Though there are many facets to the centuries-long hold of white privilege and systemic racism, education has a huge role to play in both the longevity and dismantling of these issues. In the UK, we studied kings and queens while the parts about Britain’s appalling role in the slave trade and countless other acts in colonialism were conveniently skipped.
And while school curriculums have to change, in the age of information, we have the ability to self-educate when it comes to social justice and deep-rooted racism. There are no excuses.
To get started, we’ve put together an anti-racism reading list comprising books, poems, essays, and more. This list is by no means comprehensive, so if you have any recommendations or advice, please let us know in the comments section. You’ll find a list of black-owned book stores to buy from in the US here.
A reading list of essays, novels, poems, articles, and more for anti-racism self-education.
Wesley Lowery, They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, And A New Era In America’s Racial Justice Movement
With police killings and frontline violence tirelessly reported and researched, this book by Washington Post journalist Wesley Lowery charts such deaths and the rise of the Black Lives Matter justice movement.
Angela Davis, Freedom is a Constant Struggle
Scholar, activist, and writer Angela Davis was raised in Birmingham, Alabama, in a place known locally as “Dynamite Hill” due to the amount African American homes that were bombed by the KKK. Wrongfully jailed in the ’70s on charges that included conspiracy to murder, Davis is one of the world’s leading advocates of the oppressed and exploited. In this collection of essays, interviews, and speeches, she shines a spotlight on state-sanctioned brutality and oppression throughout history that remains ever-present.
Audre Lorde, Your Silence Will Not Protect You
Your Silence Will Not Protect You is a posthumous collection of essays, speeches, and poems that brings together works by American writer and activist Audre Lorde for the first time in a volume that is pertinent to the current discourse around white silence and resulting complicity. Lorde described herself as a “Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet” and used the power of language to drive social change and shine a light on injustices.
Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth
Psychiatrist Frantz Fanon examined the psychological effects of colonization in his 1961 book The Wretched of the Earth, looking at the rage of the colonized and how violence has been a route to change throughout history. A book that has had a major impact on civil rights and anticolonialism.
Richard Rothstein, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America
Housing policy expert Richard Rothstein takes down the idea that racial divides in cities is a result of income disparities or individual prejudices and instead shows how such segregation has stemmed from decisions by local and federal governments through revelatory and extensive research.
Amiri Baraka, Black Music
This book focuses on black musicians and their stories, personalities, backgrounds, ambitions, accomplishments, and disappointments. Author Amiri Baraka writes, “Most jazz critics have been white Americans, but most important jazz musicians have not been.”
Bakari Kitwana, The Hip Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African American Culture
Bakari Kitwana studies the post-segregation generation of America that birthed hip hop, as well as the unfair social and political battles they had, and still have, to fight.
Colin Dayan, The Law is a White Dog
Traversing injustice in medieval England, the North American colonies, and the Caribbean, Colin Dayan examines how governments have robbed individuals of their personhood and humanization via legal means and legislation throughout history, via the slave trade, torture, and modern incarceration.
James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time
One of America’s greatest spokespeople on racial and sexual injustice, James Baldwin’s words, whether they are heard through his essays, interviews, or novels, remain as powerful as ever today. The Fire Next Time is one of Baldwin’s non-fiction works, recalling his young years in Harlem and exploring the legacy of racism on both the individual and society.
James Baldwin, If Beale Street Could Talk
James Baldwin (The Fire Next Time, above) also wrote several non-fiction works, including the 1974 novel If Beale Street Could Talk. The book tells the story of a young couple — Tish and Fonny — who are separated after Fonny is wrongly imprisoned for the rape. Telling an all too familiar story of injustice through an emotional, human-level lens, Baldwin’s novel is another of his works with a message that sticks in the psyche.
Saidiya Hartman, Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route
American writer and academic Saidiya Hartman traces the history of the Atlantic slave trade, exploring the damning effects of slavery on African and American generations across multiple centuries. Mixing her personal accounts of visits to slave trade locations in Ghana with stories of brutal torture from the past, Lose Your Mother is a harrowing account of one of the world’s most appalling chapters of history.
Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
Published in 2010, this is Michelle Alexander’s account of the factory-like structure of the US prison system, under which black men are burdened with criminal convictions their entire lives and denied basic civil and human rights. Though Jim Crow laws have disappeared in their original form, the book explores how a caste system still exists in the United States.
Reni Eddo-Lodge, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race
This bestseller by British journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge started a conversation in the UK and around the world, but one that is still in dire need of further discussion. Exploring eradicated black history and the relationship between class and race in Britain today, this is essential reading for those that want to understand racism in Europe.
C.L.R. James, The Black Jacobins
To understand the present, it’s vital that we look at the past. This book by Trinidadian historian C.L.R. James is a definitive account of the Haitian Revolution of 1794 — 1803 and San Domingo’s struggle against English, French, and Spanish invaders — a revolution that became the model for liberation movements in third world countries.
Essays, Articles and Further Online Reading
Aria Dean, Poor Meme, Rich Meme
Angela Davis, Are Prisons Obsolete
Toni Morrison, No Place for Self-Pity, No Room for Fear
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