20 plus books about racism in America that every adult needs to read – a starting point to spark a conversation on race, racism, and diversity in America
James Baldwin said it best, “To be a Negro (black) in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” As a black woman married to a black man while raising two black children in America, it’s important to my husband and me to educate our girls on the effect of racism, and the need for equality. I’ve often shared various reading materials that I find valuable to us as a family, especially the ones my girls read and not just during black history month but on an ongoing basis. With the civil unrest happening in the United States, it has led many people to find a renewed interest in black history, specifically American black history. There is so much you didn’t learn in school about American history, and yes, to truly understand the upheaval, you must be aware of the past. It’s been a long time coming – from slavery to segregation till now – black oppression in America still lingers.
Reading books about racism, listening to podcast, and learning from thought leaders could be of value to you and your family as you navigate this new territory. Especially if you want to be an ally, and you want to raise your kids to be an ally as well. Your first cause of action is acknowledging and understanding how it all started. All these can be achieved through education, and being here today is your first step in doing that. You’re curious, open to learning, and willing to listen.
Books About Racism Everyone Needs To Read – An Anti-Racist Reading List
20+ Books About Racism Everyone Needs To Read
They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South – Probably one of my favorite books about racism, that is, if one can indeed have a favorite on such a sour topic. It sheds some light on the role white southern women played in slavery. How white women directly benefited from slavery and the impact on the American economy and the slave market.
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration – Highly regarded book, it won Pulitzer prize. It follows the migration of six-million migrants, precisely three Americans from the early 20s century to the 1970s, and shares their great migration experience, transition, and life. Different stories and people the migrant encounter on their journey and how it shapes American history. It’s a difficult read, so many hard stories, but it’s a part of history that needed to be shared.
This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America – Various essay about what it means to be a black girl in America – antiblackness, black history, and self-hatred. The journey from a black girl to a black woman.
Native Son – Based in Chicago in 1930, the story follows Bigger Thomas after he commits a crime, a challenging read, very detailed, and the underlying message is still relevant today. A movie by the same title is available here.
This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action and Do The Work – It’s an excellent book with journal prompt, so you can not only read and understand what it means to be a racist but do the work as you move along. It’s ideal for all age groups, from kids to adults.
Black Women in White America: A Documentary History – Collection of stories ranging from economic, social, and political equality according to black women in America.
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness – Collection of essays sharing various experiences as a black Christian woman in America. From racism at its core to race equality – basically what it feels like to be a black woman in white America.
Between the World and Me – A personal diary about race in America and it’s the treatment of its citizen. Race as a social construct and the role of white supremacy and police brutality.
Homegoing – an outstanding books about racism tells a parallel story of two sisters each on different continents dealing with race issues, discrimination, and religion and how it shapes them as individuals. From slavery in 1800 onto the 20th century, seven generations each with its unique story, and that’s quite interesting.
Getting Away with Murder: The True Story of the Emmett Till Case – Pulling the curtain on the 1955’s murder of a 14-year-old Mississippi boy named Emmett Till. The mishandling of the case, and the miscarriage of justice.
White Rage – It addresses different things white supremacy have done to systematically hinder the progress of black people on our path to greatness. From civil war to Jim crow laws to brown vs. board of education to the civil rights acts, war on drugs to mass incarceration, and the list goes on and on.
This Bridge Called My Back, Fourth Edition: Writings by Radical Women of Color – Collection of essays, poems that addresses oppression in America from women’s perspective.
Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? – Touches on the physiological construct of racial identity development, and how it shapes our thinking and behavior. It explains what passive racism is and how to identify it. Our perception of race and how new-age segregation might be based on society and personal social choices.
The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race – It’s a variety of essays from authors of color as they share their experience with race.
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism – This book addresses white people directly when it comes to racism, assumptions about race, it’s a great book in that it explains in details how white people should deal with the topic of race. Shares how to talk about race without making it awkward. It also addresses privileged and unearned benefits that white people inherit by design or through history. How white people are unknowingly contributing to racial inequality.
Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America – Award-winning book offers deep dive into racism in America, walks you through a comprehensive history of race issues in US history. It also touches on hypocrisy and unfair criticism of black Americans in a society that stems from inherent racism.
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness – Civil rights advocate and litigator Michelle Alexander gives examples of how black people in America are often dismissed and shunned when it comes to race; class, and justice. Mass incarceration and how civil rights gains play into that; she also shares how black people are treated when they come out of imprisonment and how the system is set up against black people.
How to Be an Anti-racist – I am not a racist. What does that even mean? This book reminds us of what the goal is overall, which is to be anti-racist. It’s a sort of guide on how racism has historically been a part of our everyday life and the roots of it being a social construct by white America to retain power. It sheds light on what racism looks like and how to spot it easily.
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race – It explores how race is perceived in our society, emphasis on the effect of racism, and how it’s a construct of social purpose and interaction of race and class.
Black Skin, White Masks – From the writer of The Wretched of the Earth, it’s a weird and challenging book to read, sometimes his ideas are hard to swallow, not sure I agree with his idealogy, but it’s an interesting read none the less.
If you’re looking for more books about racism, try our summer reading list for 7th and 8th grade – it has a few suggestions for teens.