The best books on racism in the USA

Who am I?

I don’t know when I became aware of and bothered by racial inequality but looking back, I see touchstones that lighted my path even before Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech stiffened my spine in middle school. I participated in sit-ins at lunch counters and sat in the back of buses. Even though I was a white kid in a predominately white school, it became personal to me. The injustice and unfairness of prejudice and discrimination was the antithesis of what I believed was the promise of America. In recent years, the quiet background noise of racial inequity has amplified to an ugly level. I recommend these books as a start to understanding and rectifying the current unacceptable situation.

I wrote...

Written in Blood

By Diane Fanning,

Book cover of Written in Blood

What is my book about?

An army brat-turned-marine, he saw combat in Vietnam, and returned a decorated soldier. An avid reader, his dreams of being an acclaimed novelist came true. His desire to find love was fulfilled when he married brilliant executive Kathleen Atwater, the first female student accepted at Duke University's School of Engineering. The Petersons seemed the ideal academic couple- well-respected, prosperous, and happy.

All that came crashing down in December of 2001, when Kathleen apparently fell to her death in their secluded home in an exclusive area of Durham, North Carolina. But blood-spattered evidence and a missing fireplace poker suggested calculated, cold-blooded murder. Her trusted husband stood accused. 

The books I picked & why

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The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration

By Isabel Wilkerson,

Book cover of The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration

Why this book?

This book about the great migration explodes the myth that African-Americans were greeted with open arms. It expanded my knowledge and understanding of institutional racism and deepened my empathy for the plight of people of color. Wilkerson used the stories of real people and their struggle to overcome discrimination to weave the complex tale that is the fabric of America. Well-written and a delightful read.


By Isabel Wilkerson,

Book cover of Caste

Why this book?

This book helped me understand the underlying problem of racism by comparing this country's barriers to the caste system in India. Although there were vast differences, there are many similarities between the two countries. Chief among them, the establishment's desire to keep those considered "less than" "in their place." Wilkerson provided a gut-check level of clarity to the definition of “white privilege.” An important and deeply moving read.

A Shot in the Moonlight: How a Freed Slave and a Confederate Soldier Fought for Justice in the Jim Crow South

By Ben Montgomery,

Book cover of A Shot in the Moonlight: How a Freed Slave and a Confederate Soldier Fought for Justice in the Jim Crow South

Why this book?

A riveting true story about a freed slave and a confederate soldier who fought for justice in the Jim Crow South. The freed slave became the first man to beat a lynch mob in court. His small blow to racism made him a hero but one few know. I cried at his setbacks and cheered for every small victory along the way. Once I started reading, I could not put it down.

His Truth Is Marching on: John Lewis and the Power of Hope

By John Meacham,

Book cover of His Truth Is Marching on: John Lewis and the Power of Hope

Why this book?

An intimate and historically accurate portrait of an extraordinary civil rights icon. Meachem carefully recreates the struggles for equality in the life of John Lewis. The passing of Lewis to the close proximity of our loss of Elijah Cummings left a deep hole in my heart that was soothed by this masterful portrayal of a real American hero. An uplifting book that shines a bright light of hope for future improvement.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

By Kim Michele Richardson,

Book cover of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

Why this book?

Although fiction, this book skillfully portrays both the depression-era WPA Pack Librarians and the plight of the Blue Fugates of Kentucky. Not black but not white, these blue people found prejudice and discrimination everywhere.  And medical science was only beginning to understand the origins of their genetic abnormality. A fascinating look at a forgotten people and their struggles to belong in a cruel and judgmental society.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Kentucky, miscarriages of justices, and the Great Migration?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Kentucky, miscarriages of justices, and the Great Migration.

Kentucky Explore 35 books about Kentucky
Miscarriages Of Justices Explore 8 books about miscarriages of justices
The Great Migration Explore 4 books about the Great Migration

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like 1984, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments, and The Power Broker if you like this list.