It is the responsibility of us all to rework the education the system provided us in the classroom, but this work starts with self. Here are some resources we highly recommend to help round out our personal understanding of America’s history so we can take this knowledge to the masses.
Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions by Valeria Luiselli
A DAMNING CONFRONTATION BETWEEN THE AMERICAN DREAM AND THE REALITY OF UNDOCUMENTED CHILDREN SEEKING A NEW LIFE IN THE U.S.
Structured around the forty questions Luiselli translates and asks undocumented Latin American children facing deportation, Tell Me How It Ends humanizes these young migrants and highlights the contradiction between the idea of America as a fiction for immigrants and the reality of racism and fear—both here and back home.
This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color
by Cherríe L. Moraga (Editor), Gloria E. Anzaldúa (Editor), Toni Cade Bambara (Foreward)
This groundbreaking collection reflects an uncompromised definition of feminism by women of color. Through personal essays, criticism, interviews, testimonials, poetry, and visual art, the collection explores, as coeditor Cherríe Moraga writes, “the complex confluence of identities—race, class, gender, and sexuality—systemic to women of color oppression and liberation.”
The Miseducation of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson’s
Carter G. Woodson is the man responsible for the implementation of Black History Month.
The Mis-Education of the Negro is one of the most important books on education ever written. Carter G. Woodson shows us the weakness of Euro-centric based curriculums that fail to include African American history and culture. This system mis-educates the African American student, failing to prepare them for success and to give them an adequate sense of who they are within the system that they must live. Woodson provides many strong solutions to the problems he identifies. A must-read for anyone working in the education field.
“Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes” Experiment by Jane Elliot
This week’s literary/viewing suggestion is different from the norm. Take 35 minutes to watch this episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show from 1992 featuring Jane Elliot, an educator who has been teaching anti-racism in and out of the classroom for decades. She is known for her “Blue Eyes/Brown Experiment,” which she’s conducted in classrooms of students and audiences of adults for years, getting the same results over and over. This exercise shows us how easily racist believes can permeate our minds and how we must be vigilant to defeat such toxic thought.
Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin
THE HISTORY-MAKING CLASSIC ABOUT CROSSING THE COLOR LINE IN AMERICA’S SEGREGATED SOUTH
“One of the deepest, most penetrating documents yet set down on the racial question.”—Atlanta Journal & Constitution
In the Deep South of the 1950’s, a color line was etched in blood across Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. Journalist John Howard Griffin decided to cross that line. Using medication that darkened his skin to deep brown, he exchanged his privileged life as a Southern white man for the disenfranchised world of an unemployed black man.
What happened to John Howard Griffin—from the outside and within himself—as he made his way through the segregated Deep South is recorded in this searing work of nonfiction. His audacious, still chillingly relevant eyewitness history is a work about race and humanity every American must read.
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
An unforgettable true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to end mass incarceration in America — from one of the most inspiring lawyers of our time.
Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit law office in Montgomery, Alabama, dedicated to defending the poor, the incarcerated, and the wrongly condemned.
Just Mercy tells the story of EJI, from the early days with a small staff facing the nation’s highest death sentencing and execution rates, through a successful campaign to challenge the cruel practice of sentencing children to die in prison, to revolutionary projects designed to confront Americans with our history of racial injustice.
One of EJI’s first clients was Walter McMillian, a young Black man who was sentenced to die for the murder of a young white woman that he didn’t commit. The case exemplifies how the death penalty in America is a direct descendant of lynching — a system that treats the rich and guilty better than the poor and innocent.
(Blurb : justmercy.eji.org)
Be sure to watch the movie by the same name!
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
A national bestseller when it first appeared in 1963, The Fire Next Time galvanized the nation and gave passionate voice to the emerging civil rights movement. At once a powerful evocation of James Baldwin’s early life in Harlem and a disturbing examination of the consequences of racial injustice, the book is an intensely personal and provocative document. It consists of two “letters, ” written on the occasion of the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, that exhort Americans, both black and white, to attack the terrible legacy of racism. Described by The New York Times Book Review as “sermon, ultimatum, confession, deposition, testament, and chronicle…all presented in searing, brilliant prose, ” The Fire Next Time stands as a classic of our literature.
A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn
Since its original landmark publication in 1980, A People’s History of the United States has been chronicling U.S. history from the bottom up.
Known for its lively, clear prose as well as its scholarly research, A People’s History tells U.S. history from the point of view of — and in the words of — America’s women, factory workers, African-Americans, Native Americans, the working poor, and immigrant laborers.
As historian Howard Zinn shows, many of our country’s greatest battles — the fights for a fair wage, an eight-hour workday, child-labor laws, health and safety standards, universal suffrage, women’s rights, racial equality — were carried out at the grassroots level, against bloody resistance. Covering Christopher Columbus’s arrival through President Clinton’s first term, A People’s History of the United States features insightful analysis of the most important events in U.S. history. (Blurb from zinnedproject.org)
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
***Please watch the documentary, “13th,” which is a supplement to this book. It is a must-watch, and in our opinion, the most riveting, most comprehensive resource on the topic.
As the United States celebrates its “triumph over race” with the election of Barack Obama, the majority of black men in major urban areas are under correctional control or saddled with criminal records for life. Jim Crow laws were wiped off the books decades ago, but today an extraordinary percentage of the African American community is warehoused in prisons or trapped in a parallel social universe, denied basic civil and human rights—including the right to vote; the right to serve on juries; and the right to be free of legal discrimination in employment, housing, access to education and public benefits. Today, it is no longer socially permissible to use race explicitly as a justification for discrimination, exclusion, and social contempt. Yet as civil-rights-lawyer-turned-legal-scholar Michelle Alexander demonstrates, it is perfectly legal to discriminate against convicted criminals in nearly all the ways in which it was once legal to discriminate against African Americans. Once labeled a felon, even for a minor drug crime, the old forms of discrimination are suddenly legal again. In her words, “we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.” (Blurb from newjimcrow.com)
Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi
SOME AMERICANS cling desperately to the myth that we are living in a post-racial society, that the election of the first Black president spelled the doom of racism. In fact, racist thought is alive and well in America – more sophisticated and more insidious than ever. And as award-winning historian Ibram X. Kendi argues in Stamped from the Beginning, if we have any hope of grappling with this stark reality, we must first understand how racist ideas were developed, disseminated, and enshrined in American society.
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 life stories of five major American intellectuals to offer a window into the contentious debates between assimilationists and segregationists and between racists and antiracists. From Puritan minister Cotton Mather to Thomas Jefferson, from fiery abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison to brilliant scholar W.E.B. Du Bois to legendary anti-prison activist Angela Davis, Kendi shows how and why some of our leading proslavery and pro-civil rights thinkers have challenged or helped cement racist ideas in America.
Contrary to popular conceptions, racist ideas did not arise from ignorance or hatred. Instead, they were devised and honed by some of the most brilliant minds of each era. These intellectuals used their brilliance to justify and rationalize deeply entrenched discriminatory policies and the nation’s racial disparities in everything from wealth to health. And while racist ideas are easily produced and easily consumed, they can also be discredited. In shedding much-needed light on the murky history of racist ideas, Stamped from the Beginning offers us the tools we need to expose them—and in the process, gives us reason to hope. (Blurb from ibramxkendi.com)