The best books about racial capitalism and the USA

The Books I Picked & Why

A World More Concrete: Real Estate and the Remaking of Jim Crow South Florida

By N. D. B. Connolly

A World More Concrete: Real Estate and the Remaking of Jim Crow South Florida

Why this book?

I love Miami, and I was immediately drawn to this stunning look at the relationship between the making of the cosmopolitan Miami we know today and the history of racial exclusion in the South. Before the high rises, the posh beach resorts, fine dining restaurants, and internationally renowned nightlife, South Florida epitomized all the forces of American history: conflict and negotiation with indigenous populations, reliance on immigrant populations, racially restrictive covenants, and powerbrokers of all colors looking to profit from real estate.


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Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership

By Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership

Why this book?

Race for Profit connects all the dots on the imbalances in housing in the United States today.  As someone who bought a first home right before the mortgage meltdown, I’ve always wondered about the experiences of Black homebuyers historically.  This is an expertly researched look at predatory inclusion, the nefarious ways that institutions—in this case the banks and real estate industry—extended opportunities for homeownership to poor, Black families to purchase homes in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  Rather than create high-quality public housing or enforcing the principles of fair housing laws, the federal government supported home buying schemes that ultimately imperiled buyers.  Taylor places emphasis on how discourses about Black women and housing planted the seeds for backlash against people who received public assistance and housing program users.


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Liberalism, Black Power, and the Making of American Politics, 1965-1980

By Devin Fergus

Liberalism, Black Power, and the Making of American Politics, 1965-1980

Why this book?

When I teach students about the Civil Rights Movement, many of them had previously learned that the freedom struggle ended after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968. I disabuse them of this notion by highlighting all the political work that was inspired—rather than stymied—by King’s passing. In this book, Fergus provides a provocative idea: What if the radicals of the late 1960s and 1970s were able to influence liberals and conservatives alike? By showing the ways that Black Power actually resonated with the leaders of pre-Reagan America, Fergus recovers the various approaches to capitalism, political participation, and compromise that can’t be easily categorized as Left or Right.


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The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap

By Mehrsa Baradaran

The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap

Why this book?

During the summer of 2020, you heard a lot of people talking about supporting Black businesses and a general valorization of Black businesspeople—past and present.  Yet, the realities of what Black businesses can and can’t do to bridge the racial gap were rarely explored.  This book’s examination of Black banks—once-storied institutions in the era of Jim Crow—calls into question whether reviving or even endowing these entities can actually promote racial and economic justice.


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Represented: The Black Imagemakers Who Reimagined African American Citizenship

By Brenna Wynn Greer

Represented: The Black Imagemakers Who Reimagined African American Citizenship

Why this book?

By looking at the role of influential Black marketing researchers and advertisers, Represented delves into the murky relationship between activist politics and the marketplace through the ads for cars and colas that featured African-Americans. By looking at the dissonance between segregated lunch counters and photographs representing happy, Black consumers, Greer links the ways that advertising fuels fantasies about individual and communal progress.


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