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BOOKS FOR LEARNING ABOUT RACISM
The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism
by Jemar Tisby
A New York Times, USA Today, and
Wall Street Journal bestseller.
An acclaimed, timely narrative of how
people of faith have historically--
up to the present day--worked against
racial justice. And a call for urgent action
by all Christians today in response.
The Color of Compromise is both
enlightening and compelling, telling
a history we either ignore or just don't
know. Equal parts painful and
inspirational, it details how the American
church has helped create and maintain
racist ideas and practices. You will be guided in thinking through concrete solutions for improved race relations and a racially inclusive church.
The Color of Compromise:
• Takes you on a historical, sociological, and religious journey: from America's early colonial days through slavery and the Civil War
• Covers the tragedy of Jim Crow laws, the victories of the Civil Rights era, and the strides of today's Black Lives Matter movement
• Reveals the cultural and institutional tables we have to flip in order to bring about meaningful integration
• Charts a path forward to replace established patterns and systems of complicity with bold, courageous, immediate action
• Is a perfect book for pastors and other faith leaders, students, non-students, book clubs, small group studies, history lovers, and all lifelong learners
The Color of Compromise is not a call to shame or a platform to blame white evangelical Christians. It is a call from a place of love and desire to fight for a more racially unified church that no longer compromises what the Bible teaches about human dignity and equality. A call that challenges black and white Christians alike to standup now and begin implementing the concrete ways Tisby outlines, all for a more equitable and inclusive environment among God's people. Starting today.
The Color of Compromise takes readers on a historical journey: from America’s early colonial days through slavery and the Civil War, covering the tragedy of Jim Crow laws and the victories of the Civil Rights era, to today’s Black Lives Matter movement. Author Jemar Tisby reveals the obvious—and the far more subtle—ways the American church has compromised what the Bible teaches about human dignity and equality.
Tisby uncovers the roots of sustained injustice in the American church, highlighting the cultural and institutional tables that need to be turned in order to bring about real and lasting progress between black and white people. Through a story-driven survey of American Christianity’s racial past, he exposes the concrete and chilling ways people of faith have actively worked against racial justice, as well as the deafening silence of the white evangelical majority. Tisby shows that while there has been progress in fighting racism, historically the majority of the American church has failed to speak out against this evil. This ongoing complicity is a stain upon the church, and sadly, it continues today.
Tisby does more than diagnose the problem, however. He charts a path forward with intriguing ideas that further the conversation as he challenges us to reverse these patterns and systems of complicity with bold, courageous, and immediate action. The Color of Compromise provides an accurate diagnosis for a racially divided American church and suggests creative ways to foster a more equitable and inclusive environment among God’s people.
Find it on Amazon
The Color of Compromise Study Guide
See this on Cokesbury
The Color of Compromise Video Study
Twelve episodes, the first eleven ranging from 17 minutes to 26 minutes;
the last installment is 5 minutes
Free with an Amazon Prime membership or $48 for the series
The Color of Compromise Video Study reveals chilling connections between the church and racism throughout American history. Jemar Tisby explores ways Christians have reinforced theories of racial superiority and inferiority, and outlines the kind of bold action needed to forge a future of equality and justice. Please note some sessions contain graphic content that viewers may find disturbing.
See it on Amazon
How To Be An Anti-Racist
by Ibram X. Kendi
SEE TWO VIRTUAL BOOK CLUBS THAT ARE DISCUSSING THIS BOOK,
in Learning Activities on this page
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
From the National Book Award–winning
author ofStamped from the Beginning
comes a “groundbreaking” (Time)
approach to understanding and
uprooting racism and inequality in our
society—and in ourselves.
“The most courageous book to date on
the problem of race in the Western
mind.” —The New York Times
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS
OF THE YEAR BY
The New York Times Book Review • Time • NPR • The Washington Post • Shelf Awareness • Library Journal • Publishers Weekly • Kirkus Reviews
Antiracism is a transformative concept that reorients and reenergizes the conversation about racism—and, even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. At it's core, racism is a powerful system that creates false hierarchies of human value; its warped logic extends beyond race, from the way we regard people of different ethnicities or skin colors to the way we treat people of different sexes, gender identities, and body types. Racism intersects with class and culture and geography and even changes the way we see and value ourselves.
In How to Be an Antiracist, Kendi takes readers through a widening circle of antiracist ideas—from the most basic concepts to visionary possibilites—that will help readers see all forms of racism clearly, understand their posionous consequences, and work to oppose them in our systems and in ourselves.
Kendi weaves an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science with his own personal story of awakening to antiracism. This is an essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond the awareness of racism to the next step: contributing to the formation of a just and equitable society.
See it on Amazon
See it on Cokesbury
Workbook for How To Be An Antiracist
See this on Amazon
White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
by Robin DiAngelo
The New York Times best-selling book
exploring the counterproductive
reactions white people have when
their assumptions about race are
challenged, and how these reactions
maintain racial inequality.
In this “vital, necessary, and beautiful
book” (Michael Eric Dyson), antiracist
educator Robin DiAngelo deftly
illuminates the phenomenon of white
fragility and “allows us to understand
racism as a practice not restricted to
‘bad people’ (Claudia Rankine). Referring
to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and by behaviors including argumentation and silence. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium and prevent any meaningful cross-racial dialogue. In this in-depth exploration, DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what we can do to engage more constructively.
“The value in White Fragility lies in its methodical, irrefutable exposure of racism in thought and action, and its call for humility and vigilance.”
—The New Yorker
“[T]houghtful, instructive, and comprehensive . . . This slim book is impressive in its scope and complexity; DiAngelo provides a powerful lens for examining, and practical tools for grappling with, racism today.”
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“White Fragility is a book everyone should be exposed to. With any luck, most who are will be inspired to search themselves and interrupt their contributions to racism.”
—Shelf Awareness, Starred Review
“A valuable guide . . . While especially helpful for those new to the critical analysis of whiteness, this work also offers a useful refresher to anyone committed to the ongoing process of self-assessment and anti-oppression work.”
“A penetrating new book.”
“A vital, necessary, and beautiful book, a bracing call to white folk everywhere to see their whiteness for what it is and to seize the opportunity to make things better now.”
—Michael Eric Dyson
See it on Cokesbury
Workbook For White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People To Talk About Racism
See also: two videos featuring Robin DiAngelo in our Videos and Podcasts
on this Resources page
So You Want to Talk About Race
by Ijeoma Oluo
In this New York Times bestseller,
Ijeoma Oluo offers a hard-hitting but
user-friendly examination of race
Widespread reporting on aspects of
white supremacy--from police brutality
to the mass incarceration of Black
Americans--has put a media spotlight
on racism in our society. Still, it is a
difficult subject to talk about. How do
you tell your roommate her jokes are
racist? Why did your sister-in-law take
umbrage when you asked to touch her
hair--and how do you make it right?
How do you explain white privilege to your white, privileged friend?
In So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo guides readers of all races through subjects ranging from intersectionality and affirmative action to "model minorities" in an attempt to make the seemingly impossible possible: honest conversations about race and racism, and how they infect almost every aspect of American life.
"Oluo gives us--both white people and people of color--that language to engage in clear, constructive, and confident dialogue with each other about how to deal with racial prejudices and biases."--National Book Review
"Generous and empathetic, yet usefully blunt . . . it's for anyone who wants to be smarter and more empathetic about matters of race and engage in more productive anti-racist action."--Salon (Required Reading)
Oluo takes on the thorniest questions surrounding race, from police brutality to who can use the 'N' word. --New York Times
While so many people want to become 'thought leaders, ' 'bloggers, ' or even just 'influential, ' Oluo is eons past that. --Forbes
A unique attempt to bridge the gap between Americans who talk and think regularly about race in America and those who don't-most typically, white people...Impassioned and unflinching. --Vogue
Precise, poignant, and edifying, this primer gives readers much-needed tools...and concrete ways to confront racism...[while] blending personal accounts and meticulously cited research...This is essential reading. -- School Library Journal
Insightful and trenchant but not preachy...A topical book in a time when racial tensions are on the rise.-- Publishers Weekly
See it on Cokesbury
The Warmth of Other Suns
by Isabel Wilkerson
NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE
LYNTON HISTORY PRIZE WINNER
HEARTLAND AWARD WINNER
NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST
BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The New York Times • USA Today
• O: The Oprah Magazine • Amazon
• Publishers Weekly • Salon • Newsday
• The Daily Beast
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS
OF THE YEAR BY
The New Yorker • The Washington Post • The Economist • Boston Globe • San Francisco Chronicle • Chicago Tribune • Entertainment Weekly • Philadelphia Inquirer • The Guardian • The Seattle Times • St. Louis Post-Dispatch • The Christian Science Monitor
In this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life.
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. With stunning historical detail, Wilkerson tells this story through the lives of three unique individuals…. Wilkerson brilliantly captures their first treacherous and exhausting cross-country trips by car and train and their new lives in colonies that grew into ghettos, as well as how they changed these cities with southern food, faith, and culture and improved them with discipline, drive, and hard work.
Both a riveting microcosm and a major assessment, The Warmth of Other Suns is a bold, remarkable, and riveting work, a superb account of an “unrecognized immigration” within our own land. Through the breadth of its narrative, the beauty of the writing, the depth of its research, and the fullness of the people and lives portrayed herein, this book is destined to become a classic.
Find many online sources here
The New Jim Crow:
Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
by Michelle Alexander
The New Jim Crow is a stunning account
of the rebirth of a caste-like system in
the United States, one that has resulted
in millions of African Americans locked
behind bars and then relegated to a
permanent second-class status—
denied the very rights supposedly won
in the Civil Rights Movement.
Since its publication in 2010, the book
has appeared on the New York Times
bestseller list for more than a year;
been dubbed the “secular bible of a
new social movement” by numerous
commentators, including Cornel West; and has led to consciousness-raising efforts in universities, churches, community centers, re-entry centers, and prisons nationwide. The New Jim Crow tells a truth our nation has been reluctant to face.
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.”
Alexander shows that, by targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness.
The New Jim Crow challenges the civil rights community—and all of us—to place mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in America.
• Named one of the Most Influential Books of the Last 20 Years by the Chronicle of Higher Education
• Winner of the NAACP Image Award for Nonfiction
“The bible of a social movement.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“[The New Jim Crow] transformed forever the way thinkers and activists view the phenomenon of mass incarceration.” —Slate
“Two years after Obama’s election, Alexander put the entire criminal justice system on trial, exposing racial discrimination from lawmaking to policing to the denial of voting rights to ex-prisoners. This bestseller struck the spark that would eventually light the fire of Black Lives matter.” —Ibram X. Kendi, The New York Times
“The New Jim Crow offers a devastating account of a legal system doing its job perfectly well. We have simply replaced one caste system (Jim Crow) for another one (imprisonment, parole, detention) that keeps the majority of minorities in a permanent state of disenfranchisement. Alexander looks in detail at what economists usually miss, namely the entire legal structure of the courts, parole, probation and laws that effectively turn a perpetrator of a crime into a moral outlaw who is unworthy of rehabilitation. . . Alexander does a fine job of truth-telling, pointing the finger where it rightly should be pointed: at all of us, liberal and conservative, white and black.” —Forbes
“[An] instant classic. . .The New Jim Crow is a grand wake-up call in the midst of a long slumber of indifference to the poor and vulnerable.” —Cornel West
“Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama’s political success and Oprah Winfrey’s financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that ‘[w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.’ Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as ‘a system of social control’ (‘More African Americans are under correctional control today. . . than were enslaved in 1850′).
Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the ‘war on drugs.’ She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates ‘who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits.’ Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: ‘most Americans know and don’t know the truth about mass incarceration’—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.” —Publishers Weekly
“Undoubtedly the most important book published in this century about the U.S.” —The Birmingham News
“A powerful analysis of why and how mass incarceration is happening in America, The New Jim Crow should be required reading for anyone working for real change in the criminal justice system.” —Ronald E. Hampton, executive director, National Black Police Association
“One of the most influential books of the last 20 years.”
—Chronicle of Higher Education
“[The New Jim Crow] transformed forever the way thinkers and activists view the phenomenon of mass incarceration.”
See it on Cokesbury
Just Mercy - A Story of Justice and Redemption
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.
As deeply moving, poignant and powerful a book as has been, and maybe ever
can be, written about the death penalty.
“Searing, moving…Bryan Stevenson may, indeed, be American’s Mandela”
–Nicholas Kristoff, The New York Times
The message of this book . . . is that evil can be overcome, a difference can be
made. Just Mercy will make you upset and it will make you hopeful.
– Ted Conover / The New York Times Book Review
A searing indictment of American criminal justice and a stirring testament to
the salvation that fighting for the vulnerable sometimes yields.
– David Cole / The New York Review of Books
Inspiring . . . a work of style, substance and clarity . . . Stevenson is not only a
great lawyer, he’s also a gifted writer and storyteller.
– The Washington Post
Searing, moving . . . Bryan Stevenson may, indeed, be America’s Mandela.
– Nicholas Kristof / The New York Times
See it on Amazon
See it on Cokesbury
Watch the Movie
See more sources for the movie on the Just Mercy website
The Just Mercy Discussion Guide
Download it here
Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color
by Andrea J. Ritchie
Invisible No More is a timely
examination of how Black women,
Indigenous women, and women of
color experience racial profiling,
police brutality, and immigration
enforcement. Placing stories of
individual women—such as
Sandra Bland, Rekia Boyd,
Dajerria Becton, Monica Jones, and
Mya Hall—in the broader context of
the twin epidemics of police violence
and mass incarceration, it documents
the evolution of movements centering
women’s experiences of policing and
demands a radical rethinking of our visions of safety—and the means we devote to achieving it.
“Invisible No More deserves a standing ovation. It's a passionate, incisive critique of the many ways in which women and girls of color are systematically erased or marginalized in discussions of police violence. The stories told here will haunt, inspire, and challenge you to reimagine justice by moving the experience of Black women and girls from the margins
to the center.”
—Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow
"With Invisible No More, Andrea Ritchie has produced a work of great scope and depth, tightly documented and deeply moving. Ritchie spans multiple centuries, nations, issues, and identity lenses to lay bare the effects of violent policing on women of color. She authentically and skillfully centers Black women while seeding the ground for alliances among women of color....Most importantly, she introduces us to a generation of fighters we can follow, support, and lift up.”
—Rinku Sen, executive director, Race Forward
“Invisible No More is more than a book about police accountability; it is an important read that interrogates policing practices at the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and ability."
—Monique W. Morris, author of Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls
"This is a terrifying book, not only because it exposes the startling number of Black women whose lives were cut short by state-sanctioned violence or the fatal consequences of policing Black women’s bodies. What is most disturbing is how little we know about these women and their stories. But thanks to Andrea Ritchie’s thorough research and raw storytelling—capturing both the horrors and the resistance—we can finally begin to #sayhername and end the state’s war on women of color once and for all.”
—Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination
"Ritchie moved me from page one with layered, thoughtful, and well-researched storytelling describing the multiple ways women of color are impacted by criminalization, begging the question of how their stories have been neglected and calling on all of us to make them visible. ...if heeded, will undoubtedly transform the course of history.”
—Opal Tometi, cofounder of Black Lives Matter and executive director of
Black Alliance for Just Immigration
See it on Amazon
See it on Beacon
Dismantling Racism: Resources for
BLACK AMERICAN LITERARY GIANTS
Learning & Action Solidarity & Intersectionality
for our work to continue.
On this page, left side:
Books for Learning about Racism
On this page, right side:
Black American Literary Giants
See our page for Learning activities,
Articles, and Videos & Podcasts
United Methodist Resources
The UMC has a lot to offer in the work
of dismantling systemic racism.
See these resources
Don't miss:FFind resources about
specific topics, such as Defunding the Police
and Reparations for African Americans - see them with those campaigns
on this page: Dismantling Racism: Actions & Campaigns
Have you seen the books by Black American
Literary Giants? In the column on the right
UMKR needs your support
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An Appeal from UMKR
UMKR has important church legislation for our denomination's global General Conference, to be held in 2021. These resolutions address:
• protecting Palestinian children,
• defending the right to boycott,
•divesting from the bonds of occupation governments, and other timely justice issues.
We also have BIG PLANS for educating
A LOT of people throughout our church about Palestinian rights, with literature, displays, speakers, meals, and witness actions!
With very limited resources, UMKR has made a BIG impact in the global United Methodist Church! Groundbreaking divestment and boycott actions by the UMC would never have happened without UMKR's advocacy AND all the extraordinary partners and allies who helped us.
General Conference is always our BEST OPPORTUNITY to make a worldwide impactfor Palestinian rights throughout our denomination.
But, if we are to succeed in advocating for justice with thousands of United Methodists who come to General Conference from four continents,WE NEED YOUR HELP!
Click the green button and take action now:
Please give as generously as you can, and
know that whatever you are able to give
will be greatly appreciated.
James Baldwin (1924-1987) was a novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic, and one of America's foremost writers. His essays, such as "Notes of a Native Son" (1955), explore palpable yet unspoken intricacies of racial, sexual, and class distinctions in Western societies, most notably in mid-twentieth-century America.
The Fire Next Time
by James Baldwin
A national bestseller when
it first appeared in 1963,
The Fire Next Time
galvanized the nation,
gave passionate voice to
the emerging civil rights
movement—and still lights
the way to understanding
race in America today.
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 from the iconic author of If Beale Street Could Talk and Go Tell It on the Mountain. 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 literature.
Baldwin's seething insights and directives, so disturbing to the white liberals and black moderates of his day, have become the starting point for discussions of American race relations: that debasement and oppression of one people by another is "a recipe for murder"; that "color is not a human or a personal reality; it is a political reality"; that whites can only truly liberate themselves when they liberate blacks, indeed when they "become black" symbolically and spiritually; that blacks and whites "deeply need each other here" in order for America to realize its identity as a nation.
Yet despite its edgy tone and the strong undercurrent of violence, The Fire Next Time is ultimately a hopeful and healing essay. Baldwin ranges far in these hundred pages--from a memoir of his abortive teenage religious awakening in Harlem (an interesting commentary on his first novel Go Tell It on the Mountain) to a disturbing encounter with Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad. But what binds it all together is the eloquence, intimacy, and controlled urgency of the voice. Baldwin clearly paid in sweat and shame for every word in this text. What's incredible is that he managed to keep his cool. --David Laskin
"Basically the finest essay I’ve ever read. . . . Baldwin refused to hold anyone’s hand. He was both direct and beautiful all at once. He did not seem to write to convince you. He wrote beyond you."
– Ta-Nehisi Coates
"So eloquent in its passion and so scorching in its candor that it is bound to unsettle any reader."--The Atlantic
See it on Amazon
The Fire Next Time Teacher’s Guide
At Penguin Random House
Notes of a Native Son
by James Baldwin
#26 on The Guardian's list of
100 best nonfiction books of
all time, the essays explore
what it means to be Black in
In an age of Black Lives Matter,
James Baldwin's essays on life
in Harlem, the protest novel,
movies, and African Americans
abroad are as powerful today
as when they were first written. With documentaries like
I Am Not Your Negro bringing renewed interest to Baldwin's life and work, Notes of a Native Son serves as a valuable introduction.
Written during the 1940s and early 1950s, when Baldwin was only in his twenties, the essays collected in Notes of a Native Son capture a view of black life and black thought at the dawn of the civil rights movement and as the movement slowly gained strength through the words of one of the most captivating essayists and foremost intellectuals of that era. Writing as an artist, activist, and social critic, Baldwin probes the complex condition of being black in America. With a keen eye, he examines everything from the significance of the protest novel to the motives and circumstances of the many black expatriates of the time, from his home in “The Harlem Ghetto” to a sobering “Journey to Atlanta.”
Notes of a Native Son inaugurated Baldwin as one of the leading interpreters of the dramatic social changes erupting in the United States in the twentieth century, and many of his observations have proven almost prophetic. His criticism on topics such as the paternalism of white progressives or on his own friend Richard Wright’s work is pointed and unabashed. He was also one of the few writing on race at the time who addressed the issue with a powerful mixture of outrage at the gross physical and political violence against black citizens and measured understanding of their oppressors, which helped awaken a white audience to the injustices under their noses. Naturally, this combination of brazen criticism and unconventional empathy for white readers won Baldwin as much condemnation as praise.
Notes is the book that established Baldwin’s voice as a social critic, and it remains one of his most admired works. The essays collected here create a cohesive sketch of black America and reveal an intimate portrait of Baldwin’s own search for identity as an artist, as a black man, and as an American.
"He named for me the things you feel but couldn't utter. . . . Jimmy's essays articulated for the first time to white America what it meant to be American and a black American at the same time."—Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
"A straight-from-the-shoulder writer, writing about the troubled problems of this troubled earth with an illuminating intensity."—Langston Hughes, The New York Times Book Review
See it on Amazon
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
by Maya Angelou
In the first volume of an
series, one of the most inspiring
authors of our time recalls--with
candor, humor, poignancy and
grace--how her journey began....
In this first of five volumes of
autobiography, poet Maya
Angelou recounts a youth filled
with disappointment, frustration, tragedy, and finally
hard-won independence. Sent at a young age to live with
her grandmother in Arkansas, Angelou learned a great deal from this exceptional woman and the tightly knit black community there. These very lessons carried her throughout the hardships she endured later in life, including a tragic occurrence while visiting her mother in St. Louis and her formative years spent in California--where an unwanted pregnancy changed her life forever. Marvelously told, with Angelou's "gift for language and observation," this "remarkable autobiography by an equally remarkable black woman from Arkansas captures, indelibly, a world of which most Americans are shamefully ignorant."
The international classic and bestseller, Maya Angelou's memoir paints a portrait of 'a brilliant writer, a fierce friend and a truly phenomenal woman' (BARACK OBAMA).
'I write about being a Black American woman, however, I am always talking about what it's like to be a human being. This is how we are, what makes us laugh, and this is how we fall and how we somehow, amazingly, stand up again' Maya Angelou
In this first volume of her seven books of autobiography, Maya Angelou beautifully evokes her childhood with her grandmother in the American south of the 1930s. Loving the world, she also knows its cruelty. As a Black woman she has known discrimination, violence and extreme poverty, but also hope, joy, achievement and celebration.
'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings liberates the reader into life simply because Maya Angelou confronts her own life with such a moving wonder, such a luminous dignity' JAMES BALDWIN
'She moved through the world with unshakeable calm, confidence and a fierce grace . . . She will always be the rainbow in my clouds' OPRAH WINFREY
'She was important in so many ways. She launched African American women writing in the United States. She was generous to a fault. She had nineteen talents - used ten. And was a real original. There is no duplicate' TONI MORRISON
See it on Amazon
ZORA NEALE HURSTON
Their Eyes Were Watching God
by Zora Neale Hurston
One of the most important
works of twentieth-century
American literature, Zora
Neale Hurston's beloved
1937 classic, Their Eyes
Were Watching God, is an
enduring Southern love story
sparkling with wit, beauty,
and heartfelt wisdom. Told in
the captivating voice of a
woman who refuses to live in sorrow, bitterness, fear, or foolish romantic dreams, it is the story of fair-skinned, fiercely independent Janie Crawford, and her evolving selfhood through three marriages and a life marked by poverty, trials, and purpose. A true literary wonder, Hurston's masterwork remains as relevant and affecting today as when it was first published - perhaps the most widely read and highly regarded novel in the entire canon of African American literature.
The epic tale of Janie Crawford, whose quest for identity takes her on a journey during which she learns what love is, experiences life’s joys and sorrows, and come home to herself in peace. Her passionate story prompted Alice Walker to say, “There is no book more important to me than this one.”
When first published in 1937, this novel about a proud, independent black woman was generally dismissed by male reviewers. Out of print for almost thirty years, but since its reissue in paperback edition by the University of Illionois Press in 1978, Their Eyes Were Watching God has become the most widely read and highly acclaimed novel in the canon of African-American literature.
See in on Amazon
Recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (1988) and the Nobel Prize in Literature (1993).
by Toni Morrison
One of the BBC’s
100 Novels That Shaped
Toni Morrison’s most iconic
work in this Pulitzer-prize
winning novel exemplifies
her powerful and important
place in contemporary American literature.
It is the mid-1800s and as slavery looks to be coming to
an end, Sethe is haunted by the violent trauma it wrought on her former enslaved life at Sweet Home, Kentucky. Her dead baby daughter, whose tombstone bears the single word, Beloved, returns as a spectre to punish her mother, but also to elicit her love. Told with heart-stopping clarity, melding horror and beauty, Beloved is Toni Morrison’s enduring masterpiece.
Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby. Sethe, its protagonist, was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. And Sethe's new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved. Filled with bitter poetry and suspense as taut as a rope, Beloved" is a towering achievement.
"Beloved possesses the heightened power and resonance of myth. An extraordinary novel." —Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
“A masterwork. . . . Wonderful. . . . I can’t imagine American literature without it.” —John Leonard, Los Angeles Times
“Toni Morrison’s finest work. . . . [It] sets her apart [and] displays her prodigious talent.” —Chicago Sun-Times
“Dazzling. . . . Magical. . . . An extraordinary work.” —The New York Times
“A masterpiece. . . . Magnificent. . . . Astounding. . . . Overpowering.” —Newsweek
“A brutally powerful, mesmerizing story. . . . Read it and tremble.” —People
“Superb. . . . A profound and shattering story that carries the weight of history. . . . Exquisitely told.” —Cosmopolitan
“Stunning. . . A lasting achievement.” —The Christian Science Monitor
“In her most probing novel, Toni Morrison has demonstrated once again the stunning powers that place her in the first ranks of our living novelists.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Shattering emotional power and impact.” —New York Daily News
‘Toni Morrison was a giant of her times and ours…“Beloved,” is a heartbreaking testimony to the ongoing ravages of slavery, and should be read by all’ - Margaret Atwood, New York Times
The Bluest Eye
by Toni Morrison
Pecola Breedlove, a young
black girl, prays every day for
beauty. Mocked by other
children for the dark skin,
curly hair, and brown eyes
that set her apart, she yearns
for normalcy, for the blond
hair and blue eyes that she
believes will allow her to
finally fit in. Yet as her dream
grows more fervent, her life
slowly starts to disintegrate in the face of adversity and
strife. A powerful examination of our obsession with
beauty and conformity, Toni Morrison’s virtuosic first
novel asks powerful questions about race, class, and
gender with the subtlety and grace that have always characterized her writing.
“You can’t go wrong by reading or re-reading the collected works of Toni Morrison. Beloved, Song of Solomon, The Bluest Eye, Sula, everything else — they’re transcendent, all of them. You’ll be glad you read them.”–Barack Obama
“So precise, so faithful to speech and so charged with pain and wonder that the novel becomes poetry.” —The New York Times
“A profoundly successful work of fiction. . . . Taut and understated, harsh in its detachment, sympathetic in its truth . . . it is an experience.” —The Detroit Free Press
See it and find sources on Penguin Random House
12 Groundbreaking Toni Morrison Books to Read Right Now
See them at Oprah Magazine