February is National Black History Month and is a time when the black community is taught and celebrated across America. Though it is also a month for growth and learning how to become actively anti-racist. In this article, I want to share a series of books that share narratives from the black community and teach others how being non-racist is not the same nor enough than being anti-racist.
A Promised Land By Barack Obama
In this newly published memoir, Former President Obama tells various stories and expresses his thoughts on eight years he spent being the first black President of the United States. Obama goes in depth on decisions he made while in office and his thought process behind them, along with what it meant for him to hold this position of power, the monumental change that came from it, and what he is hopeful will come in the future.
Remembering Jim Crow: African Americans Tell About Life in the Segregated South | Edited by William H. Chafe, Raymond Gavins and Robert Korstad
A sequel to the book Remembering Slavery, this critically acclaimed novel offers testimonies by people from 25 communities in 10 states. 1,200 interviews from members of the black community were curated from a collection at Duke University called Behind the Veil: Documenting African Americans Life in the Jim Crow South to create this masterpiece. This piece represents the diverse lifestyles between social and economic classes considering the impact of location, race and community.
Free All Along: The Robert Penn Warren Civil Rights Interviews |Edited by Stephen Drury Smith and Catherine Ellis
Robert Penn Warren collected interviews from many leaders of the the Civil Rights Movement at its height in 1964 , highlighting the struggles, the ideas, and the hope all of them had. Ralph Ellison, one of the featured speakers is quoted in the book saying “this is an expression not of people who are suddenly freed of something, but people who have been free all along”. With many other famous leaders and activists, this is a book you do not want to skip during Black History Month.
But Some of Us Are Brave: Black Women’s Studies by Askasha Hull, Patricia Bell-Scott and Barbara Smith
This is a collection of material that can be used to develop course unit studies on black women. From political theory, literary essays on major writers, guidelines on counteracting racism and research studies done on black women, this book can be used to learn about inequity that black women face, but more importantly, can be used by professors to develop a fair curriculum when teaching about injustice.
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
Discussing the prison system, this non-fiction New York Times bestseller book talks about the ‘rebirth’ of a race and class system within our legal institutions. Alexander makes the connections between the reactions of public policy in topics such as drugs and law. The previous civil rights lawyer turned scholar makes the argument that while discrimination is illegal there is a mass amount of discrimination within the justice system given to criminals.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
Former first lady, attorney and human rights activist Michelle Obama writes a New York Times bestseller about her life. Talking about not only her time in the White House being the first black first lady but also her life growing up, becoming a mother and what it meant to find her voice.
The Truth We Hold by Kamala Harris
Current Vice-President Kamala Harris wrote a memoir about her life coming from a background of adversity. Vice-President Harris speaks in this book about an array of things from her childhood, a civil rights activist, lawyer and politician.
How to Be Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi
This previous summer this particular book went viral during the Black Lives Matter protest. The reason for this being the way that Kendi is able to make the argument that simply ‘not being racist’ is no longer enough in the times that we are living in. Discussing systematic racism and the action steps that people must make to create a system of equality, this book is foundational in the effort to establish an anti-racist society.
While these books are not the cure for the deep rooted racism and consequences in America, they are a first step. However, it is a first step that people should feel encouraged to take at all times throughout the year, not just during Black History Month. When we educate ourselves on the oppression of others, we are able to equip for the circumstances of fighting for what is right.