The best books about social justice (that you may not ever have heard about)

Marc Dollinger Author Of Black Power, Jewish Politics: Reinventing the Alliance in the 1960s
By Marc Dollinger

Who am I?

I’ve devoted my academic career and personal life to the limits and possibilities of white liberal approaches to civil rights reform. Trained in U.S. history and published in American Jewish history, I look closely at how ethnic groups and religious minorities interact with their racial and gender status to create a sometimes-surprising perspective on both history and our current day. At times powerful and at other times powerless, Jews (and other white ethnics) navigate a complex course in civil rights advocacy.


I wrote...

Black Power, Jewish Politics: Reinventing the Alliance in the 1960s

By Marc Dollinger,

Book cover of Black Power, Jewish Politics: Reinventing the Alliance in the 1960s

What is my book about?

While many American Jews reflect on the civil rights movement as a time of unparalleled solidarity and blame the break-up of the alliance between white Jews and Blacks on the rise of Black militancy, this book offers a new, deeper, and more complex understanding of race relations in that era. During the 1950s, white male Jewish leaders actually supported the Nation of Islam, an antisemitic organization. In the mid-1960s, many Jews lauded the rise of Black Power, celebrating its successes. By the 1970s, Jewish organizations copied Black Power strategies to strengthen American Jewish identity.

The books I picked & why

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Justice Delayed: The Record of the Japanese American Internment Cases

By Peter Irons,

Book cover of Justice Delayed: The Record of the Japanese American Internment Cases

Why this book?

Peter Irons, at attorney, investigated the incarceration of US citizens of Japanese descent during World War II. He became so upset that he devoted his own legal career to securing a rare Supreme Court reversal of its infamous Korematsu decision. This book tells that story.


Flight and Rebellion: Slave Resistance in Eighteenth-Century Virginia

By Gerald W. Mullin,

Book cover of Flight and Rebellion: Slave Resistance in Eighteenth-Century Virginia

Why this book?

A classic, this book was one of the first to challenge prevailing white attitudes about the assimilation and acculturation of Africans and African Americans to life under slavery. Mullin describes how greater levels of assimilation translated into more effective means of protest.


Civilities and Civil Rights: Greensboro, North Carolina, and the Black Struggle for Freedom

By William Henry Chafe,

Book cover of Civilities and Civil Rights: Greensboro, North Carolina, and the Black Struggle for Freedom

Why this book?

By investigating what white liberal Greensboro meant with the word “civility” against what black activists meant by “civil rights,” Chafe dives deep into the limits of white liberalism, undermining the claim that civil rights could be achieved by following a slow, southern, and civil, approach.


The Ethnic Myth: Race, Ethnicity, and Class in America

By Stephen Steinberg,

Book cover of The Ethnic Myth: Race, Ethnicity, and Class in America

Why this book?

While many celebrated the ethnic revival of the 1960s and the social justice causes that grew from them, Steinberg offers a powerful and challenging thesis that argues the limits of ethnicity. A sense of ethnic re-birth, he argues, can only occur once ethnicity is gone. Rather than empowering a new generation of social justice youth, ethnicity proves a myth.


The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics

By George Lipsitz,

Book cover of The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics

Why this book?

Another classic, Lipsitz’s book turns so many white-centered social justice assumptions on their heads. In chapters that explore incidents well known in American popular culture, and a 20th-anniversary edition that brings his subject to the current day, Lipsitz offers a much-needed correction to well-meaning social justice advocates.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in social justice, Japanese Americans, and North Carolina?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about social justice, Japanese Americans, and North Carolina.

Social Justice Explore 40 books about social justice
Japanese Americans Explore 29 books about Japanese Americans
North Carolina Explore 61 books about North Carolina

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Black Software, Black Rights/White Wrongs, and Undrowned if you like this list.