Skip to content
A Mercy, a novel by Toni Morrison © 2008, pub. by Knopf (176 pp), reveals what lies beneath the surface of slavery in early America. It is both the story of mothers and daughters and the story of a primitive America. It made the New York Times Book Review list of “10 Best Books of 2008” as chosen by the paper’s editors. (Recommended by Theresa Sayles)
A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn © 2003, pub. by HarperCollins. 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. Features insightful analysis of the most important events in our history.
America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America, by Jim Wallis © 2016, pub. by Brazos Press, (230 pp). An exposé on racism in America, it’s history and how white privilege is perpetuated by whites and white Christians. Wallis is a white evangelical minister, professor (Georgetown Univ., Harvard Univ.) and founder of Sojourners magazine.
Deep Denial, by David Billings © 2016, pub. by Crandle, Dostie & Douglass Books, Inc. (250 pp). David Billings has been an anti-racist trainer and organizer with The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond since 1983 – possibly the most highly respected anti-racism training training program in the country. This book explores the evolution of white supremacy and the de-evolution of the Civil Rights movement to the needs-based nonprofit industry that remains with us now.
Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson © 2014, pub. by Spiegel & Grau. A moving account set in the 1980s and early 1990s, it follows Stevenson’s legal career as an advocate for Alabama prisoners who have been condemned to death, especially prisoners who have been wrongly condemned and unjustly treated by the legal system.
Learning to Be White: Money, Race and God in America by Thandeka © 1999, reprinted by Bloomsbury Academic 2013 (184 pp). Explores the politics of the white experience in America. Tracing the links between religion, class, and race, she reveals the child abuse, ethnic conflicts, class exploitation, poor self-esteem, and a general feeling of self-contempt that are the wages of whiteness. Thandeka, a Unitarian Universalist minister and theologian, teaches at Meadville/Lombard Theological School in Chicago. She is an Emmy Award-winning producer, journaist and talk show host. (Recommended by Theresa Sayles)
March, by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell, © 2013, pub. by Top Shelf Productions (3 graphic novels 100-150 pp. each). An entertaining and novel method of portraying the lifelong struggle of Congressman John Lewis for Civil and Human Rights.
Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, by Joy DeGruy, Ph.D. © 2005, pub. by Joy DeGruy Publictions Inc., (210 pp). What are the impacts of the ordeals associated with chattel slavery – and with the institutions that followed – on African Americans today? DeGruy is a lecturer and consultant on matters of race, culture and education and teaches at Portland State University.
Slavery by Another Name, by Douglas A. Blackmon © 2008, pub. by Anchor Books, (468 pp.).Blackmon argues that slavery in the United States did not end with the Civil War, but instead persisted well into the 20th century. It depicts the subjugation of Convict Leasing, Sharecropping and Peonage and tells the fate of the former but not of the latter two. Slavery by Another Name began as an article which Blackmon wrote for detailing the use of black forced labor by The Wall Street Journal U.S. Steel Corporation. Seeing the popular response to the article, he began conducting research for a more comprehensive exploration of the topic. The resulting book became a . In 2009, it was awarded the New York Times Best Seller Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction. In 2012, it was adapted as a documentary film for PBS, also titled Slavery by Another Name. (Recommended by Jeff Bineham)
The Heart of Whiteness, by Robert Jensen © 2005, pub. by City Lights Books, (100 pp). A searing indictment of contemporary white supremacy and denial. Jensen is an associate professor of journalism at the Univ. of Texas (Austin).
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot © 2010,2011, pub. by Broadway Paperbacks, (360 pp). Historical account of the virtually unknown black woman scientists recognize as HeLa – whose genes became one of the most important tools in the history of medicine.
The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander © 2012, pub. by The New Press. (260 pp.). Considered by many to be the new Bible on racism in America. With extensive documentation and examples, Alexander exposes the results of the war on drugs and the meaning of Colorblindness.
Waking Up White, by Debby Irving © 2014, pub. by Elephant Room Press, (288 pp.). Author Debby Irving’s recollections of her own experiences of being an American white woman and coming to terms with the complexity of race in the United States. Online
Analysis and commentary from leading and emerging voices on faith, culture, and the common good. Sojourners –
– an open letter written on April 16, 1963, by Martin Luther King Jr. The letter defends the strategy of Letter from Birmingham Jail nonviolent resistance to racism. It says that people have a moral responsibility to break unjust laws and to take direct action rather than waiting potentially forever for justice to come through the courts. Films/Documentaries
12 Years a Slave – an adaptation of the 1853 slave narrative memoir Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup, a New York State-born free African-American man who was kidnapped in Washington, D.C., in 1841 and sold into slavery. (2013), 2hr 14min.
13th – an in-depth look at the prison system in the United States and how it reveals the nation’s history of racial inequality. (2016), 1h 40min.
Get Out – A young African-American man visits his Caucasian girlfriend’s mysterious family estate. (2017 – entertainment/horror), 1h 44min.
Malcolm X – a 1992 American epic biographical drama film about the Afro-American activist Malcolm X. Directed and co-written by Spike Lee, the film stars Denzel Washington in the title role.
Reconstruction: The Second Civil War – This installment of the acclaimed PBS television series “American Experience” looks at one of the least understood periods in American history, Reconstruction, which spanned the tumultuous years from 1863 to 1877. The documentary tracks the extraordinary stories of ordinary Americans — Southerners, Northerners, white and black — as they struggle to shape new lives in a United States turned upside down. (2004), 3hr.
Selma – based on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches led by James Bevel, Hosea Williams, Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Lewis. (2014), 2hr 8min.
The Birth of a Nation (originally called The Clansman) – a highly controversial (racist!) film produced in 1915 and used as a recruiting tool for the KKK. The highly commercially successful film chronicles the relationship of two families in the American Civil War and Reconstruction era over the course of several years. Under President Woodrow Wilson, it was the first American motion picture to be screened at the White House. 2hr 13min – 3hr 13min.
The Birth of a Nation – period drama film based on the story of Nat Turner, the enslaved man who led a slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia, in 1831. (2016) 2hr. Seminal Figures –
Forum Class Slides