In the coming weeks we’ll be sharing resources and uplifting the voices that need to be heard in order to educate ourselves in the fight against racism in this country, and we hope you will join us. As a starting point, we’re sharing a reading list our team put together of both fiction and non-fiction works that shed light on our country’s history of systemic racism. Educating ourselves is the first step. And while this is by no means an exhaustive list, it’s a starting point. If you haven’t read these books already, we hope you will not only pick up a copy but consider starting a book club or challenging a friend to read along with you.
This nonfiction work is written as a letter from the author to his own son, detailing the realities and personal experiences of the author as a Black man in the United States. Describing how systemic racism infiltrates everything from school to the streets, Ta-Nehisi Coates writes about white supremacy as a force that Black people will always have to navigate.
First published in 1952, Invisible Man is both a stunning work of fiction and an essential read in beginning to understand the Black experience in America. The nameless narrator of the novel describes growing up in a black community in the South, attending and subsequently being expelled from a black college, becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of “the Brotherhood,” and retreating amid violence and confusion as the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be.
Consider this work an essential primer for white and other non-Black people looking to start having thoughtful and honest conversations about racism and white supremacy.
If you are dedicated to being an anti-racist, start with this book. You’ll learn about the origins of racism, the systems that keep it in place today, and understand their disastrous consequences. This is a must-read for anyone who wants to contribute to an equal and just society, and become actively anti-racist.
Beloved tells the story of an escaped slave named Sethe, who is haunted by her life as a slave and the baby she lost. Beloved won the Pulitzer Prize in 1987, and continues to be one of the most important works of fiction written about slavery to date.
A beautiful and compelling novel by a Black author, Homegoing follows the parallel paths of two Ghanaian sisters and their descendants through eight generations. One sister is captured and sold into slavery and the other marries an Englishman and lives a life of comfort. Ensconced in beautiful prose, the story illuminates slavery’s legacy both for those who were taken and those who stayed—and shows how the memory of captivity is still inscribed on the heart and soul of our nation.
White Fragility is a New York Times best-selling book exploring the counterproductive defensive reactions even well-meaning white people have when their assumptions about race are challenged, and how these reactions perpetuate racial inequality. The book illuminates how racism is not a practice restricted to “bad people,” and how behaviors like anger, fear, guilt, argumentation and silence prevent any meaningful cross-racial dialogue, with suggestions on how we can engage more constructively.
In The New Jim Crow, civil rights litigator and legal scholar Michelle Alexander focuses on the plight of mass incarceration of Black men in the United States. First published a decade ago, the book has spawned a whole generation of criminal justice reform activists and organizations motivated by Alexander’s unforgettable argument that “we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.”
John Lewis’ first-hand account of the American civil rights movement of the 1960’s is inspiring, educational, and is a must-read to understand what’s happening in our country right now.
If you have any books to add to the list, please share them in the comments.
XO Team LC
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