reading lists

7 Anti-Racist Books Recommended by Educators and Activists

With protests across the country calling for systemic change and justice for the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade, many people are asking themselves what they can do to help. Joining protests and making donations to organizations like Know Your Rights Camp, the ACLU, or the National Bail Fund Network are good steps, but many anti-racist educators and activists say that to truly be anti-racist, we have to commit ourselves to the ongoing fight against racism — in the world and in us. To help you get started, we’ve compiled the following list of books suggested by anti-racist organizations, educators, and black-owned bookstores (which we recommend visiting online to purchase these books). They cover the history of racism in America, identifying white privilege, and looking at the intersection of racism and misogyny. We’ve also collected a list of recommended books to help parents raise anti-racist children here.

Historian and New York Times best-selling author Ibram X. Kendi uses a mix of personal experiences, history, and science to show how a person can go from being racist to anti-racist, and how we can all build a new anti-racist society. Kendi’s book is at the top of almost every list we’ve seen.

Recommended by: writers Ijeoma Oluo (see below) and Robin DiAngelo, Liz Kleinrock of Teach and Transform, The Lit Bar Bookshop in the Bronx, Mahogany Books in Washington D.C., Sisters Uptown Bookstore in Washington Heights, and activists Tatiana Mac, Sarah Sophie Flicker, and Alyssa Klein. 

In her book White Fragility, anti-racism educator Robin Diangelo examines how white defensive responses to conversations about race and racism reinforce inequality and prevent meaningful dialogue. She then offers ways white people can work against white fragility to engage in more constructive ways.

Recommended by: the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University in Washington D.C., Sisters Uptown Bookstore, and numerous activists and anti-racist organizations.

Ijeomo Oluo’s New York Times best seller shows people of all races how to have constructive and useful conversations about race in America. It answers questions about confronting friends and family members while providing a comprehensive education on this country’s racist heritage.

Recommended by: Oluo’s book has been recommended by too many educators, activists, and writers to count, but some notable mentions come from anti-racist educators Britt Hawthorne and Kleinrock, activists Mac, Flicker, and Klein, The Lit Bar, and Harriett’s Bookshop in Philadelphia.

What started as an Instagram challenge and a downloadable anti-racist workbook encouraging people to examine their own privilege and racist behaviors now comes in book form with historical context, expanded definitions, and more resources. It has been widely recommended for white people who want to make change but don’t know where to start.

Recommended by: Flicker and Klein put it on their Google doc of anti-racism resources, as did anti-racist educator Joe Truss of Culturally Responsive Leadership and Harriett’s Bookshop.

Michelle Alexander’s award winning book delves into mass incarceration and the truth about the United States’ thriving racial caste system. Ibram X. Kendi describes The New Jim Crow as “the spark that would eventually light the fire of Black Lives Matter.”

Recommended by: Kendi, Truss, Flicker and Klein, Mac, and The Lit Bar.

Author and professor of Gender and Africana Studies at Rutgers University, Brittney Cooper uses her own experience to talk about the power of black female rage and how it can drive revolution and change the world.

Recommended by: Roxane Gay, Rebecca Solnit, Flicker and Klein, Strategist writer Tembe Denton-Hurst who included it in her Black Feminist Book List on Bookshop, and Harriett’s Bookshop.

Dána-Ain Davis looks into why black women have higher rates of premature birth and higher maternal death rates than other women in America. She places racial differences in birth outcomes into a historical context, revealing that ideas about reproduction and race today have been influenced by the legacy of ideas dating back to slavery.

Recommended by: Strategist writer Tembe Denton-Hurst who included it in her Black Feminist Book List on Bookshop

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7 Anti-Racist Books Recommended by Educators and Activists