I encourage you to read these books. Ask your public library to buy them if they don’t already own them (I’ve had my local library buy at least six of these as ebooks).
Memoirs and Biographies
- Coming of Age in Mississippi, Anne Moody. From a dirt-poor childhood in the segregated South to the sit-in at Woolworths in 1963, this is a very personal and detailed look at how things were in the 1940 and 1950s, and then moves through her work in the civil rights movement in the 1960s.
- Fire Shut Up In My Bones, Charles Blow. The early part of this memoir details the author’s life growing up in the 1970s in the rural South. Not so much different from Anne Moody’s story, with the grinding poverty, substandard housing, and rampant segregation.
- Heavy: An American Memoir, Kiese Laymon
- I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness, Austin Channing Brown. This book gave me a clearer understanding of what it is like to be a black woman in the United States. The section where she wrote about the 2015 Charleston church murders had me in tears.
- Thick: And Other Essays, Tressie McMillan Cottom. A self-described black-black woman, she writes honestly and fearlessly about how it is to live as a black woman in these United States, Powerful stuff.
- When They Call You a Terrorist, Patrisse Khan-Cullors and ashe bandele
- American Prison, Shane Bauer. How for-profit prisons really operate, by an undercover reporter.
- Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates. Three letters to his son, explaining how it is to be black in America. I’m still thinking about this book almost a year after reading it.
- The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander
- So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo
- Tears We Cannot Stop, Michael Eric Dyson
- We Were Eight Years in Power, Ta-Nehisi Coates
- What Truth Sounds Like, Michael Eric Dyson. A book I checked out of the library and ending up buying, for two reasons: I needed more time to absorb the content, and I will need to reread this book as I learn more about racism and white privilege.
- White Fragility, Robin J. DiAngelo. The book every white person in American needs to read. It is slow going because every chapter asked me to rethink my life, my circumstances, and how I have been given a pass just because of the color of my skin.
- White Rage, Carol Anderson. Everyone needs to read this book to understand how racism is structural, not individual, and it is not just about the white supremacists you see on the news. Reading the chapter about how states fought back against Brown v. Board of Education (1954) broke my heart. If you want to know why things aren’t equal between blacks and whites, this will tell you–in horrifying detail–how whites in power conspired and schemed, legally, all the way up to and including the Supreme Court, to deny blacks the right to education, votes, and housing since the end of the Civil War.
- Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama: The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution, Diane McWhorter. 2002 Pulitzer Prize winner.
- The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, Edward E. Baptist.
- Life Upon These Shores: Looking at African-American History 1513-2008, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. This is a coffee-table book, only it’s not. It’s meant to be read, slowly and completely, to understand the history of African-Americans since the first ones were brought to this hemisphere. I learned so much from reading this book, although it took me almost two months to finish it.
- Separate, Steve Luxenberg. Tells the story of Plessy v. Ferguson and how America moved from slavery to segregation, supported by this Supreme Court decision.
- The Warmth of Other Suns, Isabel Wilkerson. This is a long read, following three different Southern blacks who moved north or west as part of the Great Migration out of the south. As I followed each person through decades of time, I got to understand them not only as historical markers, but as people struggling, as we all do, for a better life. The author does a masterful job of putting these three people into the context of their times, decade by decade as the civil rights movement slowly changes the country.
Articles and Essays
- Don’t Forget that Martin Luther King, Jr. Was Once Denounced as an Extremist, Jeanne Theoharis, Time
- We White Women Shouldn’t Ask “What Can I Do To Fight White Supremacy?” Medium, April 2019
- When the Suffrage Movement Sold Out to White Supremacy, Brent Staples, New York Times
Movies and Videos
- 13th, directed by Ava DuVernay. A 2016 documentary that unpacks what “mass incarceration” means and how it targeted black Americans, from Nixon and Reagan to the Clintons. You won’t ever look at crime and prison statistics the same way.
- BlacKkKlansman (2018), directed by Spike Lee. Should have won the Oscar for Best Picture.
- Four Little Girls, directed by Spike Lee
- Loving (2016), directed by Jeff Nichols
- Selma (2014), directed by Ava DuVernay
- Twelve Years a Slave (2013), directed by Steve McQueen
- When They See Us (2019), directed by Ava DuVernay – an examination of the Central Park 5, accused then decades later acquitted of raping and beating the Central Park jogger in 1989.