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Recommended Books and Documentaries


13th Netflix Documentary by Ava DuVernay.  A Netflix Documentary that examines the criminalization of African Americans and the U.S. prison boom.


Be the Bridge by LaTasha Morrison.  Morrison presents an understanding of historical factors and present realities to facilitate a dialogue and to serve as a catalyst for righteousness, justice, healing, transformation, and reconciliation.

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Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  In a letter to his son, Coates shares the experiences that led to his understanding of racism and how it weaves his personal, historical, and intellectual development into his ruminations on how to live in a black body in America.


Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson.  Beyond race, class, or other factors, there is a powerful caste system that influences people’s lives and behavior and the nation’s fate. Linking the caste systems of America, India, and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson explores eight pillars that underlie caste systems and how they shape American society.

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Critical Race Theory: Why It Matters & Why You Should Care by Victor Ray.  Ray draws upon the radical thinking of giants such as Ida B. Wells, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to clearly trace the foundations of critical race theory in the Black intellectual traditions of emancipation and the civil rights movement. From these foundations, Ray explores the many facets of our society that critical race theory interrogates, from deeply embedded structural racism to the historical connection between whiteness and property, ownership, and more.

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Capitol Men: The Epic Story of Reconstruction Through the Lives of the First Black Congressmen by Philip Dray.  Reconstruction was a time of idealism and sweeping change, as the victorious Union created citizenship rights for the freed slaves and granted the vote to black men. Sixteen black Southerners, elected to the U.S. Congress, arrived in Washington to advocate reforms such as public education, equal rights, land distribution, and the suppression of the Ku Klux Klan.  But these men faced astounding odds. They were belittled as corrupt and inadequate by their white political opponents, who used legislative trickery, libel, bribery, and the brutal intimidation of their constituents to rob them of their base of support.

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Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019 by Ibram X. Kendi, Keisha N. Blain.  Four Hundred Souls is a unique one-volume “community” history of African Americans. The editors, Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain, have assembled ninety brilliant writers, each of whom takes on a five-year period of that four-hundred-year span. The writers explore their periods through a variety of techniques: historical essays, short stories, personal vignettes, and fiery polemics.


How to be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi.  Dr. Kendi argues that one cannot simply be neutral, “colorblind,” or not racist. We must take active steps to become Antiracists. Each chapter focuses on a different element of racism and weaves in stories, chronologically, from Kendi’s childhood to the present.


Just Mercy – Book and Movie by Bryan Stevenson.  Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case transformed Stevenson’s understanding of mercy and justice forever.

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Master Slave Husband Wife by Ilyon Woo.  The remarkable true story of Ellen and William Craft, who escaped slavery through daring, determination, and disguise, with Ellen passing as a wealthy, disabled White man and William posing as “his” slave.

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Resist – 40 Profiles of Ordinary People – Veronica Chambers.  You may only be one person, but you have the power to change the world. From Frederick Douglass to Malala Yousafzai, Joan of Arc to John Lewis, Susan B. Anthony to Janet Mock—these remarkable figures show us what it means to take a stand and say no to injustice, even when it would be far easier to stay quiet. Resist profiles men and women who resisted tyranny, fought the odds, and stood up to bullies that threatened to harm their communities. Along with their portraits and most memorable quotes, their stories will inspire you to speak out and rise up—every single day.

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Separate Is Never Equal – Duncan Tonatiuh.  This picture book explores W how a young Sylvia Mendez was excited about enrolling in her neighborhood school. But she and her brothers were turned away and told they had to attend the Mexican school instead. Sylvia could not understand why—she was an American citizen who spoke perfect English. Why were the children of Mexican families forced to attend a separate school? Unable to get a satisfactory answer from the school board, the Mendez family decided to take matters into its own hands and organize a lawsuit. In the end, the Mendez family’s efforts helped bring an end to segregated schooling in California in 1947, seven years before the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education ended segregation in schools across America.

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Slavery by Another Name: The re-enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War
by Douglas A. Blackmon In this groundbreaking historical expose, Douglas A. Blackmon brings to light one of the most shameful chapters in American history: an Age of Neoslavery that thrived from the aftermath of the Civil War through the dawn of World War II.

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So You Want to Talk About Race – Ijeoma Oluo.  Oluo guides readers through subjects ranging from police brutality and cultural appropriation to the model minority myth in an attempt to have honest conversations about race, and about how racism infects every aspect of American life.


Stamped – Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendii.  Stamped reveals the history of racist ideas in America and shows how it permeates all aspects of society. It also proves that while racist ideas have always been easy to fabricate and distribute, they can also be discredited. The authors shine a light on the many insidious forms of racist ideas--and on ways readers can identify and stamp out racist thoughts in their daily lives.  

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Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi.  In this deeply researched and fast-moving narrative, Kendi chronicles the entire story of anti-Black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. Stamped from the Beginning uses the lives of five major American intellectuals to offer a window into the contentious debates between assimilationists and segregationists and between racists and antiracists.

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The 1619 Project:  A New Origin Story by Nikole Hannah-Jones.  In late August 1619, a ship arrived in the British colony of Virginia bearing a cargo of twenty to thirty enslaved people from Africa. Their arrival led to the barbaric and unprecedented system of American chattel slavery that would last for the next 250 years. This is sometimes referred to as the country’s original sin, but it is more than that: It is the source of so much that still defines the United States.

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The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison.  Pecola Breedlove—an 11-year-old Black girl in an America whose love for its blond, blue-eyed children can devastate all others—prays for her eyes to turn blue: so that she will be beautiful, so that people will look at her, so that her world will be different. This is the story of the nightmare at the heart of her yearning, and the tragedy of its fulfillment.


The Central Park Five by Sarah Burns (also a Ken Burns/PBS documentary)
In 1989, a jogger in Central Park was discovered in a ravine, having been beaten and raped. Five black and Latino teenagers were apprehended, all five confessing to the crime. Public outcry and intense media coverage exposed deep-seated race and class divisions. The minors were tried and convicted as adults despite no evidence linking them to the victim. Over a decade later, when DNA tests connected serial rapist Matias Reyes to the crime, the government, law enforcement, social institutions and media of New York were exposed as having undermined the individuals they were designed to protect.


The Color of Compromise: The Truth About the American Church’s Complicity in Racism by Jemar Tisby.  A historical, sociological, and religious review from America's early colonial days through slavery and the Civil War that covers the tragedy of Jim Crow laws, the victories of the Civil Rights era, and the strides of today's Black Lives Matter movement. The book discusses the cultural and institutional obstacles that need to be overcome to achieve meaningful integration and outlines actions we can take to move forward.

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The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein.  Rothstein explodes the myth that America’s cities came to be racially divided through de facto segregation – that is, through individual prejudices, income differences or the actions of private institutions like banks and real estate agencies. Rather, he makes clear that it was de jure segregation – the laws and policy decisions passed by local, state and federal governments – that actually promoted the discriminatory patterns that continue to this day.

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The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas.  Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.


The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander.  Alexander makes the case that "we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it." So ending 250 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, it inspired the creation of The Marshall Project, informed the advocacy of Black Lives Matter and shaped the efforts of criminal justice reform.

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The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGhee.  McGhee embarks on a deeply personal journey across the country from Maine to Mississippi to California, tallying what we lose when we buy into the zero-sum paradigm—the idea that progress for some of us must come at the expense of others.  

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The Uncomfortable Truth Amazon Prime Documentary - The son of Civil Rights Hero Joan Trumpauer Mulholland dives into the 400 year history of institutional racism in America and is confronted with the shocking reality that his family helped start it all from the very beginning. An exploration of the origins and history of racism in America.

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The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson.  From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history. She interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to new data and official records, to write this definitive and vividly dramatic account of how these American journeys unfolded, altering our cities, our country, and ourselves.

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The Youngest Marcher by Cynthia Levinson.  In this picture book, children meet the youngest known child to be arrested for a civil rights protest in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963. When nine-year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks heard grown-ups talk about wiping out Birmingham’s segregation laws, she spoke up. As she listened to the preacher’s words, smooth as glass, she sat up tall. And when she heard the plan—picket those white stores! March to protest those unfair laws! Fill the jails!—she stepped right up and said, I’ll do it! She was going to j-a-a-il! Audrey Faye Hendricks was confident and bold and brave as can be, and hers is the remarkable and inspiring story of one child’s role in the Civil Rights Movement.

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Under the Skin: The Hidden Toll of Racism on American Lives and on the Health of Our Nation by Linda Villarosa.  Villarosa lays bare the forces in the American health-care system and in American society that cause Black people to “live sicker and die quicker” compared to their white counterparts. Today's medical texts and instruments still carry fallacious slavery-era assumptions that Black bodies are fundamentally different from white bodies. Study after study of medical settings show worse treatment and outcomes for Black patients. Villarosa tells us why.

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Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts by Rebecca Hall.  Hall reconstructs the likely pasts of women rebels who fought for freedom during the Middle Passage, as well as the stories of women who led slave revolts in Colonial New York. She also shares how her own legacy of slavery shapes her life, both during her time as a successful attorney and later as a historian seeking the past that haunts her.


Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving.  Waking Up White is a memoir in which Irving recounts her experience learning about racism in adulthood and provides advice for (white) readers who wish to learn more about this subject as well.


White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo.  DiAngelo, a former professor at Westfield State University, examines how white people react to discussions of race, racism, and ongoing white supremacy. She argues that several factors keep white people unaware of their complicity in racism and that white reaction to racial triggers is one of the largest barriers to an anti-racist future.


Why are All of the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race
by Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D.  Tatum is a renowned authority on the psychology of racism who argues that straight talk about our racial identities is essential if we are serious about communicating across racial and ethnic divides and pursuing antiracism.

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White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son by Tim Wise.  Using stories from his own life, Tim Wise examines what it really means to be white in a nation created to benefit people who are “white like him.” This inherent racism is not only real, but disproportionately burdens people of color and makes progressive social change less likely to occur. Explaining in clear and convincing language why it is in everyone’s best interest to fight racial inequality, Wise offers ways in which white people can challenge these unjust privileges, resist white supremacy and racism, and ultimately help to ensure the country’s personal and collective well-being.

Additional Resources

Housing/Land Use

Health Disparity



Some Issues are Not Left Versus Right, But Right Versus Wrong

Decentering Whiteness

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