The best books about racial capitalism and the USA

Why am I passionate about this?

Anytime we imagine ourselves to be smarter or more clever than Madison Avenue or sponsored content on your social media feeds or a well-designed advertisement a nostalgia unlocking tweet will prove you wrong. We are all vulnerable to their manipulations, and it is from this belief that I explore the histories, the conflicts, and the techniques that strengthen capitalism’s hold on our imaginations. And yet, despite the lures of the marketplace, I believe that people can come together and outmaneuver corporations and their enablers. Whether it’s a fast-food restaurant that crashed and burned in the 1980s or the most popular toy of 1973 or failed TV spinoffs, I see these cultural contributions as rich texts to understand race, gender, and American identities.


I wrote...

Book cover of Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America

What is my book about?

My book explains the strange alignment of the civil rights movement after 1968 and the rise of the fast-food industry in Black communities. Franchise discusses the ways that McDonald’s adopted the rhetoric of and capitalized on the uncertainties surrounding the direction of racial justice after Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination to fuel the move of fast food from the suburbs to the inner-city. By looking at the social, political, and economic implications of fast food’s engagement with racial reckoning, I let out a cautionary tale about pivoting to the marketplace to respond to the cries for racial justice.

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The books I picked & why

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

Marcia Chatelain Why did I love 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.

By N.D.B. Connolly,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A World More Concrete as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Many people characterize urban renewal projects and the power of eminent domain as two of the most widely despised and often racist tools for reshaping American cities in the postwar period. In A World More Concrete, N. D. B. Connolly uses the history of South Florida to unearth an older and far more complex story. Connolly captures nearly eighty years of political and land transactions to reveal how real estate and redevelopment created and preserved metropolitan growth and racial peace under white supremacy. Using a materialist approach, he offers a long view of capitalism and the color line, following much…


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

Marcia Chatelain Why did I love 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.

By Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Race for Profit as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

LONGLISTED FOR THE 2019 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD

By the late 1960s and early 1970s, reeling from a wave of urban uprisings, politicians finally worked to end the practice of redlining. Reasoning that the turbulence could be calmed by turning Black city-dwellers into homeowners, they passed the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968, and set about establishing policies to induce mortgage lenders and the real estate industry to treat Black homebuyers equally. The disaster that ensued revealed that racist exclusion had not been eradicated, but rather transmuted into a new phenomenon of predatory inclusion.

Race for Profit uncovers how exploitative…


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

Marcia Chatelain Why did I love 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.

By Devin Fergus,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Liberalism, Black Power, and the Making of American Politics, 1965-1980 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book presents a provocative reinterpretation of recent political history. In this pioneering exploration of the interplay between liberalism and black nationalism, Devin Fergus returns to the tumultuous era of Johnson, Nixon, Carter, and Helms and challenges us to see familiar political developments through a new lens. What if the liberal coalition, instead of being torn apart by the demands of Black Power, actually engaged in a productive relationship with radical upstarts, absorbing black separatists into the political mainstream and keeping them from a more violent path? What if the New Right arose not only in response to Great Society…


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

Marcia Chatelain Why did I love 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.

By Mehrsa Baradaran,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Color of Money as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Read this book. It explains so much about the moment...Beautiful, heartbreaking work."
-Ta-Nehisi Coates

"A deep accounting of how America got to a point where a median white family has 13 times more wealth than the median black family."
-The Atlantic

"Extraordinary...Baradaran focuses on a part of the American story that's often ignored: the way African Americans were locked out of the financial engines that create wealth in America."
-Ezra Klein

When the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863, the black community owned less than 1 percent of the total wealth in America. More than 150 years later, that number…


Book cover of Represented: The Black Imagemakers Who Reimagined African American Citizenship

Marcia Chatelain Why did I love 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.

By Brenna Wynn Greer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Represented as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1948, Moss Kendrix, a former New Deal public relations officer, founded a highly successful, Washington, D.C.-based public relations firm, the flagship client of which was the Coca-Cola Company. As the first black pitchman for Coca-Cola, Kendrix found his way into the rarefied world of white corporate America. His personal phone book also included the names of countless black celebrities, such as bandleader Duke Ellington, singer-actress Pearl Bailey, and boxer Joe Louis, with whom he had built relationships in the course of developing marketing campaigns for his numerous federal and corporate clients. Kendrix, along with Ebony publisher John H. Johnson…


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Coma and Near-Death Experience: The Beautiful, Disturbing, and Dangerous World of the Unconscious

By Alan Pearce, Beverley Pearce,

Book cover of Coma and Near-Death Experience: The Beautiful, Disturbing, and Dangerous World of the Unconscious

Alan Pearce Author Of Coma and Near-Death Experience: The Beautiful, Disturbing, and Dangerous World of the Unconscious

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

As a journalist, I'm driven to find stories that have not been covered before and to make clear the incomprehensible. I like people, and I like asking questions. I've covered wars and disasters, and on any given day, I could expect to see people at their very worst and at their very best. With my book about comas, I've met some of the finest people of my career, doctors, nurses, and other clinicians who are fighting the system, and coma survivors who are simply fighting to get through each and every day. This is the story I am now driven to tell.

Alan's book list on consciousness that demonstrates there is more to life than we know

What is my book about?

What happens when a person is placed into a medically-induced coma?

The brain might be flatlining, but the mind is far from inactive: experiencing alternate lives rich in every detail that spans decades, visiting realms of stunning and majestic beauty, or plummeting to the very depths of Hell while defying all medical and scientific understanding.

Everything you think you know about coma is wrong. Doctors call it 'sleeping' when in reality, many are trapped on a hamster wheel of brain-damaging, nightmarish events that scar those that survive for life. Others are left to question whether they touched levels of existence previously confined to fantasy or whether they teetered on the brink of this life and the next. Coma is not what you think.

Coma and Near-Death Experience: The Beautiful, Disturbing, and Dangerous World of the Unconscious

By Alan Pearce, Beverley Pearce,

What is this book about?

Explores the extraordinary states of expanded consciousness that arise during comas, both positive and negative

Every day around the world, thousands of people are placed in medically-induced comas. For some coma survivors, the experience is an utter blank. Others lay paralyzed, aware of everything around them but unable to move, speak, or even blink. Many experience alternate lives spanning decades, lives they grieve once awakened. Some encounter ultra-vivid nightmares, while others undergo a deep, spiritual oneness with the Universe or say they have glimpsed the Afterlife.

Examining the beautiful and disturbing experiences of those who have survived comas, Alan and…


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