As protests continue, the library is committing to continue to engage with the ongoing conversations about race that have come up since the murder of George Floyd. We have expanded this list to not only include books from our collection, but also videos, podcasts, and web pages that are relevant to learning the history of racial injustice and the current manifestation of the centuries-long battle to extinguish that hate. In addition, as music is often connected with social movements (particularly within the labor and civil rights movements), we have included music that has become connected to the Black Lives Matter movement and is being heard and played at protests around the nation. Lastly, we have included links to many organizations that are involved in the fight for justice. If you are interested in learning more about the goals of these groups, check out our links below.
As it is pride month, we would be remiss if we did not mention the struggles of the black transgender community who are overwhelmingly plagued by epidemics of homelessness, poverty, unemployment, HIV, and violence. We have linked to the National LGBTQ Task Force website with more statistics and information on these inequalities.
Black Lives Matter, and we vow to continue to be a part of these conversations regarding equity and inclusivity in our own community and our country at large.
Beloved by Toni Morrison: Nobel Prize winner Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel is a classic. A story of slavery, family, and trauma, Beloved is a must read for anyone who is interested in reading the work of a famous and established author.
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson: This true story about a young defense attorney (Stevenson) who fights to get a black man named Walter McMillian off of death row after he had been imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. Read this book to get a first hand account of the failings of the criminal justice system’s treatment of black people.
Push by Sapphire: Push is a story of perseverance, education, and moving beyond circumstances that negatively effect personal growth. Precious is a young black girl who has a child with down syndrome and can’t read. This novel chronicles her journey in education and learning. On a personal note, this was the first book that helped me understand privilege and I can’t recommend it enough. –Connor
Black Panther Vol. One by Ta-Nehishi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze: Marvel’s famous black superhero, T’Challa the Black Panther, was relaunched in 2016 with a book written by acclaimed black author Ta-Nehishi Coates. Read this for a healthy dose of Afrofuturism and black representation in comics.
Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom by Keisha Blane: Blane’s book examines the black nationalist movement from the beginning of the 20th century to the 60s, from Garveyism to the Black Power Movement. Check this book out for information on black women political leaders fighting for their own.
Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” by Zora Neale Hurston: While the slave trade was officially outlawed in the United States in 1808, there were some people who illegally smuggled people from Africa into the United States to be sold into the slave trade. The book is made up of interviews Hurston conducted with Cudjoe Lewis, the presumed last survivor of the slave trade. Posthumously published almost 60 years after Hurston’s death, read this book to hear a first hand account of the inhuman horrors of slavery.
Living for Change: An Autobiography by Grace Lee Boggs: Boggs’s autobiography chronicles her life of activism as an Asian American woman who walked among and worked with figures such as Malcolm X. Read this book to learn about how one woman’s journey within a movement demanding for racial justice transformed her life.
America is in the Heart by Carlos Bulosan: Filipino author Carlos Bulosan fictionalizes his own life story in this semi-autobiographical novel. The novel follows him from his life in the Philippines experiencing the effects of American imperialism in his home country. He later moves to California and chronicles the racism and prejudice he faced as a Filipino immigrant in the United States during the 1930s and 40s.
A Different History: A History of Multicultural America by Ronald Takaki: A book of history, Takaki looks at the United States’ past through the lens of multiculturalism and marginalized communities. Looking at slavery, indigenous people, Asian-Americans, the Chicano population, and other groups, read this book for a less white-centric telling of US history.
Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead: The winner of the 2019 Pulitzer prize for fiction, inspired by a true location, looks at a reform school for young black children in Florida. However, there is something sinister happening beyond the “helpful” veneer.
Becoming by Michelle Obama: The former first lady’s memoir captured the nation when released, selling 725,000 copies when it first hit shelves in 2018. Obama tells the story of her life from the South Side of Chicago and beyond, looking at her White House years and beyond. Read this book to be inspired and hopeful about the future.
Race and Reconciliation: Essays from the New South Africa by Daniel Herwitz: Facing its own history of racism and injustice, this book showcases South Africa in the decade following the end of apartheid. Read this book to learn about the changes that took place in South Africa, after Nelson Mandela was first elected and segregation was being unraveled.
Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America by James Forman: Another Pulitzer prize winner, Forman’s book critically looks at the origins and politics of mass incarceration in the 1970s, while also examining why mass incarceration was supported by many black leaders at the time of implementation. Read this book to learn more about the history of mass incarceration.
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison: A classic work, Ellison’s novel follows an unnamed black man as he goes through society, pondering race, radical politics, Marxism, and more. Invisible Man is a classic for a reason, and should be read particularly by those who want to read “canonical” works of literature.
The Poet X: A Novel by Elizabeth Acevedo: This YA novel follows the character Xiomara, who goes by X, who struggles to balance her love of slam poetry, her relationship with her lab partner, and her mom’s expectations of her. Read this book to see how our words and art can be a positive force during difficult times.
Good White People: The Problem with Middle-Class White Anti-Racism by Shannon Sullivan: This book untangles the web of how class and race are intertwined. Well-meaning white people can inadvertently scapegoat lower income individuals for racism, without looking within their own actions and how they benefit from racist structures. Read this to better understand the pitfalls of ally-ship and to make be a better advocate for black people and people of color.
Asian Americans from PBS: This recent documentary series from PBS premiered last month and follows the journey and struggles of Asian Americans in the United States from the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, to Franklin Roosevelt’s Executive Order to take people of Japanese heritage from their homes and put them into incarceration camps following the attacks on Pearl Harbor and beyond. Watch this series to learn more about the history of the Asian American experience.
Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man by Emmanuel Acho: Former football player Emmanuel Acho has launched this series to have uncomfortable conversations with white people discussing race as a vehicle to learn. Uncomfortable conversations are often the most important to have, so watch these videos to learn everything from whether it is better to say African-American or black, to more complex discussions of race and policing.
Black History in Two Minutes (or so) from Henry Louis Gates, Jr.: From Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, these bingeable videos look at black history, events, and figures in videos that are under five minutes. Watch these videos to learn more about black history from experts in an easily digested format.
Being Antiracist from the Smithsonian: This webpage from the Smithsonian incorporates charts, quotes, and videos to teach and encourage readers to embrace and foster an antiracist viewpoint. Check this page out to learn more about this type of thinking and how you can begin to apply it to your own world.
Why Black Music Matters While Cities Burn from the Smithsonian: The Smithsonian record company “Folkways” hosted a conversation with Ta-Nehishi Coates about the history of Go-Go music and the importance of black music while there are wide-spread protests about systemic racism. Watch this to learn about black music from a scholar’s perspective, as well as some great music by the First Ladies of Go-Go.
“We Are in the Future” from This American Life: In 2017, This American Life released an episode on Afro-futurism (a black-centric view of the future, like Black Panther). This past week, the episode was re-released with additional content to touch on the protests. Listen to this episode to learn about Afro-futurism and how widespread its influence is.
MUSIC FOR THE MOVEMENT
Voices of the Civil Rights Movement: Black American Freedom Songs 1960-1966 from Smithsonian Folkways
“Walking in the Snow” by Run the Jewels
“Formation” by Beyonce
“Sandra’s Smile” by Blood Orange
“Alemda” by Solange
“Americans” by Janelle Monae
“This is America” by Childish Gambino
“In Bloom” by Moses Sumney
“Black Qualls (feat. Steve Lacey & Steve Arrington)” by Thundercat