The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told To Alex Haley, Alex Haley and Malcolm X, andI Am Not Your Negro, James Baldwin and Malcolm X. Baldwin I enjoy Malcolm X and Baldwin primarily because they were not academics, and instead embodied the very idea of critiquing academic concepts of race and life in America. They were clear thinkers, public intellectuals, and passionate for justice. Their concerns, debates and speeches resonate and continue to be used in minority communities across the country (both inside and outside the black community) that questions whiteness not as a "color" but as a power structure. Readers may also find Manning Marable's Pulitzer prize winning Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention (2011). Marable spearheaded the Malcolm X project at Columbia Universitywhich continues to operate today.(Mohammed Pervaiz, Instructor)
The story of Malcolm X from a child to a petty thief to one of the strongest voices in the Civil Rights Movement. (Dennis Patrick Halpin, Associate Professor and Associate Chair, Department of History)
Be sure to read Haley’s long epilogue, too; or start there; or even just read that. A childhood in a racist rural Midwest. A prison inmate gets himself a self- taught college education. Multiple transformations dealing with race in America. A final identity of a life cut too short, as el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz. So why is the person formerly known as Malcolm Little not also formerly known as Malcolm X? He died with the name Shabazz. (Peter Wallenstein, Professor)
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Michelle Alexander This deals with the effects of the War on Drugs on African-American communities. I think this is an important part of the policing conversation that hasn't received a lot of attention so far in national discussions about police reform (at least not that I have seen anyway.) I think this book will be particularly helpful because it exposes white suburban/rural readers to the degree to which the policing of urban African-American neighborhoods differs from the policing that they see in their own communities. (Heath Furrow, Academic Advisor, Department of History)
This book is foundational to understanding the current attempts to fundamentally reform policing and incarceration in the United States. Published ten years ago, it has spawned a national debate on how policing was used to reinforce racial boundaries after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (Rob Stephens, Associate Professor)
Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, Ibram Kendi Winner of numerous awards (too many to count) including the 2016 National Book Award for Nonfiction, this book is eminently smart and readable. It presents a big sweeping analysis of racism in American history, with some surprising characters and critiques, and a provocative argument about the role of government policies (rather than cultural attitudes) in shaping ideas about race. (Marian Mollin, Associate Professor)
This one is probably already all over the place, but it is a really good overview of racist thought and in particular he devotes a lot of time to the unintended (or possibly intended) effects that a lot of Twentieth Century policies that are taken for granted had on the African American community. (Heath Furrow, Academic Advisor, Department of History)
White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide, Carol Anderson Anderson's masterful book challenges the us to think differently about what counts as a protest. As the title suggests, the book debunks the caricature of angry black protesters by demonstrating the vitriol, violence, and racism behind supposedly "neutral" and "calm" forms of white protest--policymaking. (Amanda Demmer, Assistant Professor)
Carol Anderson’s study of “white rage” turns a stereotype of “anger” on its head, spotlighting the fury and resentment of white Americans against the gains of fellow Black citizens in the years and decades following their securing freedom from racial bondage. (Edward Gitre, Assistant Professor)
Danna Agmon, Associate Professor, History and ASPECT Recommends: Dispossessed Lives: Enslaved Women, Violence, and the Archive, Marisa J. Fuentes In this innovative book, Fuentes considers the lives of enslaved and free women in eighteenth-century Barbados, and shows how violence and white supremacy permeate the archives which historians use to try and reconstruct their lives.
Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History, Michel-Rolph Trouillot A brilliant meditation on how and why some histories get told, while others - like the history of the Haitian Revolution - are silenced. Trouillot is always timely, and has profoundly shaped historical scholarship, and his incisive analysis on the power embedded in monuments is especially enlightening right now.
Roger Ekirch, Professor Recommends: Slave Counterpoint: Black Culture in the Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake and Lowcountry, Philip D. Morgan … garnered a small mountain of awards
White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812, Winthrop D. Jordan The book won the National Book Award, Phi Beta Kappa’s Ralph Waldo Emerson Award, the AHA Francis Parkman Prize, and Columbia’s Bancroft Prize. In 2012 a new edition was published, and it has long been available in condensed form, The White Man’s Burden, which I have regularly assigned to my early American class.
Robert Flahive, Graduate Instructor, ASPECT Ph.D. Candidate Recommends: The Black Skyscraper: Architecture and the Perception of Race, Adrienne Brown Brown shows how the social production of race operates through and in response to the built environment in urbanizing early 20th century America. The reasons I recommend this text are 1) for the creative blending of architectural history with early 20th century history and literary fiction as well as 2) for the ways it reads race into the histories of the built environment.
Little White Houses: How the Postwar Home Constructed Race in America, Dianne Harris It's a fascinating take on the constitutive constructions of whiteness and class through representations of the post-WWII suburban home.
Edward Gitre, Assistant Professor Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America, Kathleen Belew It’s safe to say that for the vast majority of Americans the Vietnam War is seen as a national “tragedy.” Belew’s study is a starling history of how a vanguard of Americans channeled their postwar frustrations, resentment, turmoil, pain, and rage into an organized, paramilitary, white power movement. The line that Bring the War Home draws from this foreign debacle, now half a century in our past, to the today’militarization of community and local police forces is as bracing as it is illuminating.
The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, Richard Rothstein The historian Richard Rothstein contends that one of the most powerful and effective agents of unconstitutional segregation in twentieth-century America was a state-sponsored New Deal program designed to house Depression-era families. Rothstein’s history of the Federal Housing Administration brings into critical focus the literal architecture of structural racism in modern America.
The Fog of War: The Second World War and the Civil Rights Movement, edited by Kevin M. Kruse and Stephen Tuck The postwar Civil Rights Movement has acquired in hindsight an air of inevitability. This edited volume helps us to appreciate the uncertainty and contingency of the movement for racial equality, its ebbs and flows, successes and failures, in the years preceding Brown vs. Board of Education, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and other legislative landmark. It is one of a growing number of histories re-examining the relationship of the movement to the Second World War.
Dennis Patrick Halpin, Associate Professor and Associate Chair, Department of History Recommends: Black Reconstruction, W.E.B. Dubois You could really choose most of DuBois's writings to include on this list. This is the major reinterpretation of a period that is still not fully understood by many Americans, the book that laid the foundation for most subsequent scholarship.
Chained in Silence: Black Women and Convict Labor in the New South, Talitha LeFlouria This book is troubling and provocative. It recovers the experience of Black, female, convict laborers and shows their central importance to the modernization of the New South.
City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion, and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles, 1771–1965, Kelly Lytle Hernandez A book that demonstrates how the legacy of settler colonialism profoundly influences the modern carceral state.
To the Promised Land: Martin Luther King and the Fight for Economic Justice, Michael K. Honey Honey provides a moving picture of King's activism and reminds us that King was always a radical.
Melanie Kiechle, Associate Professor Recommends: Never Caught: The Washingtons' Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge, Erica Armstrong Dunbar This highly readable history focuses on Ona Judge, an enslaved girl who fled the home of our first president, George Washington. Through Judge's life, Dunbar shows us what life was like for enslaved men and women, including their desire for freedom and to remain close to family. If you're reading along with younger siblings or children, Dunbar also has a version for them--Never Caught, the Story of Ona Judge: George and Martha Washington's Courageous Slave who Dared to Run Away.
The Blood of Emmett Till, Timothy B. Tyson When I've taught this book in Murder in American History, students have responded powerfully. It is impossible to read this book without seeing striking parallels between Mamie Till's fight for justice and the current struggle of #BlackLivesMatter. And my students agree that everyone should know Till's story.
Marian Mollin, Associate Professor Recommends: Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age, Kevin Boyle Another amazingly well-written, National Book Award for Nonfiction winner (2004), Arc of Justice looks at the struggle for black freedom in the urban north through the experiences of Ossian Sweet, a black physician and homeowner in Detroit. The story Boyle tells provides a captivating window into how racism shaped life outside of the South, where Jim Crow was de facto rather than de jure, and where black families experienced violence and persecution even as they tried to push back. This is not a hopeful story, but it is an important one to understand.
Gender and Jim Crow: Women and the Politics of White Supremacy in North Carolina, 1896-1920 (1996), Glenda Gilmore An “oldie but goodie,” this book remains one of the best studies out there about the creation and maintenance of Jim Crow structures of white supremacy in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. Using North Carolina as a case study, Gilmore examines ideas about black and white manhood and womanhood, and how they were used to both impose and resist the violent structures of white supremacy of that era. The book’s analysis is astute and the writing is evocative – and the combination will, at times, take your breath away. The racialized gendered and sexual tropes that she describe remain with us today: one only needs to listen to Donald Trump’s comments about “dangerous” immigrants in his most recent speech in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to hear them still at work.
Amy Nelson, Associate Professor Recommends: Teaching to Transgress and All About Love (Love Songs for the Nation), bell hooks Hooks' classic text on democratizing education and leveraging the classroom to confront the structural oppression of racism, sexism and social class has never been more relevant. Teaching to Transgress shows educators how to cultivate learning spaces that are transgressive and liberating. All About Love offers insight on how central the emotions (hearts) are to changing minds, and on how redemptive, compassionate love can heal a divided society.
Paul Quigley, James I. Robertson, Jr. Associate Professor of Civil War Studies Recommends: Embattled Freedom: Journeys Through the Civil War's Slave Refugee Camps, Amy Murrell Taylor A multiple award-winning study of the hundreds of thousands of enslaved African Americans who escaped from slavery during the Civil War. Taylor explores their fight for freedom with vivid details about their experiences in refugee camps, capturing the uncertainties and obstacles they faced as well as their accomplishments.
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harriet Jacobs A deeply moving narrative written by a woman born into enslaved status in North Carolina. Having endured unwanted sexual advances from the man who claimed ownership of her, Jacobs eventually escaped, spending seven years hiding in a cramped attic before finally reaching the free states.
Brett Shadle, Professor and Chair of the Department of History Recommends: Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America, Peniel Joseph A very readable account of the rise of the Black Power movement in its various manifestations.
I Write What I Like: Selected Writings, Steve Biko Biko was a Black student leader in Apartheid-era South Africa, whom police murdered. These writings show the development of South African version of Black power, and challenges the role of white liberals in anti-racist movements.
Robert Stephens, Associate Professor Recommends: Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy, Heather Ann Thompson An award-winning look at the seminal prison uprising at Attica. Beautifully written and troubling.
A Dreadful Deceit: The Myth of Race from the Colonial Era to Obama's America, Jacqueline Jones A focused look at the malleability of race in America over the course of its history from a great historian.
Peter Wallenstein, Professor Recommends: The Accidental Asian: Notes of a Native Speaker, Eric Liu Race has many faces.
Autobiography (first appeared under the title Song in a Weary Throat: An American Pilgrimage, Pauli Murray Marvelous book about a magnificent life. Tri-racial child of the New South. Towering figure in 20thcentury America. Led sit-ins in DC during World War II. Learned about “Jane Crow” when rejected as, gasp, a woman, by Harvard Law School. She was everywhere, did everything, and she captures it all in mesmerizing prose.
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, Trevor Noah the first hundred pages in particular; compare his account with growing up black in Jim Crow America.
The John Carlos Story, John Carlos, with Dave Zirin Sports matter. An early version of Black Lives Matter, placed in global context, with the 1968 Mexico City Olympics as the main theater.
Tell the Court I Love My Wife: Race, Marriage, and Law — An American History, Peter Wallenstein Vivid stories of people of every racial identity, through four centuries and from perhaps every state, embroiled in legal contortions of their private lives.
Anna Zeide, Associate Professor Recommends: At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance. A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power, Danielle L. McGuire This book retells the story of the civil rights movement from the perspective of Black women and sexual violence, reframing how we understand the linked terrors of racism and rape in American history. The writing and storytelling are also beautiful and vivid.
The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South, Michael W. Twitty This multilayered poetic memoir and history uses food as a lens to explore slavery, ancestry, race, Southern cuisine, and identity. Rich and satisfying to read and to think on deep histories with.