How to Be an Antiracist
by Ibram X. Kendi
Described by The New York Times as “a 21st-century manual of racial ethics,” Kendi explains why it’s not enough to simply be “not racist” and how people should – and can – shift to actively combating racist ideas.
The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America
by Richard Rothstein
Housing discrimination in the 20th century was not merely a result of individual prejudice or income disparity, Rothstein writes; today’s housing inequality is the direct result of explicitly racist policies and zoning laws.
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
by Michelle Alexander
“We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it,” Alexander writes in this examination of the injustice of the U.S. prison system and its disproportionate effect on Black people.
White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide
by Carol Anderson
This 2016 title analyzes the ways in which white anger and resentment has stood in the way of social progress, particularly in landmark historical events such as Brown v. Board of Education of 1954 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Between the World and Me
by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Written in the form of a letter to Coates’ teenage son, this memoir explores what it means to be Black in America, narrating Coates’ experiences with racial identity as a young boy in Baltimore, a student at Howard University and later as a new father.
Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow
by Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Gates chronicles the years following the Civil War, exploring how Reconstruction affected the trajectory of racial inequality and helping contextualize racial injustice in the present day.
Some works that caused personal seismic shifts in the way we think about race
12 Years a Slave
directed by Steve McQueen, screenplay by John Ridley
This movie based on Solomon Northup’s memoir takes an unflinching look at the pain, trauma and humiliation a free Black man endures after being kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841. Seeing Northup first in his comfortable middle-class home with his wife and children, then being treated as property on a plantation, is excruciating and impossible to forget. – CAROLE NICKSIN
“Notes of a Native Son”
by James Baldwin
This might be the best essay I’ve ever read. Baldwin writes with so much beauty and nuance and empathy about his father, his mortality and his country’s relationship with racism. I’ve never been able to make it to the end without bursting into tears at least once. – LINDSEY ANDERSON
“The Case for Reparations”
by Ta-Nehisi Coates
This 2014 piece in The Atlantic highlights the links (more direct than you might think) between the financial atrocities of slavery and the disadvantages Black Americans endure today. It felt like the un-whitewashing of my history education. – CHRIS DROSNER