An Essential Reading List On Anti-Racism

Now is the time to educate yourself about systemic racism and the injustices within society.

During this time of civil unrest and the fight against systemic racism, people of all ages, genders, and skin colors are searching for new ways to support the black community and the injustices they’ve endured within America and beyond. Following the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man who died after a Minneapolis police officer placed his knee on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, protests are being held across the nation and certain regions of the world to address the issues of police brutality and racial injustice. 

In addition to protesting and donating to organizations of the cause, educating yourself about the history of systemic racism is another important step towards supporting the movement. Check out V’s reading list to learn more about anti-racism and the context behind these protests, below: 

Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin

This non-fiction book is comprised of ten of James Baldwin’s essays, all of which were written during the 1940’s and early 1950’s. Before the rise of the Civil Rights Movement, Baldwin examines the complexities and injustices of being black in America — most of which he derives from his own experiences while growing up in Harlem — along with questioning the identity of America. From the “protest novel” to racial depictions in film, he explores racial dilemmas that constantly circulate within a country filled with “bankrupt morality.” 

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

Based on her own blog post from 2014 entitled the same name, Eddo-Lodge expands on the notion of white delusion and the racial bias implicated within the UK, including the lynch mobs following World War I. Tired of explaining systemic racism and the experiences of people of color to the white population, she simply states that she’s had enough. Eddo-Lodge wrote in her blog post: “This emotional disconnect is the conclusion of living a life oblivious to the fact that their skin colour is norm and all others deviate from it.”

Passing by Nella Larsen

Nella Larsen delves into the multiple layers of racial identity through the concept of “passing” — a phenomenon that involves concealing one’s heritage in order to “pass” as white. Although the story is fiction, Passing unveils the pressures of social obligations within a racially-bias society, the advantages of white privilege, and the imprisonment of one’s true identity and their past.

Freedom Is a Constant Struggle by Angela Davis

Activist and scholar Angela Davis highlights the ongoing oppression and violence towards people of color in Freedom Is a Constant Struggle. From the South African anti-Apartheid movement to the Ferguson protests, Davis reflects on these moments throughout history through the analysis of intersectionality, human liberation, black feminism, and more. 

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison’s first novel addresses the issue of “racialized” beauty and how darker skin tones are often affiliated with “ugliness.” From the perspective of a young African-American woman named Pecola, Morrison explores the struggles implemented by the inferiority complex, as well as the desire to increase self-esteem within black people. 

“I, Too” by Langston Hughes

“I, too, sing America.” Langston Hughes’ poem, “I, Too,” is short but illuminates a powerful message within its stanzas about the oppression of black people and the need to acknowledge their place within America’s identity. In addition to “I, Too,” read other works by Langston Hughes, including The Weary Blues and “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain.” 

Check out these additional recommendations from V, below: 

  • Beloved by Toni Morrison
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley
  • The Blacker the Berry by Wallace Thurman 
  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
  • Nobody Knows My Name: More Notes From a Native Son by James Baldwin
  • Your Silence Will Not Protect You by Audre Lorde 
  • I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown
  • The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes by Langston Hughes 
  • Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  • Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon
  • Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America by James Forman
  • The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
  • How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement by Wesley Lowery
  • How We Fight White Supremacy: A Field Guide to Black Resistance by Akiba Solomon and Kenrya Rankin
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