The best books on race relations

Who picked these books? Meet our 252 experts.

252 authors created a book list connected to race relations, and here are their favorite race relations books.
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Black Like Me

By John Howard Griffin,

Book cover of Black Like Me

Clara Silverstein Author Of White Girl: A Story of School Desegregation

From the list on memoirs from the front lines of standing up to racism.

Who am I?

As a white child bused to African American schools in Richmond, Virginia in the 1970s, I unwittingly stepped into a Civil Rights experiment that would shatter social norms and put me on a path to learning history not taught in textbooks. At first, I never expected to look back at this fraught time. Then I had children. The more I tried to tell them about my past, the more I wanted to understand the context. Why did we fall so short of America’s founding ideals? I have been reading and writing about American history ever since, completing a master’s degree and publishing books, essays, and poems.

Clara's book list on memoirs from the front lines of standing up to racism

Discover why each book is one of Clara's favorite books.

Why did Clara love this book?

Griffin’s account of his journey through the Deep South as a white man disguised to look Black, originally published in 1960, has stood the test of time because it reveals Griffin’s keen insight into a society riddled with racism. Griffin’s humanity shines through in his descriptions of his encounters with people of all races. He encounters ignorance, cruelty, and threats, but also kindness. His perspective from both sides of the color line reveals the desperate need for the change that would soon come during the Civil Rights movement.

By John Howard Griffin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

New edition with a foreword by Bernardine Evaristo

'A brutal record of segregated America ... essential reading' Guardian

'An anti-racist classic' Bernardine Evaristo

In the autumn of 1959, a white Texan journalist named John Howard Griffin travelled across the Deep South of the United States disguised as a working-class black man. Black Like Me is Griffin's own account of his journey.
Published in book form two years later it sold over five million copies, revealed to a white audience the daily experience of racism and became one of the best-known accounts of racial injustice in Jim Crow-era America. Embraced by…

Book cover of Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in Nineteenth-Century America

Lee Ann Timreck Author Of Pieces of Freedom: The Emancipation Sculptures of Edmonia Lewis and Meta Warrick Fuller

From the list on the activism of African American women.

Who am I?

I'm fascinated with material culture – studying the things we make and use – and what they tell us about our history. My particular passion is for nineteenth-century Black material culture, often the only tangible history of enslaved and newly-emancipated Black lives. The books on my list educated me of the historical realities for African Americans, from emancipation to Jim Crow – providing critical context for deciphering the stories embedded in historical artifacts. Overall, the gendered (and harrowing) history these books provide on the contributions of African-American women to civil rights and social justice should be required reading for everyone. 

Lee's book list on the activism of African American women

Discover why each book is one of Lee's favorite books.

Why did Lee love this book?

I consider Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves one of the best books on how Confederate monuments came to dominate nineteenth-century public spaces – most notably in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia - and what they tell us about post-Civil War history.

It is a compelling narrative of how white Southern society purposefully chiseled racism and white superiority into their post-war commemorative landscape, and used these memorials to both re-define the public’s memory of the Civil War and to cement the white-black hierarchy established during slavery. 

Savage’s analysis of the Confederate monuments looks at all the political, historical, cultural, and artistic factors that enabled the creation of Richmond’s racialized landscape. This approach helped me understand the importance of context when examining nineteenth-century public art through a twenty-first-century lens. 

By Kirk Savage,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A history of U.S. Civil War monuments that shows how they distort history and perpetuate white supremacy

The United States began as a slave society, holding millions of Africans and their descendants in bondage, and remained so until a civil war took the lives of a half million soldiers, some once slaves themselves. Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves explores how the history of slavery and its violent end was told in public spaces-specifically in the sculptural monuments that came to dominate streets, parks, and town squares in nineteenth-century America. Looking at monuments built and unbuilt, Kirk Savage shows how the greatest…

A Voice From the South

By Anna J. Cooper,

Book cover of A Voice From the South

Helga Varden Author Of Sex, Love, and Gender: A Kantian Theory

From the list on sex, love, and gender.

Who am I?

I am a professor in philosophy, political science, and gender and women’s studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (USA), where I live with my wife. I have a PhD in philosophy from the University of Toronto (Canada), an MA in philosophy from the University of Tromsø (Norway), a MSc in Industrial Relations and Personnel Management from the London School of Economics and Political Science (UK), and a BA(Hons) in Business Management from the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne (UK). One of the most important lessons from my first two degrees was that I love theory (about theories) and, so, those two degrees enabled me to find my way to philosophy, which I have been in love with since. 

Helga's book list on sex, love, and gender

Discover why each book is one of Helga's favorite books.

Why did Helga love this book?

I only recently discovered the work of Anna J. Cooper, but I find myself reading and thinking about and with her a lot. She’s not an obvious philosophical love for me in that she never writes about LGBTQIA life and does write about men and women from a relatively conservative, Christian, cis, and straight point of view. However, Cooper gives voice to and insight into the struggles of Black women, and her work helps me, as someone who is both racialized as white and an immigrant to the US, perceive and feel important dimensions of the reality in which I now live.

Thus, in her writings about the things she knows about, I find a friend and a colleague as I’m trying to think about intersectional issues that go beyond the life I know first-personally.

By Anna J. Cooper,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Voice From the South as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first book by Anna J. Cooper, A Voice From the South, presents strong ideals supporting racial and gender equality as well as economic progress. It's a forward-thinking narrative that highlights many disparities hindering the African American community.

Anna J. Cooper was an accomplished educator who used her influence to encourage and elevate African Americans. With A Voice From the South, she delivers a poignant analysis of the country's affairs as they relate to Black people, specifically Black women. She stresses the importance of education, which she sees as a great equalizer. Cooper considers it a necessary investment in not…

Book cover of Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism

Beverly Moran Author Of Race and Wealth Disparities: A Multidisciplinary Discourse

From the list on understanding critical race theory.

Who am I?

Every author writing about race and tax in the United States uses my article with William Whitford, “A Black Critique of the Internal Revenue Code.” Using census data, Bill and I showed that blacks and whites who earn the same income, live in the same geographic areas, have the same education and marital status, pay different amounts of federal income tax because of the race and wealth disparities outlined in Race and Wealth Disparities: A Multidisciplinary Discourse edited by Beverly Moran. 

Beverly's book list on understanding critical race theory

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Why did Beverly love this book?

Faces at the Bottom of the Well is the book that created Critical Race Theory. It lays out the central problem of Critical Race Theory: how does racism consistently defeat law? For example, in 1954 Brown v. the Board of Education held that segregated schools are unlawful. Yet, sixty-nine years later, US schools, housing, and employment all remain segregated. This is the book that inspired every other critical race theory scholar.

By Derrick Bell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Faces at the Bottom of the Well as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The noted civil rights activist uses allegory and historical example to present a radical vision of the persistence of racism in America. These essays shed light on some of the most perplexing and vexing issues of our day: affirmative action, the disparity between civil rights law and reality, the racist outbursts of some black leaders, the temptation toward violent retaliation, and much more.

The Black Image in the White Mind

By Robert M. Entman, Andrew Rojecki,

Book cover of The Black Image in the White Mind: Media and Race in America

Frederick W. Gooding Jr. Author Of Black Oscars: From Mammy to Minny, What the Academy Awards Tell Us about African Americans

From the list on the impact of movies outside the theater.

Who am I?

I am a professor of pop culture, so I know personally that talking about race can be so incredibly awkward at times – but it does not always have to be! Often, many restrict themselves from fully participating in these necessary dialogues only because of a profound fear of “saying the wrong thing.” As individuals responsible for preparing a new generation of thinkers prepared to innovate improved solutions for the society we share, inevitably, the topic of race must not only be broached, but broached productively. I write to provide tools to help make such difficult conversations less difficult.

Frederick's book list on the impact of movies outside the theater

Discover why each book is one of Frederick's favorite books.

Why did Frederick love this book?

This book is excellent in providing quantitative data to demonstrate how well-meaning people often make negative racial associations based upon media content – this book really helps readers question to what degree we are influenced by or are impervious to media images.

While they do not focus on movies exclusively, they do thoroughly explain subtle racial patterns within mainstream media. 

By Robert M. Entman, Andrew Rojecki,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Black Image in the White Mind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Living in a segregated society, white Americans learn about African Americans not through personal relationships but through the images the media show them. "The Black Image in the White Mind" offers the most comprehensive look at the intricate racial patterns in the mass media and how they shape the ambivalent attitudes of Whites towards Blacks. Using the media, and especially television, as barometers of race relations, Robert M. Entman and Andrew Rojecki explore but then go beyond the treatment of African Americans on network and local news to incisively uncover the messages sent about race by the entertainment industry -…

All Bound Up Together

By Martha S. Jones,

Book cover of All Bound Up Together: The Woman Question in African American Public Culture, 1830-1900

Nancy A. Hewitt Author Of Radical Friend: Amy Kirby Post and Her Activist Worlds

From the list on racial politics and women’s activism in the US.

Who am I?

In Rochester, New York, where I was raised, Susan Anthony and Frederick Douglass are local heroes. But in the late 1960s, I was drawn more to grassroots movements than charismatic leaders. Despite dropping out of college—twice—I completed a B.A. in 1974 and then pursued a PhD in History. My 1981 dissertation and first book focused on three networks of mainly white female activists in nineteenth-century Rochester. Of the dozens of women I studied, Amy Post most clearly epitomized the power of interracial, mixed-sex, and cross-class movements for social justice. After years of inserting Post in articles, textbooks, and websites, I finally published Radical Friend in hopes of inspiring scholars and activists to follow her lead. 

Nancy's book list on racial politics and women’s activism in the US

Discover why each book is one of Nancy's favorite books.

Why did Nancy love this book?

By 2007, I had been studying movements for women’s rights and racial justice for 4 decades. This book inspired me to rethink the chronology and trajectory of both. All Bound Up Together highlights the ways, beginning in 1830, that Black women’s rights efforts were central to the Black freedom struggle and early American feminism. It recasts both stories by putting Black women’s concerns, ideas, and organizing at the center.    

By Martha S. Jones,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked All Bound Up Together as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The place of women's rights in African American public culture has been an enduring question, one that has long engaged activists, commentators, and scholars. ""All Bound Up Together"" explores the roles black women played in their communities' social movements and the consequences of elevating women into positions of visibility and leadership. Martha Jones reveals how, through the nineteenth century, the ""woman question"" was at the core of movements against slavery and for civil rights. Unlike white women activists, who often created their own institutions separate from men, black women, Jones explains, often organized within already existing institutions - churches, political…

Heaven, My Home

By Attica Locke,

Book cover of Heaven, My Home

Scott Montgomery Author Of Austin Noir

From the list on crime with a whole lot of Texas.

Who am I?

I have spent over twenty years over (fifteen in Texas) recommending crime fiction as a bookseller in a couple of prominent stores. Texas and its writers have always fascinated me. Now that I get to call myself one, I am connected more to the genre literature of my adopted state and have an insider's view as both writer and resident.

Scott's book list on crime with a whole lot of Texas

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Why did Scott love this book?

The first in Locke’s Highway 59 series, featuring African American Texas ranger Darren Matthews involving two bodies one black, one white that wash up in a small East Texas town.

The story combines procedural, western, and Southern gothic to give an entertaining, human, yet unflinching look at race both past and present. This book enlightened me on how much African Americans contribute to what we call Texas culture.

By Attica Locke,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Waterstones' Thriller of the Month June 2020
Shortlisted for the Orwell Prize 2020
A Sunday Times Book of the Year
'Political crime fiction of the highest order' Sunday Times

Nine-year-old Levi King knew he should have left for home sooner; instead he found himself all alone, adrift on the vastness of Caddo Lake. A sudden noise - and all goes dark.
Ranger Darren Mathews is trying to emerge from another kind of darkness; his career and reputation lie in the hands of his mother, who's never exactly had his best interests at heart. Now she holds the key to his…

Strom Thurmond's America

By Joseph Crespino,

Book cover of Strom Thurmond's America

Matthew Dallek Author Of Birchers: How the John Birch Society Radicalized the American Right

From the list on the far-right and its influence in US politics.

Who am I?

I am a historian and a professor of political management at George Washington University, and I became interested in the John Birch Society when I encountered the group while writing my first book, on Ronald Reagan's 1966 California governor's campaign. I'm also fascinated by debates about political extremism in modern America including such questions as: how does the culture define extremism in a given moment? How does the meaning of extremism shift over time? And how do extremists sometimes become mainstream within the context of American politics? These were some of the puzzles that motivated me to write Birchers

Matthew's book list on the far-right and its influence in US politics

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Why did Matthew love this book?

Crespino’s biography of the one-time Dixiecrat-turned-Republican-Senator reveals Thurmond’s place in American politics—giving us a window into the post-civil-rights GOP.

The legacy of slavery and Jim Crow continued to influence political life after the 1960s, and this book shows how a former arch-segregationist who ran for president in 1948 as a Dixiecrat made a home in the modern Republican Party. Crespino is a great historian, weaving deft storytelling with original research and bracing insights into a seamless whole.

By Joseph Crespino,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Strom Thurmond's America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Do not forget that ‘skill and integrity' are the keys to success." This was the last piece of advice on a list Will Thurmond gave his son Strom in 1923. The younger Thurmond would keep the words in mind throughout his long and colorful career as one of the South's last race-baiting demagogues and as a national power broker who, along with Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, was a major figure in modern conservative politics.

But as the historian Joseph Crespino demonstrates in Strom Thurmond's America, the late South Carolina senator followed only part of his father's counsel. Political skill…

Freedom Summer

By Deborah Wiles, Jerome Lagarrigue (illustrator),

Book cover of Freedom Summer

Cathy Goldberg Fishman Author Of When Jackie and Hank Met

From the list on diversity and social justice for children.

Who am I?

I am a teacher, a mom, a bubbe, and a writer. I taught elementary school and college courses, directed a daycare, and owned a children’s bookstore, but my favorite job is scribbling words on paper. I have two grown children and four wonderful granddaughters who love to listen as I read to them. Many of my ideas come from my experiences with my granddaughters and from their questions. Our family and friends are a mix of religions and cultures, and most of my books reflect the importance of diversity, acceptance, and knowledge.

Cathy's book list on diversity and social justice for children

Discover why each book is one of Cathy's favorite books.

Why did Cathy love this book?

I am recommending this book because it is a great story of friendship. It also captures the atmosphere in the South after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed.

Joe and John Henry are best friends and do everything together. When the two boys, one black and one white, want to swim in the town pool, they discover that even though a law was passed to allow everyone to swim together in the same pool, there are people in the town who don’t want to follow the law. They want blacks and whites to stay separate.

I love the way Joe stands up for John Henry. At the end, we see a more positive future as Joe and John Henry walk into the General Store together. This book is a great conversation starter. 

By Deborah Wiles, Jerome Lagarrigue (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Two boys—one black, one white—are best friends in the segregated 1960s South in this picture book about friends sticking together through thick and thin.

John Henry swims better than anyone I know.
He crawls like a catfish,
blows bubbles like a swamp monster,
but he doesn’t swim in the town pool with me.
He’s not allowed.

Joe and John Henry are a lot alike. They both like shooting marbles, they both want to be firemen, and they both love to swim. But there’s one important way they're different: Joe is white and John Henry is black, and in the South…

The Invisible Line

By Daniel J. Sharfstein,

Book cover of The Invisible Line: A Secret History of Race in America

Lisa Alther Author Of Washed in the Blood

From the list on Melungeons and their history.

Who am I?

I first heard about Melungeons when a babysitter told me they would “git” me if I didn’t behave.  She said they lived in caves outside our East Tennessee town and had six fingers on each hand.  I consigned these creatures to myth and nightmares, until a cousin informed me that some of our shared ancestors were Melungeons and showed me scars from the removal of his extra thumbs.  For the next ten years I visited sites related to Melungeons and interviewed many who claimed Melungeon ancestry, running DNA tests on some. This research yielded my memoir Kinfolks: Falling Off The Family Tree and my historical novel Washed In The Blood.

Lisa's book list on Melungeons and their history

Discover why each book is one of Lisa's favorite books.

Why did Lisa love this book?

This book features a trio of true-life stories from the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries about families whose ancestors were enslaved but who, by a variety of stratagems, managed to cross the color line and become “white” in the eyes of others – and eventually in the eyes of their own descendants. These stories illustrated for me the actual permeability of racial categories, hinging largely on one’s physical appearance and possessions.  In other words, the lighter your skin and the larger your bank account, the greater the possibility that others will allow you to be whoever you say you are.

By Daniel J. Sharfstein,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"An astonishingly detailed rendering of the variety and complexity of racial experience in an evolving national culture."
-The New York Times Book Review

In the Obama era, as Americans confront the enduring significance of race and heritage, this multigenerational account of family secrets promises to spark debate across the country. Daniel J. Sharfstein's sweeping history moves from eighteenth-century South Carolina to twentieth-century Washington, D.C., unraveling the stories of three families who represent the complexity of race in America. Identifying first as people of color and later as whites, the families provide a lens through which to examine how people thought…

Brown Girl Like Me

By Jaspreet Kaur,

Book cover of Brown Girl Like Me: The Essential Guidebook and Manifesto for South Asian Girls and Women

Ravinder Randhawa Author Of The Coral Strand

From the list on by writers of colour.

Who am I?

I’ve always loved books and reading, so it’s no surprise I’m an author and blogger. However, feeling strongly about justice and truth, I’ve also been active in the feminist and anti-racist movements. Additionally, I founded The Asian Women Writers Workshop (later known as the Asian Women Writers Collective), whose work has been archived by South Asian Diaspora Arts Archive (SADAA). I’ve been a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at several British universities and am a member of PEN International. As a writer of colour (South-Asian heritage), I'm intrigued by the work of diverse writers, their interpretation and focus.  

Ravinder's book list on by writers of colour

Discover why each book is one of Ravinder's favorite books.

Why did Ravinder love this book?

Infused with passion and empathy, this book has much to offer. Tackling topics that are taboo or misunderstood; from mental health to menstruation, love and relationships, to micro-aggressions. The writer talks honestly about her own experiences and signposts solutions that have helped her, including other women’s insights, research, and information. Lively, positive, and life-affirming, this book will speak to many.

By Jaspreet Kaur,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Brown Girl Like Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

You might feel that this fight is too big for you. How on earth can you dismantle so many complex, long-standing systems of oppression? My answer: piece by piece.

Brown Girl Like Me is an inspiring memoir and empowering manifesto that equips women with the confidence and tools they need to navigate the difficulties that come with an intersectional identity. Jaspreet Kaur unpacks key issues such as the media, the workplace, the home, education, mental health, culture, confidence and the body, to help South Asian women understand and tackle the issues that affect them, and help them be in the…

Rebels on the Border

By Aaron Astor,

Book cover of Rebels on the Border: Civil War, Emancipation, and the Reconstruction of Kentucky and Missouri

Brad Asher Author Of The Most Hated Man in Kentucky: The Lost Cause and the Legacy of Union General Stephen Burbridge

From the list on the Civil War and the Lost Cause in Kentucky.

Who am I?

I am a historian based in Louisville, Kentucky. When I moved here two decades ago, I could tell the vibe was different than other places I had been. Southern—but not like Tennessee. Midwestern—but not like Illinois. So I started reading, and eventually writing, about the state’s history. I have a Ph.D. in United States history so I lean toward academic books. I like authors who dig into the primary sources of history and then come out and make an argument about the evidence that they uncovered. I also lean toward social and cultural history—rather than military history—of the Civil War.

Brad's book list on the Civil War and the Lost Cause in Kentucky

Discover why each book is one of Brad's favorite books.

Why did Brad love this book?

This book reminded me of the deep parallels in the histories of Missouri and Kentucky. I don’t tend to associate Kentucky with Missouri, but Astor’s book really drives home why that is wrongheaded. Both were border states and, during the war, both suffered guerrilla insurgencies, had divided populations, and ended up supporting the pro-Confederate Lost Cause vision of the war. And when so much writing on Kentucky’s history is focused on its white inhabitants, Astor restores agency to its African American residents, showing how they resisted slavery and then, after emancipation, created their own institutions to contest for racial equality in the face of fierce opposition.

By Aaron Astor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rebels on the Border as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Rebels on the Border offers a remarkably compelling and significant study of the Civil War South's highly contested and bloodiest border states: Kentucky and Missouri. By far the most complex examination to date, the book sharply focuses on the ""borderland"" between the free North and the Confederate South. As a result, Rebels on the Border deepens and enhances understanding of the sectional conflict, the Civil War, and Reconstruction.

After slaves in central Kentucky and Missouri gained their emancipation, author Aaron Astor contends, they transformed informal kin and social networks of resistance against slavery into more formalized processes of electoral participation…

Things Fall Apart

By Chinua Achebe,

Book cover of Things Fall Apart

Christopher Krentz Author Of Elusive Kinship: Disability and Human Rights in Postcolonial Literature

From the list on disability human rights in the Global South.

Who am I?

I teach and write about literature and disability at the University of Virginia. I’m also late deafened and have worked in the field of disability studies for over twenty years. In 2002, a scholar pointed out that literature from the former British colonies includes a lot of disabled characters. In 2006, the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. I began to wonder if the two are related. In Elusive Kinship, I wound up arguing that they are. Not much work has been done on this. I tried to emphasize that I’m just advancing a critical conversation, not giving the final word at all.

Christopher's book list on disability human rights in the Global South

Discover why each book is one of Christopher's favorite books.

Why did Christopher love this book?

I love reading and teaching this classic of postcolonial literature. Written in spare, accessible style on the eve of Nigerian independence from Britain, Achebe tells the story of British colonization of an Igbo clan in Southeast Nigeria near the end of the 19th century. Even as the novel portrays the appalling damages of European colonialism, it subtly critiques the traditional Igbo exclusion of disabled people. It demonstrates one of the paradoxes of human rights: victims of human rights abuses can also be perpetrators of them. The British missionaries first gain a foothold by welcoming those stigmatized people marginalized by the Umoufians, indicating how Achebe promotes compassion of all people.

By Chinua Achebe,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Things Fall Apart as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of International Man Booker Prize 2007.

Black against Empire

By Joshua Bloom, Waldo E. Martin Jr.,

Book cover of Black against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party

James Sulzer Author Of The Voice at the Door

From the list on poets and politics.

Who am I?

As a teenager, I “discovered” the poetry of Emily Dickinson and put her verse to music. Later, at Yale University I delved deeper into the power of rhythms, the beauty of images, the clarity of insights—how they combine to create a genuine poetic voice that reveals an interior world. Politics, of course, define our interactions in the exterior world, and great novels meld these two elements—poetry and politics—into a seamless union. I’ve been inspired to write novels about two poets—Emily Dickinson and John Keats—to bring the reader into the intense, poetic world of their blazing interiors and their unique outward politics.

James' book list on poets and politics

Discover why each book is one of James' favorite books.

Why did James love this book?

This is a complete history of the Black Panther party in the US—its origins, its leaders, its political struggles, its accomplishments and controversies, and its ultimate dissolution. The unique poetry of the Panthers’ public pronouncements—by Bobby Seale, Huey Newton, Eldridge Cleaver, and others—comes vividly to life, as people of color confront a world of limited horizons and thwarted desires. In my new novel, I meld these voices with the beat poetry of Allen Ginsberg (who was a central figure in the 1970s New Haven gathering).

By Joshua Bloom, Waldo E. Martin Jr.,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In Oakland, California, in 1966, community college students Bobby Seale and Huey Newton armed themselves, began patrolling the police, and promised to prevent police brutality. Unlike the Civil Rights Movement that called for full citizenship rights for blacks within the U.S., the Black Panther Party rejected the legitimacy of the U.S. government and positioned itself as part of a global struggle against American imperialism. In the face of intense repression, the Party flourished, becoming the center of a revolutionary movement with offices in 68 U.S. cities and powerful allies around the world. Black against Empire is the first comprehensive overview…

Killers of the Dream

By Lillian Smith,

Book cover of Killers of the Dream

Kristina DuRocher Author Of Raising Racists: The Socialization of White Children in the Jim Crow South

From the list on understanding racial violence in the South after the Civil War.

Who am I?

I remember when I saw the photograph of the lynching of Rubin Stacy, his corpse surrounded by white girls in their Sunday best dresses. For me the immediate question was, why would white parents take their children on an outing to this? What purpose is this memorial photograph serving? I have spent over twenty years exploring the answers, learning how cultures persist by teaching their dominant beliefs to the next generation, and considering the perpetuation of white supremacy from generation to generation.

Kristina's book list on understanding racial violence in the South after the Civil War

Discover why each book is one of Kristina's favorite books.

Why did Kristina love this book?

This autobiography of white Civil Rights activist Lillian Smith unpacks the society that shaped her as she struggled against her childhood lessons about how to interact with Whites and Blacks in the South. Smith deftly immerses you into her world with anecdotes, leading the reader through the interactions that shaped her and other white children across the South, including her experiences with racial violence and racism. Despite being written more than half a century ago, connections remain to our world. My recommendation is to read the 1994 version with an updated introduction placing the work into context.

By Lillian Smith,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Published to wide controversy, it became the source (acknowledged or unacknowledged) of much of our thinking about race relations and was for many a catalyst for the civil rights movement. It remains the most courageous, insightful, and eloquent critique of the pre-1960s South.

"I began to see racism and its rituals of segregation as a symptom of a grave illness," Smith wrote. "When people think more of their skin color than of their souls, something has happened to them." Today, readers are rediscovering in Smith's writings a forceful analysis of the dynamics of racism, as well as her prophetic understanding…

Our Rightful Share

By Aline Helg,

Book cover of Our Rightful Share: The Afro-Cuban Struggle for Equality, 1886-1912

Ilan Ehrlich Author Of Eduardo Chibás: The Incorrigible Man of Cuban Politics

From the list on biographies peeking into the lives of Cuban people.

Who am I?

I was weaned on Cuban stories by my Havana-born mother and first visited the island in 1998. Since then, I earned a PhD in history from the Graduate Center, City University of New York–where I studied twentieth-century Cuban politics. While conducting research in Havana and Miami, I confirmed that legends were imbibed with the same fervor as café cubano. All histories are marked by tall tales, but Cubans are governed by theirs, inside and out, more than most. 

Ilan's book list on biographies peeking into the lives of Cuban people

Discover why each book is one of Ilan's favorite books.

Why did Ilan love this book?

This is only a biography in the loosest sense, one of Afro-Cubans from the year slavery was abolished until an ugly racial massacre that claimed thousands of innocent victims. In 1892, José Martí famously declared that “There is no racial hatred because there are no races.” The following year he wrongly predicted that “In Cuba, there will never be a racial war.” Cuba’s independence myth was founded on the idea that there would be no white or black Cubans, only Cubans. Yet in 1912, two Afro-Cuban politicians, Pedro Ivonet and Evaristo Estenoz, both veterans of Cuba’s independence struggle, some of their followers, and thousands of Afro-Cubans in the wrong place at the wrong time, were massacred in a frenzy of racial hatred.

By Aline Helg,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In Our Rightful Share , Aline Helg examines the issue of race in Cuban society, politics, and ideology during the island's transition from a Spanish colony to an independent state. She challenges Cuba's well-established myth of racial equality and shows that racism is deeply rooted in Cuban creole society. Helg argues that despite Cuba's abolition of slavery in 1886 and its winning of independence in 1902, Afro-Cubans remained marginalized in all aspects of society. After the wars for independence, in which they fought en masse, Afro-Cubans demanded change politically by forming the first national black party in the Western Hemisphere.…

All American Boys

By Jason Reynolds, Brendan Kiely,

Book cover of All American Boys

Kristin Bartley Lenz Author Of The Art of Holding on and Letting Go

From the list on teen sports (and so much more).

Who am I?

I wasn’t a sporty teen, but I discovered rock climbing in my twenties and that later inspired my first novel, The Art of Holding On and Letting Go. I’m also a social worker, and even though my main character Cara is a competitive climber and the book features gripping (ha!) rock climbing scenes, the story is about much more – love and loss, finding home, the transformative power of nature. Sports and athleticism (or lack thereof) are something we can all relate to. What a great starting point for exploring our multi-faceted lives.

Kristin's book list on teen sports (and so much more)

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Why did Kristin love this book?

This novel is extra special because it’s written by two author friends, one Black, one white, and shows the complexity of racial inequality and police violence firsthand with basketball as the backdrop. This moving story encourages discussion and will make you reflect. It’s also a great introduction to the two authors’ work, and especially interesting to see how Jason Reynolds has since grown into his role as National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. 

By Jason Reynolds, Brendan Kiely,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked All American Boys as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A bag of chips. That's all sixteen-year-old Rashad is looking for. What he finds instead is a fist-happy cop, Paul, who mistakes Rashad for a shoplifter, mistakes Rashad's pleadings that he's stolen nothing for belligerence, mistakes Rashad's every flinch at every punch the cop throws as further resistance and refusal to STAY STILL as ordered. But how can you stay still when someone is pounding your face into the pavement?

There were witnesses: Quinn - a varsity basketball player and Rashad's classmate who has been raised by Paul since his own father died in Afghanistan - and a video camera.…

The Sum of Us

By Heather McGhee,

Book cover of The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together

Kevin H. Wozniak Author Of The Politics of Crime Prevention: Race, Public Opinion, and the Meaning of Community Safety

From the list on racism and the politics of public investment.

Who am I?

Ever since I first visited a prison during college and was shocked by its horrific conditions, I’ve been fascinated with America’s punitiveness—our tolerance for harsh, dehumanizing punishments. I pursued a Ph.D. in criminology in order to better understand the politics of crime and justice. I am constantly searching for “political space” within which to pursue meaningful criminal justice reform without provoking a punitive backlash. I was previously an associate professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and I am now a lecturer in criminology at the National University of Ireland Maynooth.

Kevin's book list on racism and the politics of public investment

Discover why each book is one of Kevin's favorite books.

Why did Kevin love this book?

I loved The Sum of Us because it tells the political and economic history of race relations and investment in public infrastructure, benefits, and services in a readable and accessible manner. 

McGhee recounts shocking stories of the ways that, in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement, hundreds of communities across the United States—governed by White people—chose to close or bulldoze public amenities like pools, parks, and campgrounds rather than desegregate them.

This is a sad story of the way that a generation of White Americans cut off their own nose to spite their face. In the decades since, more and more local amenities because privatized and fee-based, making it harder for poor and working-class people of all races to enjoy their communities.

By Heather McGhee,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Sum of Us as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • LONGLISTED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD • One of today’s most insightful and influential thinkers offers a powerful exploration of inequality and the lesson that generations of Americans have failed to learn: Racism has a cost for everyone—not just for people of color.

WINNER OF THE PORCHLIGHT BUSINESS BOOK AWARD • ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: Time, The Washington Post, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Ms. magazine, BookRiot, Library Journal

“This is the book I’ve been waiting for.”—Ibram X. Kendi, #1 New York Times bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist

Look for…


By Margo Jefferson,

Book cover of Negroland: A Memoir

Meghan Flaherty Author Of Tango Lessons: A Memoir

From the list on memoirs for snobs who don’t read memoirs.

Who am I?

I write memoir. I didn’t set out to write memoir. But I’ve become convinced by the power of personal narrative, both on its own merits, and as a frame and lens through which to view the world—a way to take a reader by the hand before slipping into whatever other subject matter sings its siren call. And the memoirs I love best are always in conversation with something bigger, or beyond the self. As Annie Dillard wrote, “there’s nothing you can’t do with [literary nonfiction]. No subject matter is forbidden, no structure is proscribed. You get to make up your own form every time.” I like to see these works as doing just that.

Meghan's book list on memoirs for snobs who don’t read memoirs

Discover why each book is one of Meghan's favorite books.

Why did Meghan love this book?

Margo Jefferson is one of the smartest humans on the planet and her memoir reflects that. She tells her story as intertwined with the story of her first cultural context—the Black elite of the 1950s, and the crisis of identity she experienced with the rise of the Black Power movement of the 1960s. She brings her critic’s sharp intelligence and wit to bear in every paragraph, but doesn’t hold back any of her heart. It’s a terrifically moving book and a masterpiece of personal/cultural criticism, full of elegance and nuance. 

By Margo Jefferson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The daughter of a successful paediatrician and a fashionable socialite, Margo Jefferson spent her childhood among Chicago's black elite. She calls this society 'Negroland': 'a small region of Negro America where residents were sheltered by a certain amount of privilege and plenty'. With privilege came expectation. Reckoning with the strictures and demands of Negroland at crucial historical moments - the civil rights movement, the dawn of feminism, the fallacy of post-racial America - Jefferson brilliantly charts the twists and turns of a life informed by psychological and moral contradictions.

Allow Me to Retort

By Elie Mystal,

Book cover of Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy’s Guide to the Constitution

Ernest Owens Author Of The Case for Cancel Culture: How This Democratic Tool Works to Liberate Us All

From the list on modern-day Black social consciousness.

Who am I?

I’m a Philadelphia-based journalist and new author. I’m the Editor at Large for Philadelphia Magazine and President of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists. As an openly Black gay journalist, I’ve headlined for speaking frankly about intersectional issues in society regarding race, LGBTQIA, and pop culture. Such experiences have awakened my consciousness as an underrepresented voice in the media and have pushed me to explore societal topics. My new book The Case for Cancel Culture, published by St. Martin's Press, is my way of staking my claim in the global conversation on this buzzworthy topic. 

Ernest's book list on modern-day Black social consciousness

Discover why each book is one of Ernest's favorite books.

Why did Ernest love this book?

This is a book that educates and radicalizes you all at once.

Mystal is more than just a bold political commentator, but a man on a mission to make you reconsider everything you thought you knew about America’s most consequential text in a book that holds back no punches.

I will never again see the Constitution as a historical text that guides my life, but now as a document that is currently being weaponized by politicians to infringe upon it.

This book is a loud alarm to all those who have been casually watching the current political mudslinging and not thinking the fire would hit their doorstep.

It’s here, and it’s time to do something about it.  

By Elie Mystal,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Allow Me to Retort as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Instant New York Times Bestseller

MSNBC legal commentator Elie Mystal thinks that Republicans are wrong about the law almost all of the time. Now, instead of talking about this on cable news, Mystal explains why in his first book.

"After reading Allow Me to Retort, I want Elie Mystal to explain everything I don't understand-quantum astrophysics, the infield fly rule, why people think Bob Dylan is a good singer . . ." -Michael Harriot, The Root

Allow Me to Retort is an easily digestible argument about what rights we have, what rights Republicans are trying to take away, and how…