism, crimes, and color lines that challenge America’s police, sharing insights into high-profile cases, the Black Lives Matter movement, and what is needed for change.
I Can’t Breathe: A Killing on Bay Street by Matt Taibbi.
A work of riveting literary journalism that explores the roots and repercussions of the infamous killing of Eric Garner by the New York City police.
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
The founder of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama recounts his experiences as a lawyer working to assist those desperately in need, reflecting on his pursuit of the ideal of compassion in American justice.
Locking Up Our Own: Crime and punishment in Black America by James Forman Jr.
Critics have assailed the rise of mass incarceration, emphasizing its disproportionate impact on people of color. As James Forman, Jr., points out, however, the war on crime that began in the 1970s was supported by many African American leaders in the nation’s urban centers. In Locking Up Our Own, he seeks to understand why. Forman shows us that the first substantial cohort of black mayors, judges, and police chiefs took office amid a surge in crime and drug addiction. Many prominent black officials feared that the gains of the civil rights movement were being undermined by lawlessness—and thus embraced tough-on-crime measures, including longer sentences and aggressive police tactics. In the face of skyrocketing murder rates and the proliferation of open-air drug markets, they believed they had no choice. But the policies they adopted would have devastating consequences for residents of poor black neighborhoods.
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
In a bold and innovative argument, a rising legal star shows readers how the mass incarceration of a disproportionate number of black men amounts to a devastating system of racial control. This is a terrifying reality that exists in the UK as much as in the US. Despite the triumphant dismantling of the Jim Crow laws, the system that once forced African-Americans into a segregated second-class citizenship still haunts and the criminal justice system still unfairly targets black men and deprives an entire segment of the population of their basic rights.
No Choirboy–Murder, Violence, and Teenagers on Death Row by Susan Kuklin
No Choirboy takes readers inside America’s prisons, and allows inmates sentenced to death as teenagers to speak for themselves. In their own voices—raw and uncensored—they talk about their lives in prison, and share their thoughts and feelings about how they ended up there. Susan Kuklin also gets inside the system, exploring capital punishment itself and the intricacies and inequities of criminal justice in the United States.
Policing the Black Man by Angela J. Davis, Bryan Stevenson, Marc Mauer, Bruce Western and Jeremy Travis
Policing the Black Man explores and critiques the many ways the criminal justice system impacts the lives of African American boys and men at every stage of the criminal process, from arrest through sentencing.
Slavery by Another Name: The Re-enslavement of Black People in America from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon
In this groundbreaking book, Blackmon brings to light one of the most shameful chapters in American history–the re-enslavement of black Americans from the Civil War to World War II–in a moving, sobering account that explores the insidious legacy of white racism that reverberates today.
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
A national bestseller when it first appeared in 1963, The Fire Next Time galvanized the nation and gave passionate voice to the emerging civil rights movement. At once a powerful evocation of James Baldwin’s early life in Harlem and a disturbing examination of the consequences of racial injustice, the book is an intensely personal and provocative document. It consists of two “letters,” written on the occasion of the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, that exhort Americans, both black and white, to attack the terrible legacy of racism. Described by The New York Times Book Review as “sermon, ultimatum, confession, deposition, testament, and chronicle…all presented in searing, brilliant prose,” The Fire Next Time stands as a classic of our literature.
The Fire This Time by Jessmyn Ward
The Fire This Time is divided into three parts that shine a light on the darkest corners of our history, wrestle with our current predicament, and attempt to envision a better future. Of the eighteen pieces, ten were written specifically for this volume. In the fifty-odd years since Baldwin’s essay was published, entire generations have dared everything and made significant progress. But the idea that we are living in the post-civil rights era–that we are a ‘postracial’ society–is a callous corruption of a truth that our nation must confront. Baldwin’s ‘fire next time’ is now upon us, and it needs to be talked about.
Nobody Knows My Name by James Baldwin
Told with Baldwin’s characteristically unflinching honesty, this collection of illuminating, deeply felt essays examines topics ranging from race relations in the United States to the role of the writer in society, and offers personal accounts of Richard Wright, Norman Mailer and other writers.
Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde
In this charged collection of fifteen essays and speeches, Lorde takes on sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, and class, and propounds social difference as a vehicle for action and change. Her prose is incisive, unflinching, and lyrical, reflecting struggle but ultimately offering messages of hope.
The Source of Self-Regard by Toni Morrison
The source of self-regard is brimming with all the elegance of mind and style, the literary prowess and moral compass that are Toni Morrison’s inimitable hallmark. In the writings and speeches included here, Morrison takes on contested social issues: the foreigner, female empowerment, the press, money, “black matter(s),” and human rights.
We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates
“We were eight years in power” was the lament of Reconstruction-era black politicians as the American experiment in multiracial democracy ended with the return of white supremacist rule in the South. In this sweeping collection of new and selected essays, Ta-Nehisi Coates explores the tragic echoes of that history in our own time: the unprecedented election of a black president followed by a vicious backlash that fueled the election of the man Coates argues is America’s “first white president.”
Contempt of Court: The Turn-of-the-Century Lynching that Launched 100 Years of Federalism by Mark Curriden and Leroy Phillips
The first book ever written about the historical precedent-setting case by which the Supreme Court declared itself the highest court. A lynch mob in Tennessee hanged a black man, who had been acquitted by the Supreme Court in a rape trial, with the full knowledge & acquiescence of the local government. For the first time & only time in history, the Supreme Court conducted a criminal trial to enforce its authority, bringing contempt of court & obstruction of justice charges against the local sheriff, his deputies, & members of the lynch mob.
A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America by Ronald Takaki
America is multicultural, and every step of its development has involved incorporation of another people, either stolen from their homes, fleeing them, or looking for new opportunity. These chapters illustrate the immigrant experiences of Japanese, African, Irish, and Jewish Americans, as well as others. In his precisely written account, Takaki does not skirt controversy. He fully exposes the abuses suffered by Native Americans, African slaves, and all nationalities who have worked in the sweatshops, plantations, and construction projects that fueled the growth of the U.S. By simply showing the facts of multiculturalism, the historical coincidence of all our many minorities, the author eloquently shows the need for this viewpoint to be part of our education. Highly recommended for all history and social issues collections.
From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans by John Hope Franklin and Alfred A. Moss, Jr.
This is the dramatic, exciting, authoritative story of the experiences of African Americans from the time they left Africa to their continued struggle for equality at the end of the twentieth century. Since its original publication in 1947,From Slavery to Freedom has stood as the definitive his-tory of African Americans. Coauthors John Hope Franklin and Alfred A. Moss, Jr., give us a vividly detailed account of the journey of African Americans from their origins in the civilizations of Africa, through their years of slavery in the New World, to the successful struggle for freedom and its aftermath in the West Indies, Latin America, and the United States. This eighth edition has been revised to include expanded coverage of Africa; additional material in every chapter on the history and current situation of African Americans in the United States; new charts, maps, and black-and-white illustrations; and a third four-page color insert. The authors incorporate recent scholarship to examine slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the period between World War I and World War II (including the Harlem Renaissance).
The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward E. Baptist
In The Half Has Never Been Told, historian Edward E. Baptist reveals the alarming extent to which slavery shaped our country politically, morally, and most of all, economically. Until the Civil War, our chief form of innovation was slavery. Through forced migration and torture, slave owners extracted continual increases in efficiency from their slaves, giving the country a virtual monopoly on the production of cotton, a key raw material of the Industrial Revolution.
Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James Loewen
Beginning with pre-Columbian history and ranging over characters and events as diverse as Reconstruction, Helen Keller, the first Thanksgiving, and the Mai Lai massacre, Loewen offers an eye-opening critique of existing textbooks, and a wonderful retelling of American history as it should—and could—be taught to American students.
Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans From Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet A. Washington
From the era of slavery to the present day, the first full history of black America’s shocking mistreatment as unwilling and unwitting experimental subjects at the hands of the medical establishment. It shows how the pseudoscience of eugenics and social Darwinism was used to justify experimental exploitation and shoddy medical treatment of blacks, and the view that they were biologically inferior, oversexed, and unfit for adult responsibilities. Medical Apartheid reveals the hidden underbelly of scientific research and makes possible, for the first time, an understanding of the roots of the African American health deficit.
A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn
A People’s History of the United States has been chronicling American history from the bottom up, throwing out the official version of history taught in schools–with its emphasis on great men in high places–to focus on the street, the home, and the, workplace. Known for its lively, clear prose as well as its scholarly research, A People’s History of the United States is the only volume to tell America’s story from the point of view of–and in the words of–America’s women, factory workers, African-Americans, Native Americans, the working poor, and immigrant laborers.
The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois
The problem of the twentieth-century is the problem of the color-line. Originally published in 1903, The Souls of Black Folk is a classic study of race, culture, and education at the turn of the twentieth century. With its singular combination of essays, memoir, and fiction, this book vaulted W. E. B. Du Bois to the forefront of American political commentary and civil rights activism.
Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
The abolition of slavery in the aftermath of the Civil War is a familiar story, as is the civil rights revolution that transformed the nation after World War II. But the century in between remains a mystery: if emancipation sparked ‘a new birth of freedom’ in Lincoln’s America, why was it necessary to march in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s America? In this new book, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., one of our leading chroniclers of the African-American experience, seeks to answer that question in a history that moves from the Reconstruction Era to the ‘nadir’ of the African-American experience under Jim Crow, through to World War I and the Harlem Renaissance. Through his close reading of the visual culture of this tragic era, Gates reveals the many faces of Jim Crow and how, together, they reinforced a stark color line between white and black Americans.
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
In this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel 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.
When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America by
Ira Katznelson fundamentally recasts our understanding of twentieth-century American history and demonstrates that all the key programs passed during the New Deal and Fair Deal era of the 1930s and 1940s were created in a deeply discriminatory manner. Through mechanisms designed by Southern Democrats that specifically excluded maids and farm workers, the gap between blacks and whites actually widened despite postwar prosperity. In the words of noted historian Eric Foner, “Katznelson’s incisive book should change the terms of debate about affirmative action, and about the last seventy years of American history.
White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson
As Ferguson, Missouri, erupted in August 2014, and media commentators across the ideological spectrum referred to the angry response of African Americans as ‘black rage, ‘ historian Carol Anderson wrote a remarkable op-ed in the Washington Post showing that this was, instead, ‘white rage at work. With so much attention on the flames, ‘ she writes, ‘everyone had ignored the kindling.’ Since 1865 and the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, every time African Americans have made advances towards full participation in our democracy, white reaction has fueled a deliberate and relentless rollback of their gains.
Housing and Segregation
All Eyes are Upon Us: Race and Politics from Boston to Brooklyn by Jason Sokol
From the 19th century, when northern cities were home to strong abolitionist communities and served as a counterpoint to the slaveholding South, through the first half of the 20th century, when the North became a destination for African Americans fleeing Jim Crow, the Northeastern United States has had a long history of acceptance and liberalism. But as historian Jason Sokol reveals in All Eyes Are Upon Us, northern states like Massachusetts, New York, and Connecticut were also strongholds of segregation and deep-seated racism.
Buried in the Bitter Waters: The Hidden History of Racial Cleansing in America by Elliot Jaspin
Leave now, or die! From the heart of the Midwest to the Deep South, from the mountains of North Carolina to the Texas frontier, words like these have echoed through more than a century of American history. The call heralded not a tornado or a hurricane, but a very unnatural disaster–a manmade wave of racial cleansing that purged black populations from counties across the nation. Time after time, in the period between Reconstruction and the 1920s, whites banded together to drive out the blacks in their midst. They burned and killed indiscriminately and drove thousands from their homes, sweeping entire counties clear of blacks to make them racially “pure.” The expulsions were swift-in many cases, it took no more than twenty-four hours to eliminate an entire African-American population. Shockingly, these areas remain virtually all-white to this day.
The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein
Exploding the myth of de facto segregation arising from private prejudice or the unintended consequences of economic forces, Rothstein describes how the American government systematically imposed residential segregation: with undisguised racial zoning; public housing that purposefully segregated previously mixed communities; subsidies for builders to create whites-only suburbs; tax exemptions for institutions that enforced segregation; and support for violent resistance to African Americans in white neighborhoods.
Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families by J. Anthony Lukas
Common Ground is much more than the story of the busing crisis in Boston as told through the experiences of three families. As Studs Terkel remarked, it’s ”gripping, indelible…a truth about all large American cities.”
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
The author takes us into the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee to tell the story of eight families on the edge. Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare. But today, most poor renting families are spending more than half of their income on housing, and eviction has become ordinary, especially for single mothers. In vivid, intimate prose, Desmond provides a ground-level view of one of the most urgent issues facing America today. As we see families forced into shelters, squalid apartments, or more dangerous neighborhoods, we bear witness to the human cost of America’s vast inequality– and to people’s determination and intelligence in the face of hardship.
Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism by James W. Loewen
A history of northern racial exclusion demonstrates the pervasiveness of racism throughout the entire United States, analyzing how sundown towns in northern states participated in racially oppressive practices and victimized black citizens with frequently violent attacks well into the late twentieth century.
Poetry and Literary Criticism
Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
Claudia Rankine’s bold new book recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century daily life and in the media. Some of these encounters are slights, seeming slips of the tongue, and some are intentional offensives in the classroom, at the supermarket, at home, on the tennis court with Serena Williams and the soccer field with Zinedine Zidane, online, on TV-everywhere, all the time. The accumulative stresses come to bear on a person’s ability to speak, perform, and stay alive.
Counting Descent by Clint Smith
Black Harvard Doctorate in Poetics launches poetry that explores modern blackness. Clint Smith’s debut poetry collection, Counting Descent, is a coming of age story that seeks to complicate our conception of lineage and tradition. Smith explores the cognitive dissonance that results from belonging to a community that unapologetically celebrates black humanity while living in a world that often renders blackness a caricature of fear. His poems move fluidly across personal and political histories, all the while reflecting on the social construction of our lived experiences. Smith brings the reader on a powerful journey forcing us to reflect on all that we learn growing up, and all that we seek to unlearn moving forward.
Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination by Toni Morrison
Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison brings the genius of a master writer to this personal inquiry into the significance of African-Americans in the American literary imagination. Her goal, she states at the outset, is to “put forth an argument for extending the study of American literature…draw a map, so to speak, of a critical geography and use that map to open as much space for discovery, intellectual adventure, and close exploration as did the original charting of the New World–without the mandate for conquest.” She argues that race has become a metaphor, a way of referring to forces, events, and forms of social decay, economic division, and human panic. Her compelling point is that the central characteristics of American literature individualism, masculinity, the insistence upon innocence coupled to an obsession with figurations of death and hell–are responses to a dark and abiding Africanist presence. Through her investigation of black characters, narrative strategies, and idiom in the fiction of white American writers, Morrison provides a daring perspective that is sure to alter conventional notions about American literature.
Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves: An Anthology Edited by Glory Edim.
An inspiring collection of essays by black women writers, curated by the founder of the popular book club Well-Read Black Girl, on the importance of recognizing ourselves in literature. Remember that moment when you first encountered a character who seemed to be written just for you? That feeling of belonging remains with readers the rest of their lives–but not everyone regularly sees themselves on the pages of a book. In this timely anthology, Glory Edim brings together original essays by some of our best black women writers to shine a light on how important it is that we all–regardless of gender, race, religion, or ability–have the opportunity to find ourselves in literature.
Race and Gender, Sexuality, and Sexual Orientation
Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay
In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman (Sweet Valley High) of color (The Help) while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years (Girls, Django in Chains) and commenting on the state of feminism today (abortion, Chris Brown). The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.
A Black Women’s History of the United States by Daina Ramey Berry and Kali Nicole Gross
A vibrant and empowering history that emphasizes the perspectives and stories of African American women to show how they are—and have always been—instrumental in shaping our country. In centering Black women’s stories, two award-winning historians seek both to empower African American women and to show their allies that Black women’s unique ability to make their own communities while combatting centuries of oppression is an essential component in our continued resistance to systemic racism and sexism. Daina Ramey Berry and Kali Nicole Gross offer an examination and celebration of Black womanhood, beginning with the first African women who arrived in what became the United States to African American women of today.
Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Brittney Cooper
So what if it’s true that Black women are mad as hell? They have the right to be. In the Black feminist tradition of Audre Lorde, Brittney Cooper reminds us that anger is a powerful source of energy that can give us the strength to keep on fighting. Far too often, Black women’s anger has been caricatured into an ugly and destructive force that threatens the civility and social fabric of American democracy. But Cooper shows us that there is more to the story than that. Black women’s eloquent rage is what makes Serena Williams such a powerful tennis player. It’s what makes Beyoncé’s girl power anthems resonate so hard. It’s what makes Michelle Obama an icon.
Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall
A collection of essays taking aim at the legitimacy of the modern feminist movement, arguing that it has chronically failed to address the needs of all but a few women.
How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones
How We Fight for Our Lives is a stunning coming-of-age memoir. Jones tells the story of a young, black, gay man from the South as he fights to carve out a place for himself, within his family, within his country, within his own hopes, desires, and fears. Through a series of vignettes that chart a course across the American landscape, Jones draws readers into his boyhood and adolescence–into tumultuous relationships with his family, into passing flings with lovers, friends, and strangers. Each piece builds into a larger examination of race and queerness, power and vulnerability, love and grief: a portrait of what we all do for one another–and to one another–as we fight to become ourselves.
In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose by Alice Walker
As a woman, writer, mother, and feminist, Walker explores the theories and practices of feminism, incorporating what she calls the “womanist” tradition of African-American women. Request for pickup/Find in the library: 818.5409 WAL
Killing Rage: Ending Racism by bell hooks
For the first time, acclaimed writer and feminist devotes a book to the complex personae of women writers, especially those whose work goes against the grain.
Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More by Janet Mock
In a landmark book, an extraordinary young woman recounts her coming-of-age as a transgender teen–a deeply personal and empowering portrait of self-revelation, adversity, and heroism. Redefining Realness offers a bold new perspective on being young, multiracial, economically challenged, and transgender in America.
The Stonewall Reader Edited by The New York Public Library
Drawing from the New York Public Library’s archives, The Stonewall Reader is a collection of firsthand accounts, diaries, periodic literature and articles from LGBTQ magazines and newspapers that documented both the years leading up to and the years following the Stonewall riots. Most importantly, this anthology shines a light on forgotten figures who were pivotal in the movement, such as Lee Brewster, head of the Queens Liberation Front and Ernestine Eckstine, one of the few out, African American, lesbian activists in the 1960s.
Blackballed: The Black Vote and US Democracy by Darryl Pinckney
In this combination of memoir, historical narrative, and contemporary political and social analysis, the author investigates the struggle for Black voting rights from Reconstruction through the civil rights movement, leading up to the election of Barack Obama as president. He concludes with an examination of the current state of electoral politics, the place of Blacks in the Democratic coalition, and the ongoing efforts by Republicans to suppress the Black vote, with particular attention to the Supreme Court’s recent decision to strike down part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and what it may mean for the political influence of Black voters in future elections.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Lagos, mid-nineties. In the framework of a military dictatorship and in a Nigeria that offers little or no future, Ifemelu and Obinze, two atypical teenagers, fall passionately in love. Obinze has always dreamed of living in the United States, but it is Ifemelu who gets the visa to live with her aunt in Brooklyn and study at the university. As Obinze battles the bureaucracy to meet Ifemelu, she finds herself in an America where nothing is as she imagined, starting with the importance of her skin color. All her experiences, misfortunes and adventures lead to a single question: will she end up becoming an “americanah”? Americanah, which picks up the mocking term with which Nigerians refer to those who return from the United States giving themselves airs, is a love story over three decades and three continents, the story of how an identity is created outside the dictates of society and its prejudices.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Pecola Breedlove, a young black girl, prays every day for beauty. Mocked by other children for the dark skin, curly hair, and brown eyes that set her apart, she yearns for normalcy, for the blond hair and blue eyes that she believes will allow her to finally fit in..Yet as her dream grows more fervent, her life slowly starts to disintegrate in the face of adversity and strife. A powerful examination of our obsession with beauty and conformity, Toni Morrison’s virtuosic first novel asks powerful questions about race, class, and gender with the subtlety and grace that have always characterized her writing.
The Bondwoman’s Narrative by Hannah Crafts
Written in the 1850s by a runaway slave, The Bondwoman’s Narrative is both an historically important literary event and a gripping autobiographical novel in its own right.When her master is betrothed to a woman who conceals a tragic secret, Hannah Crafts, a young slave on a wealthy North Carolina plantation, runs away in a bid for her freedom up North. Pursued by slave hunters, imprisoned by a mysterious and cruel captor, held by sympathetic strangers, and forced to serve a demanding new mistress, she finally makes her way to freedom in New Jersey. Her compelling story provides a fascinating view of American life in the mid-1800s and the literary conventions of the time. Quite possibly the only novel written by a runaway slave, The Bondwoman’s Narrative is a provocative literary landmark and a significant historical event that will captivate a diverse audience.
The Burgess Boys: A Novel by Elizabeth Strout
Catalyzed by a nephew’s thoughtless prank, a pair of brothers confront painful psychological issues surrounding the freak accident that killed their father when they were boys, a loss linked to a heartbreaking deception that shaped their personal and professional lives. The Burgess siblings each grew in different ways, according to who they were and who they thought they were. The country grew as well. A Somali community emerged in the whitest state of the Union, and people responded to this, as people have responded for years to immigrant populations everywhere. We know that some people carry a strong fear of the unfamiliar. Others are moved to immediately defend a vulnerable population. Most people, I think, fall somewhere in between, balancing their fears with a desire to be decent. And what this means, really, is that change takes time.
Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
Set in the 1950s Paris of American expatriates, liaisons, and violence, a young man finds himself caught between desire and conventional morality. With a sharp, probing imagination, James Baldwin’s now-classic narrative delves into the mystery of loving and creates a moving, highly controversial story of death and passion that reveals the unspoken complexities of the human heart.
God Help the Child by Toni Morrison
God Help the Child–the first novel by Toni Morrison to be set in our current moment–weaves a tale about the way the sufferings of childhood can shape, and misshape, the life of the adult. At the center: a young woman who calls herself Bride, whose stunning blue-black skin is only one element of her beauty, her boldness and confidence, her success in life, but which caused her light-skinned mother to deny her even the simplest forms of love. There is Booker, the man Bride loves, and loses to anger. Rain, the mysterious white child with whom she crosses paths. And finally, Bride’s mother herself, Sweetness, who takes a lifetime to come to understand that “what you do to children matters. And they might never forget.”
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
In the course of his wanderings from a Southern Negro college to New York’s Harlem, an American black man becomes involved in a series of adventures. Introduction explains circumstances under which the book was written. Ellison won the National Book Award for this searing record of a black man’s journey through contemporary America. Unquestionably, Ellison’s book is a work of extraordinary intensity–powerfully imagined and written with a savage, wryly humorous gusto.
Juneteenth by Ralph Ellison
Shot on the Senate floor by a young Black man, a dying racist senator summons an elderly Black Baptist minister from Oklahoma to his side for a remarkable dialogue that reveals the deeply buried secrets of their shared past and the tragedy that reunites them.
Lakewood by Megan Giddings
A stunning debut novel that delves fearlessly into the taboo subject of modern-day medical experimentation on African Americans.
Request for pickup/Find it in the library: COMING SOON
A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines
A Lesson Before Dying is a deep and compassionate novel about a young man who returns to 1940s Cajun country to visit a black youth on death row for a crime he didn’t commit. Together they come to understand the heroism of resisting.
Native Son by Richard Wright
Right from the start, Bigger Thomas had been headed for jail. It could have been for assault or petty larceny; by chance, it was for murder and rape. Native Son tells the story of this young black man caught in a downward spiral after he kills a young white woman in a brief moment of panic. Set in Chicago in the 1930s, Richard Wright’s powerful novel is an unsparing reflection on the poverty and feelings of hopelessness experienced by people in inner cities across the country and of what it means to be black in America.
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Colson Whitehead brilliantly dramatizes a strand of American history through the story of two boys sentenced to a hellish reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida. As the Civil Rights movement begins to reach the black enclave of Frenchtown in segregated Tallahassee, Elwood Curtis takes the words of Dr. Martin Luther King to heart: He is “as good as anyone.” Abandoned by his parents, but kept on the straight and narrow by his grandmother, Elwood is about to enroll in the local black college. But for a black boy in the Jim Crow South of the early 1960s, one innocent mistake is enough to destroy the future. Elwood is sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy. Stunned to find himself in such a vicious environment, Elwood tries to hold onto Dr. King’s ringing assertion “Throw us in jail and we will still love you.” His friend Turner thinks Elwood is worse than naive, that the world is crooked, and that the only way to survive is to scheme and avoid trouble. The tension between Elwood’s ideals and Turner’s skepticism leads to a decision whose repercussions will echo down the decades.
Real Life by Brandon Taylor
Almost everything about Wallace, an introverted African-American transplant from Alabama, is at odds with the lakeside Midwestern university town where he is working toward a biochem degree. For reasons of self-preservation, Wallace has enforced a wary distance even within his own circle of friends — some dating each other, some dating women, some feigning straightness. But a series of confrontations with colleagues, and an unexpected encounter with a young straight man, conspire to fracture his defenses, while revealing hidden currents of resentment and desire that threaten the equilibrium of their community.
The Revisioners by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton
In 1924, Josephine is the proud owner of a thriving farm. As a child, she channeled otherworldly power to free herself from slavery. Now her new neighbor, a white woman named Charlotte, seeks her company, and an uneasy friendship grows between them. But Charlotte has also sought solace in the Ku Klux Klan, a relationship that jeopardizes Josephine’s family. Nearly one hundred years later, Josephine’s descendant, Ava, is a single mother who has just lost her job. She moves in with her white grandmother, Martha, a wealthy but lonely woman who pays Ava to be her companion. But Martha’s behavior soon becomes erratic, then threatening, and Ava must escape before her story and Josephine’s converge.
Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi
Rooted in foundational loss and the hope that can live in anger, Riot Baby is both a global dystopian narrative and an intimate family story with quietly devastating things to say about love, fury, and the black American experience. Ella and Kev are brother and sister, both gifted with extraordinary power. Their childhoods are defined and destroyed by structural racism and brutality. Their futures might alter the world. When Kev is incarcerated for the crime of being a young black man in America, Ella–through visits both mundane and supernatural–tries to show him the way to a revolution that could burn it all down
The Sellout by Paul Beatty
Raised in the “agrarian ghetto” of Dickens–improbably smack in the middle of downtown L.A.–the narrator of The Sellout resigned himself to the fate of all other middle-class Californians: “to die in the same bedroom you’d grown up in, looking up at the crack in the stucco ceiling that had been there since ’68 quake.” Raised by a single father, a controversial sociologist at Riverside Community College, he spent his childhood as the subject in psychological studies, classic experiments revised to include a racially-charged twist. He also grew up believing this pioneering work might result in a memoir that would solve their financial woes. But when his father is killed in a shoot out with the police, he realizes there never was a memoir. Fueled by this injustice and the general disrepair of his down-trodden hometown, he sets out to right another wrong: Dickens has literally been removed from the map to save California further embarrassment. Enlisting the help of the town’s most famous resident–the last surviving Little Rascal, Hominy Jenkins, our narrator initiates a course of action–one that includes reinstating slavery and segregating the local high school–destined to bring national attention.
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Jojo and his toddler sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop, and the occasional presence of their drug-addicted mother, Leonie, on a farm on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Leonie is simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high; Mam is dying of cancer; and quiet, steady Pop tries to run the household and teach Jojo how to be a man. When the white father of Leonie’s children is released from prison, she packs her kids and a friend into her car and sets out across the state for Parchman farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary, on a journey rife with danger and promise.
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living, with her confidence-driven brand, showing other women how to do the same. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains’ toddler one night, walking the aisles of their local high-end supermarket. The store’s security guard, seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year-old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make things right. But Emira herself is aimless, broke, and wary of Alix’s desire to help. At twenty-five, she is about to lose her health insurance and has no idea what to do with her life. When the video of Emira unearths someone from Alix’s past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves, and each other.
Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse
Tale of a young man caught in the maelstrom of the civil rights movement and the entrenched homophobia of small-town America.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Fair and long-legged, independent and articulate, Janie Crawford sets out to be her own person — no mean feat for a black woman in the ’30s. Janie’s quest for identity takes her through three marriages and into a journey back to her roots.
Request for pickup/Find it in the library: FIC HURSTON
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted. Their first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels.
The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage–and lost his mother and all memory of her when he was a child–but he is also gifted with a mysterious power. Hiram almost drowns when he crashes a carriage into a river, but is saved from the depths by a force he doesn’t understand, a blue light that lifts him up and lands him a mile away. This strange brush with death forces a new urgency on Hiram’s private rebellion. Spurred on by his improvised plantation family, Thena, his chosen mother, a woman of few words and many secrets, and Sophia, a young woman fighting her own war even as she and Hiram fall in love, he becomes determined to escape the only home he’s ever known. So begins an unexpected journey into the covert war on slavery that takes Hiram from the corrupt grandeur of Virginia’s proud plantations to desperate guerrilla cells in the wilderness, from the coffin of the deep South to dangerously utopic movements in the North.
We Cast a Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin
“You can be beautiful, even more beautiful than before.” This is the seductive promise of Dr. Nzinga’s clinic, where anyone can get their lips thinned, their skin bleached, and their nose narrowed. A complete demelanization will liberate you from the confines of being born in a black body—if you can afford it. In this near-future Southern city plagued by fenced-in ghettos and police violence, more and more residents are turning to this experimental medical procedure. Like any father, our narrator just wants the best for his son, Nigel, a biracial boy whose black birthmark is getting bigger by the day. The darker Nigel becomes, the more frightened his father feels. But how far will he go to protect his son? And will he destroy his family in the process?
Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson
This is a dark and socially provocative southern-fried comedy about four liberal UC Berkeley students who stage a mock lynching during a Civil War reenactment.
White Tears by Hari Kunzru
Two twenty-something New Yorkers. Seth is awkward and shy. Carter is the glamorous heir to one of America’s great fortunes. They have one thing in common: an obsession with music. Seth is desperate to reach for the future. Carter is slipping back into the past. When Seth accidentally records an unknown singer in a park, Carter sends it out over the Internet, claiming it’s a long lost 1920s blues recording by a musician called Charlie Shaw. When an old collector contacts them to say that their fake record and their fake bluesman are actually real, the two young white men, accompanied by Carter’s troubled sister Leonie, spiral down into the heart of the nation’s darkness, encountering a suppressed history of greed, envy, revenge, and exploitation.
The 1619 Project, edited by Nikole Hannah-Jones for The New York Times
The 1619 Project is an ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine that began in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.
“75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice” by Corinne Shutack for Medium
This article is continually updated with action items people can do to help achieve racial justice.
“America Wasn’t a Democracy, Until Black Americans Made It One” by Nikole Hannah-Jones for The New York Times
“Our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written. Black Americans have fought to make them true.”
“ by Adam Serwer for The Atlantic
“The Coronavirus Was an Emergency Until Trump Found Out Who Was Dying. The pandemic has exposed the bitter terms of our racial contract, which deems certain lives of greater value than others.”
“The American Nightmare” by Ibram X. Kendi for The Atlantic
“To be black and conscious of anti-black racism is to stare into the mirror of your own extinction.”
“Black Authors Discuss Being Black in America” on Electric Lit
This article is a list of quotes from various black authors.
“Black Lives and the Police” by Darryl Pinckney for The New York Review of Books
A brief history of the policing of black people from the 17th Century through 2016.
“The History of Race and Racism in America, in 24 Chapters” by By Ibram X. Kendi for The New York Times
The author discusses “the most influential books on race and the black experience published in the United States for each decade of the nation’s existence — a history of race through ideas, arranged chronologically on the shelf”–through 2010.
“How Racism Invented Race in America” by Ta-Nehisi Coates for The Atlantic
This “narrative bibliography” from 2014 outlines the history and idea of reparations.
“How to Talk to Kids About Race: Books and Resources That Can Help”, by by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich for ReadBrightly
This article discusses how parents should discuss race with their children. It includes links and a list of books for adults, children, and teens.
“I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream: The Duty of the Black Writer During Times of American Unrest” by Tochi Onyebuchi for Tor
The author discussed his feelings about watching police violence on social media, as well as the role of black reporters in sharing the black experience.
“What it means to be anti-racist” by Anna North for Vox
This article explains the difference between anti-racist as opposed to “not racist.”
Films, Shows, and Documentaries
12 Years a Slave
Based on the true story of Solomon Northup. It is 1841, and Northup, an accomplished, free citizen of New York, is kidnapped and sold into slavery. Stripped of his identity and deprived of all dignity, Northup is ultimately purchased by ruthless plantation owner Edwin Epps and must find the strength within to survive. Filled with powerful performances by an astonishing cast including Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt, and newcomer Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave is both an unflinching account of slavery in American history and a celebration of the indomitable power of hope.
In this documentary, scholars, activists, and politicians analyze the criminalization of African-Americans and the US prison boom.
Available on Netflix and YouTube
Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise
In this two-part series, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. chronicles the last 50 years of black history through a personal lens. Released days after the 2016 election, some themes of the documentary took on a deeper meaning amid Donald Trump’s win. “Think of the civil rights movement to the present as a second Reconstruction — a 50-year Reconstruction — that ended last night,” Gates said in an interview with Salon.
Available on PBS.org
The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975
This film mobilizes a treasure trove of 16mm material shot by Swedish journalists who came to the US drawn by stories of urban unrest and revolution. Gaining access to many of the leader of the Black Power Movement Stokely Carmichael, Bobby Seale, Angela Davis and Eldridge Cleaver among them the filmmakers captured them in intimate moments and remarkably unguarded interviews.
Available on Internet Archive
Bernadine is a stoic prison warden, but two back-to-back executions put a strain on her marriage, career, and convictions.
Dear White People
Students of color navigate the daily slights and slippery politics of life at an Ivy League college that’s not nearly as “post-racial” as it thinks.”
Available on Netflix
Do the Right Thing
On the hottest day of the year on a street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, everyone’s hate and bigotry smolders and builds until it explodes into violence.
Coming soon to the library
A working-class African-American father tries to raise his family in the 1950s, while coming to terms with the events of his life.
Coming soon to the library
The true story of Oscar, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident who wakes up on the morning of December 31, 2008 and feels something in the air. Not sure what it is, he takes it as a sign to get a head start on his resolutions: Being a better son to his mother, being a better partner to his girlfriend, and being a better father to T, their beautiful four-year-old daughter. Then he’s gunned down by BART officers on New Year’s Day in 2009, sending shock waves throughout our nation.
A young African-American visits his white girlfriend’s parents for the weekend, where his simmering uneasiness about their reception of him eventually reaches a boiling point.
Coming soon to the library
The Hate U Give
Starr Carter navigates the perilous waters between her poor, black neighborhood and her prestigious, mainly white private school. This all changes when she finds herself in the middle of racial activism after her best friend is shot by police officers, and she’s forced to make a decision. Allow the media to skewer her friend to protect the status quo, or stand up and tell the truth in memory of Khalil?
If Beale Street Could Talk
A timeless love story set in early 1970s Harlem involving newly engaged nineteen-year- old Tish and her fiance Fonny who have a beautiful future ahead. But their plans are derailed when Fonny is arrested for a crime he did not commit. Now the pair and their families must fight for justice in the name of love and the promise of the American dream.
I Am Not Your Negro
Narrated by the words of James Baldwin with the voice of Samuel L. Jackson, I Am Not Your Negro connects the Civil Rights Movement to Black Lives Matter. Although Baldwin died nearly 30 years before the film’s release, his observations about racial conflict are as incisive today as they were when he made them.
Available on PBS.org through 6/21/2020
A powerful and thought-provoking true story follows young lawyer Bryan Stevenson and his history-making battle for justice. After graduating from Harvard, Bryan had his pick of lucrative jobs. Instead, he heads to Alabama to defend those wrongly condemned or who were not afforded proper representation, with the support of local advocate Eva Ansley. One of his first and most incendiary cases is that of Walter McMillian.
Streaming free on all digital platforms through the month of June
LA 92 is about the Los Angeles riots that occurred in response to the police beating of Rodney King. The film is entirely comprised of archival footage — no talking heads needed. It’s chilling to watch the unrest of nearly 30 years ago, as young people still take to the streets and shout, “No justice, no peace.”
Available on Netflix
The life of Malcolm X, the black activist who became a Muslim and was a leader in the Nation of Islam until his assassination.
Coming soon to the library
Available on Netflix
Queen Sugar shares the beauty and complexity in family, legacy, and justice through the warmth of a Black family. Over the course of the seasons, we become even more exposed to Black rural advocacy and the power in land ownership.
Airing on OWN
Pose is set in the world of 1987 and “looks at the juxtaposition of several segments of life and society in New York: the rise of the luxury universe, the downtown social and literary scene and the ball culture world.
Available of Netflix and FX
ReMastered: The Two Killings of Sam Cooke
While Sam Cooke rose to stardom as a soul singer, his outspoken views on civil rights drew attention that may have contributed to his death at age 33.
Available on Netflix
A chronicle of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965.
Coming soon to the library
Tensions run high between African American citizens and Caucasian cops in Jersey City when a teenage African American boy is critically injured by a cop.
Available on Netflix
The forces of family, grief, and racial injustice converge in this Oscar-nominated documentary exploring the murder of filmmaker Yance Ford’s brother.
Available on Netflix
Teach Us All
Over 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education, American schools are still segregated. Teach Us All explains why that is — school choice, residential segregation, biased admissions processes — and talks to advocates working for change. Interspersing interviews from two Little Rock Nine members, the documentary asks how far we’ve really come.
Available on Netflix
Time: The Kalief Browder Story
After his arrest at age 16, Kalief Browder fought the system and prevailed, despite unthinkable circumstances. He became an American hero.
Available on Netflix
When They See Us
Based on a true story, five teens from Harlem become trapped in a nightmare when they’re falsely accused if a brutal attack in Central Park.
Available on Netflix
The 2014 killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, Mo. was one of the deaths that sparked the Black Lives Matter movement. Frustrated by media coverage of unrest in Ferguson, co-directors Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis documented how locals felt about police in riot gear filling their neighborhoods with tear gas. As one resident says, “They don’t tell you the fact that the police showed up to a peaceful candlelight vigil…and boxed them in, and forced them onto a QuikTrip lot.”
“In August of 1619, a ship carrying more than 20 enslaved Africans arrived in the English colony of Virginia. America was not yet America, but this was the moment it began.” Hosted by recent Pulitzer Prize winner Nikole Hannah-Jones, the 1619 audio series chronicles how black people have been central to building American democracy, music, wealth and more.
This PBS NewsHour original podcast series that looks at the impact that overworked and underfunded public defenders have on the American criminal justice system. It tells the story of Ricky Kidd, who was sentenced to life without parole for a double homicide he says he didn’t commit and argues his court-appointed lawyer is the reason for that conviction.
This NPR podcast created by “a multi-racial, multi-generational team of journalists” that covers “overlapping themes of race, ethnicity and culture, how they play out in our lives and communities, and how all of this is shifting.”
This audio documentary about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Floodlines is told from the perspective of four New Orleanians still living with the consequences of governmental neglect. As COVID-19 disproportionately infects and kills Americans of color, the story feels especially relevant. “As a person of color, you always have it in the back of your mind that the government really doesn’t care about you,” said self-described Katrina overcomer Alice Craft-Kerney.
Hosted by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a leading critical race theorist who coined the term “intersectionality,” this podcast brings the academic term to life. Each episode brings together lively political organizers, journalists and writers. This recent episode on COVID-19 in prisons and other areas of confinement is a must-listen.
This podcast features movement voices, stories, and strategies for racial justice. Co-hosts Chevon and Hiba give their unique takes on race and pop culture, and uplift narratives of hope, struggle, and joy, as we continue to build the momentum needed to advance racial justice in our policies, institutions, and culture. Build on your racial justice lens and get inspired to drive action by learning from organizational leaders and community activists.
Organizer and activist DeRay Mckesson explores news, culture, social justice, and politics with fellow activists Brittany Packnett Cunningham and Sam Sinyangwe, and writer Dr. Clint Smith. They offer a unique take on the news, with a special focus on overlooked stories and topics that often impact people of color.
This PBS Digital Studios series that celebrates Black culture, context, and history.
Every week at Throughline, Rund Abdelfatah and Ramtin Arablouei “go back in time to understand the present.” To understand the history of systemic racism in America, listen to “American Police,” “Mass Incarceration” and “Milliken v. Bradley.”
Kimberle Crenshaw, The Urgency of Intersectionality
Following 2016, ‘intersectionality’ became quite the buzzword, yet gets used out of context often by both the Right and Left alike. Hear from the black woman who coined the term in the ’80s as to how we use intersectionality to defend Black women.
Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Garrison, The Trauma of Systemic Racism is Killing Black Women
Racism is traumatic. Oftentimes we are focused so much on legislative changes and urgent calls to action, that we neglect the emotional well-being of Black people everywhere facing PTSD from this cyclical violence. Dive more into self-care as radical preservation with this joint TED talk.
Rayna Gordon Don’t Be A Savior, Be An Ally
Sometimes with the best intentions we still fall short. Hear from Rayna about thoughtful allyship that seeks to uplift and support not take over or “save.”
Emma Harrison, From Reform to Abolition: The Future of the U.S. Prison System More than ever before, people are Googling abolition and exploring what a society without prisons looks like. Have questions about why we can’t reform these systems or what this looks like in reality? Listen up!
We can never lose sight of the people behind the statistics and in this powerful TED talk, you’ll be reminded of why we fight this fight.
Heather McGhee, Racism Has A Cost for Everyone
My liberation is bound in yours. This is not a feel good statement but a reality when it comes to how racism impacts policy, budgets, and prevents us from achieving a society that works for us all.
Verna Meyers, How To Overcome Our Biases? Walk Towards Them
#AllLivesMatter is the new color blind and both terms are proof that people fear being accused of biases more than they feel committed to addressing them. Let’s lose the shame and take bold steps deeper into your allyship.
Marlon Peterson, Am I Not Human?
Marlon Peterson is formerly incarcerated and one of the leading national experts on alternatives to incarceration. Learn about why we desperately need more empathy when it comes to addressing harm.
Bryan Stevenson, We Need To Talk About An Injustice
Bryan Stevenson is one of the leading racial justice advocates, working with people incarcerated on death row. If anyone can diagnose recent injustices and understand the steps forward it would be him.
Baratunde Thurston, How To Deconstruct Racism, One Headline At A Time
Racism isn’t funny, but in this TED talk you’ll learn about the pervasive nature of racism and laugh out loud way more times than you’ll be able to count.
Resource Lists & Websites
These websites contain lists of resources, many of which are listed here. There are also additional links and resources that you might find helpful or interesting.
The Anti-Racism Project offers participants ways to examine the crucial and persistent issue of racism. This list includes a list of organizations to explore and a link to the Harvard Implicit Bias Test.
Anti-racism Resources for White People, compiled by Sarah Sophie Flicker, Alyssa Klein for InsightLA
This list is a resource to white people and parents to deepen anti-racism work. In addition to books, films, podcasts, and articles, it lists people and organizations to follow on Twitter.
This site has resources for discussing and educating about race and racism geared toward different audiences.
White Allyship 101: Resources to Get to Work from Dismantle Collective
- https://parade.com/1046031/breabaker/anti-racist-tv-movies-documentaries-ted-talks-books/ *****links to ted talks