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- 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.
- An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz © 2014, pub. by Beacon Press. An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States describes and analyzes a four-hundred-year span of complex Indigenous struggles against the colonization of the Americas. The book highlights resultant conflicts, wars, and Indigenous strategies and sites of resistance.
- 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.
- Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America, by Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith © 2001, pub. by Oxford University Press (224 pp). Through a nationwide telephone survey of 2,000 people and an additional 200 face-to-face interviews, Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith probed the grassroots of white evangelical America. They found that despite recent efforts by the movement’s leaders to address the problem of racial discrimination, evangelicals themselves seem to be preserving America’s racial chasm. In fact, most white evangelicals see no systematic discrimination against blacks. But the authors contend that it is not active racism that prevents evangelicals from recognizing ongoing problems in American society. Instead, it is the evangelical movement’s emphasis on individualism, free will, and personal relationships that makes invisible the pervasive injustice that perpetuates racial inequality. Most racial problems, the subjects told the authors, can be solved by the repentance and conversion of the sinful individuals at fault.
Combining a substantial body of evidence with sophisticated analysis and interpretation, the authors throw sharp light on the oldest American dilemma. In the end, they conclude that despite the best intentions of evangelical leaders and some positive trends, real racial reconciliation remains far over the horizon.
- Grandmother’s Hands, by Resmaa Menakem © 2017, pub. by Central Recovery Press (300 pp). The title comes from the author’s memory and later recognition of the racialized trauma embodied and embedded in his grandmother’s hands. The book addresses the issue of white supremacy in America and the trauma it inflicts on African Americans (“the Black body”), Americans of European descent (“the white body”); and “police bodies,” which stands for the bodies of law enforcement professionals regardless of their color.Resmaa Menakem who is “a healer, and a therapist, not a philosopher or literary stylist” maintains that while we will continue to battle racism through reason, principles and ideas this is insufficient to address the real seats of the problem where it lies embedded in our “soul brain” and “lizard nerves.” He believes that trauma is passed through families by abuse; through unsafe structures, institutions, and cultural norms; and through our genes as is being revealed through recent work on epigenetics.
- In the Matter of Color, by A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr. © 1978, pub. by Oxford University Press. “Chronicles in unrelenting detail the role of the law in the enslavement and subjugation of black Americans during the colonial period. No attempt to summarize the colonial experience could convey the rich and comprehensive detail which is the major strength of Judge Higginbotham’s work.”–Harvard Law Review
- Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson © 2014, pub. by Spiegel & Grau (368 pp.). #1 New York Times Bestseller. 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. Bryan Stevenson is the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, and a professor of law at New York University Law School. He has won relief for dozens of condemned prisoners, argued five times before the Supreme Court, and won national acclaim for his work challenging bias against the poor and people of color. He has received numerous awards, including the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant. HBO has just released (June 2019) a documentary based on Stevenson’s work in the prison system: True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality. A Warner Bros. film based on the book and starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx is scheduled for release in January of 2020.
- 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.
- Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor, by Layla Saad, © 2020, pub. by Source Books. Updated and expanded from the original workbook (downloaded by nearly 100,000 people), this critical text helps you take the work deeper by adding more historical and cultural contexts, sharing moving stories and anecdotes, and including expanded definitions, examples, and further resources, giving you the language to understand racism, and to dismantle your own biases, whether you are using the book on your own, with a book club, or looking to start family activism in your own home.
- 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 The Wall Street Journal detailing the use of black forced labor by 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 New York Times Best Seller. In 2009, it was awarded the 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)
- So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo, © 2018, pub. by Seal Press, (242 pp). Editor at Large of The Establishment, Oluo explores the complex reality of today’s racial landscape – from white privilege and police brutality to systemic discrimination and the Black Lives Matter movement–offering straightforward clarity that readers need to contribute to the dismantling of the racial divide.
- Stamped from the Beginning, by Ibram X. Kendi, © 2016, pub. by Nation Books, (582 pp). The National Book Award winning history of how racist ideas were created, spread, and deeply rooted in American society. In this deeply researched and fast-moving narrative, Kendi chronicles the entire story of anti-black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. He uses the life stories of five major American intellectuals to drive this history: Puritan minister Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. Du Bois, and legendary activist Angela Davis. As Kendi shows, racist ideas did not arise from ignorance or hatred. They were created to justify and rationalize deeply entrenched discriminatory policies and the nation’s racial inequities.
- The 1619 Project, by Nikole Hannah-Jones, ©2021 The New York Times, Pub. by One World (Random House). The 1619 Project is a long-form journalism endeavor developed by Nikole Hannah-Jones, writers from The New York Times, and The New York Times Magazine focused on subjects of slavery and the founding of the United States. Historians, journalists, and commentators have described the 1619 Project as a revisionist historiographical work that takes a critical view of traditionally reverenced events and people in American history, including the Patriots in the American Revolution, the Founding Fathers, along with later figures such as Abraham Lincoln and the Union during the Civil War.
- The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism, by Jemar Tisby, ©2019, Pub. by Zondervan. The Color of Compromise is both enlightening and compelling, telling a history we either ignore or just don’t know. Equal parts painful and inspirational, it details how the American church has helped create and maintain racist ideas and practices. You will be guided in thinking through concrete solutions for improved race relations and a racially inclusive church.
- The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, by Richard Rothstein. The book explores Rothstein’s contention that racial housing segregation is in fact the result of government policy, both federal, state, and local. Rothstein’s argument is in contrast to the prevailing view, held by Supreme Court in the 1973 decision Miliken vs. Bradley and a subsequent 2007 decision: that housing segregation is primarily the result of private racism and decisions. A review in The New York Times said that there was “no better history” of housing segregation, while Rachel Cohen of Slate called The Color of Law “essential.”
- 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.
- The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together, by Heather McGhee, © 2021, pub. by One World (Random House). Heather McGhee’s specialty is the American economy—and the mystery of why it so often fails the American public. From the financial crisis of 2008 to rising student debt to collapsing public infrastructure, she found a root problem: racism in our politics and policymaking. But not just in the most obvious indignities for people of color. Racism has costs for white people, too. It is the common denominator of our most vexing public problems, the core dysfunction of our democracy and constitutive of the spiritual and moral crises that grip us all.
- The Underground Railroad, is the sixth novel by American author Colson Whitehead © 2016, (320 pp). This powerful alternate history novel tells the story of Cora and Caesar, two slaves in the southeastern United States during the 19th century, who make a bid for freedom from their Georgia plantations by following the Underground Railroad, which the novel depicts as primarily a rail transport system in addition to a series of safe houses and secret routes. It won the 2017Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the 2016 National Book Award for Fiction, the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the 2017 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence. It was longlisted for The 2017 Man Booker Prize.
- The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson, © 2010, (622 pp.). This sweeping work tells the story of the Great Migration and the Second Great Migration, the movement of African Americans out of the Southern United States to the Midwest, Northeast and West from approximately 1915 to 1970. The book intertwines a general history and statistical analysis of the entire period. It includes the biographies of three persons: a sharecropper’s wife who left Mississippi in the 1930s for Chicago, named Ida Mae Brandon Gladney; an agricultural worker, George Swanson Starling, who left Florida for New York City in the 1940s; and Robert Joseph Pershing Foster, a doctor who left Louisiana in the early 1950s, moving to Los Angeles. It received the National Book Critics Circle Award among other accolades.
- 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.
- White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, by Robin DiAngelo © 2018, pub. by Beacon Press, (192 pp). Antiracist educator Robin DiAngelo deftly illuminates the phenomenon of white fragility and “allows us to understand racism as a practice not restricted to ‘bad people’ (Claudia Rankine). Referring to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and by behaviors including argumentation and silence. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium and prevent any meaningful cross-racial dialogue. In this in-depth exploration, DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what we can do to engage more constructively.
- Sojourners – Analysis and commentary from leading and emerging voices on faith, culture, and the common good.
- Letter from Birmingham Jail – an open letter written on April 16, 1963, by Martin Luther King Jr. The letter defends the strategy of 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.
- 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.
- Just Mercy is an upcoming American biographical drama film directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, based on the memoir by Bryan Stevenson and stars Michael B. Jordan as Stevenson. Attorney Bryan Stevenson takes the case of Walter McMillian, a man imprisoned for murder, despite having evidence to prove otherwise (Warner Bros. Jan. 2020 – biographical drama).
- 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.
- True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality– An intimate portrait of this remarkable man, this documentary follows his struggle to create greater fairness in the system and shows how racial injustice emerged, evolved and continues to threaten the country, challenging viewers to confront it. (HBO 2019) 1hr 40min.
- When They See Us – American drama web television four-part miniseries created, co-written, and directed by Ava DuVernay for Netflix. The series is based on events of the 1989 Central Park jogger case and explores the lives of the families of and the five male suspects who were prosecuted in 1990 on charges related to the rape and assault of a woman in Central Park, New York City, the year before. (2019).
Seminal Figures – TBF
- Forum Class Slides