Resources and Literature

Sourcing one’s understanding is a critical part of turning speculation into research based in fact. The Work aims to help guide readers on a path that allows them to assess and analyze the racial history of the United States. The books below have been slated into five categories but some books can occupy multiple classifications. I chose where I felt it would fit best in the context of the other books listed. All of these have been read by myself and will be updated periodically. Most of the books have been linked to Mahogany Books, a Black-owned business based out of Washington D.C.

*It should be noted, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion will be abbreviated to DEI

Jump to:

Educational Reads
Perspective Reads
Historical Reads
Contemporary Reads

Beginner Reads

Beginner books are books that aim to start a conversation about race. They may address some common tropes, stereotypes, biases, and misconceptions some may have when coming into discussions dealing with race. The great part about beginner books is that you can always revisit them as you move along in your racial literacy to gain different frames of reference.

This was the book that began the racial discussion for me. It is a fun take on some of the ins and outs of being Black in America. Great if you would like to ease into the conversation and have a few laughs along the way.

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A legitimate, necessary gateway for White people entering the topic of DEI work. DiAngelo does an excellent job of addressing White racial identity and explaining how it is important for White people to confront their own identity and biases before chiming into DEI issues.

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For those that want to dive into the DEI discussion from a religious standpoint, Tisby offers a look into America’s racial history through the Christianity lens. Complicity can embolden racism and this book points out multiple ways Christianity can be used to lead the conversation in repairing racial relationships in the US

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Educational Reads

Books in this section are generally geared toward those that are looking for research-backed sources. These texts are often useful for understanding the science behind racial literacy. As a result, these books tend to be more dense and should often be read with a highlighter to take some of your own notes while reading. Excellent for unlearning traditional ways history is taught in

Given race and prejudice are always adapting, it is important to understand what remains constant and thoroughly assess ways to keep history from repeating itself. CRT: Intro focuses on ways to teach about current events and issues through research. It gives a number of suggested readings to help subsidize any lessons you may be trying teach.

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Arguably the most import piece of literature when thinking about teaching DEI subjects. Extremely thorough in its research, CRT focuses on writings and legal cases to address contemporary racial conversations. Anyone looking to get into the minutiae DEI work, this is a must-have.

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As the title suggests, this textbook is a great tool for any budding diversity practitioners looking to implement DEI work into their own classrooms or schools. It has a plethora of DEI and how to teach them. This book is great for building confidence around teaching DEI topics in a diverse classroom. Pair this with Readings for Diversity and Social Justice for extra support.

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A “Diversity Bible” of sorts, this book looks label the many ways DEI work weaves into everyday life through research articles and case studies. Great for exploring topics you feel you know a lot about as well as new budding issues and the complexities they may pose. It is important to note that this book can be used alone but is best teamed with Critical Race Theory and Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice.

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Perspective Reads

This section zeroes in on books that take a particular perspective into account with concern to racial literacy. Because of our own biases, there may be blind spots in our understanding when approaching the topic of race. These books aim to broaden our horizons and make sure we are aware of other forces that are at play when discussing DEI work.

Since I teach predominately White, upper class children, it is important I understand what their experiences are like growing up in an increasingly diverse world. Rather than make assumptions about their upbringing as it concerns race, Hagerman conducts a two-year study affluent White children and how they perceive race. This book is great for learning about colorblind conservatism and its effects in the classroom.

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Race is not the central focus but this book provides a glimpse into the pressures of students in independent schools. This is a useful intersectional book when thinking of POC students in predominantly White spaces. Any teacher wanting to understand the challenges of competitive environments should take a look here.

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Race is a social construct. Allen explores the details of slavery when it first arrived on the shores of the United States. He explains “White people” did not exist during this time but how their creation was paramount to establishing a hierarchy. This two-part book series hones in on the necessity of racial oppression as a means of social control.

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Much like Levine’s work in The Price of Privilege, Educating Elites explores the power dynamics of class privilege and socioeconomic status as a property. Given class and racial privileges can be hard for some to acknowledge, it is important to face these factors head-on in order to have an honest conversation about entitlement as an identity.

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Gladwell’s book challenges the idea of success and what may contribute to one’s ability to succeed. Though over a decade old, it provides a look into how culture and the biases associated may be a significant contributor to excelling in one’s experience. Pairing this book with virtually any of the historical reads and you have a critical analysis on how the US’ focus individualism and meritocracy intersects with racial oppression.

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Baldwin’s first major novel takes place in 1935 Harlem through the eyes of a 14 year old boy. Race, religion, culture, sexuality, and morality all come together in a wonderfully written piece about the pressures of growing up Black (Much more serious tone than How to be Black by Thurston). This should definitely be read in schools but that is my own opinion.

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The first of the African Trilogy, Achebe’s famous novel focuses on the resolute, but flawed, Okonkwo in his village of Umuofia. This book explores colonization as a means of chaos and how it decolonizes a culture – including individuals. It is a quick read but you will most likely revisit after pairing this book with historical texts. Things Fall Apart also makes a great reading club book.

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Baldwin’s memoir is beautifully painful. He recounts his interactions with many famous Civil Rights leaders and parses through how involved he was with the movement, only to see progress halted in so many different ways. While this could fit in with Historical Reads, this book puts you in the shoes of a man who only had the power of his voice and pen as a means to create change.

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This realistic fiction novel highlights the ongoing damage from the L.A. Riots in 1992. Grace Park and Shawn Matthews have different experiences with the riots but one split-second event is all it takes to create a cataclysmic chain of events. This book is an excellent example of cultural influence on perspective.

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Historical Reads

Historical books aim to examine (predominantly) US history through an honest racial lens. For anyone curious about the state of racial relations today, this path should definitely be explored. These books pair well with any of the other categories as they provide a deeper context to other books you may decide to read.

Fanon doesn’t mince words in his assessment post-colonial civilizations and its effects on the colonizer and the colonized. The theory that an oppressed group can still perpetuate the ideas of their own oppressors is not a new idea however it should be examined more closely. Fanon does an excellent job of putting it into historical context.

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One of the first books I read after Thurston’s How to be Black. Dr. Woodson (also the creator of Black History Month) examines the adverse effects of a Western European educaton can have on Black people. He also discusses the historical state of education in the United States and maps out steps for reformation. A great resource for anyone looking to examine the inequities of education then and now.

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For anyone looking for a documented, historical, and intersectional book about POC, Ortiz has wound together an impressive narrative that speaks about the congruence of both African American and Latinx peoples. By putting their histories in context of one another, you begin to see stark similarities of what oppression looks like physically but also politically.

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Chang uses a slightly different lens to discuss how Civil Rights were fought for: music. Focusing on a number of hip-hop pioneers, Chang discusses how messaging through melody was important for unity and building the strength of a community. For many, the early generations of hip-hop were some of the best racial historians and examining their affect on the US population is definitely worth the time.

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The Reconstruction Era existed to repair the United States, and more specifically for Black Americans who are now freedmen. Dr. Gates, Jr. documents how the US Government “compromised” on the word “free” and ushered in a new segregationist era that still has created division to this day. In order to cover contemporary race relations honestly, it is important to understand what historically contributed to it.

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A favorite. This book thoroughly researched how embedded racism is in US legislation. In order to understand what institutional racism looks like, as well as how it was designed, this book has to be in your library. Professor Anderson is unapologetic in explaining how the US has endorsed racism whenever racial equality is making strides. It is a stark view at the US political sphere.

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Du Bois’ seminal work focuses on his experience of being a Black man in the United States. This book has led to many other works exploring sociology and racial relations and is always a useful tool in understanding the nuance of race and how it permeates everyday life for Black populations. Du Bois speaks about double consciousness, the idea that Black people need to have two forms of vision (how they view themselves vs. how the world views them). Though written 1903, this work is still used in research today due to its relevancy.

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Baldwin is famous for eloquently stating the state of racial politics in a way that not only allows us to hear the authenticity of his words but also in a way that makes us all confront the reality of lack of empathy in US politics. Baldwin’s collections of essays allow for a wealth of discussion topics in reading groups but even everyday conversation. His work has influenced Coates, Hannah-Jones, and many others writing today. His work will spur you to most likely start your own work.

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Baldwin was friends with MLK Jr., Malcolm X, and Medgar Evers. Their deaths had an painful impact on Baldwin and he wanted to create a project to continue their work in a way that would memorialize them and continue the conversation. Baldwin would pass away in 1987, unable to complete his work but he did leave behind a manuscript that would be created into a documentary by Raoul Peck in 2018.

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Examining the complexity of the intersection of race, politics, national identity, history, and religion could take decades of research, many studies, and plethora of sources and somehow Baldwin gracefully broaches this topic uses his own experiences to understand the hypocrisy of the US democratic platform and discusses ways for those in power to confront the issues currently facing the American people.

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A sobering read into the history of American Indians. Treuer blends history with memoir and examines the effects of US government-sanctioned discrimination and violence upon the Native People. Much like Ortiz’s work with the intersection of LatinX and Black history, the treatment of Native American history has plenty of omissions that are consistent with how we have been taught to discuss American history in schools. This book is heavy but is useful in getting the discussion started.

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A collection of work from his time at The Atlantic, Coates highlights what true freedom looked like for a split second in the Reconstruction Era. His essay titled “The Case for Reparations” made headlines mainstreamed a subject that has been talked about for more than a century. There is added chapter on the effect of the Trump presidency on the Civil Rights movement that will likely shape how we discuss racial politics in future conversations.

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Knowing the life of Malcolm X is American history in and of itself. The growth of Malik El-Shabazz is also a critique on the American Dream. His life has been thoroughly explored for his stances on integration, discipline, as well as what he saw as goals for Black America towards the end of his life. Regardless if you are new to the conversation of race or someone who have been deeply invested in The Work, Malcolm X’s autobiography will spark all levels into action.

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For all athletes entering the conversation, Rhoden’s book examines the relationship sports plays on silencing Black athletes and removing them from the racial conversation. Given athletes often have massive platforms to voice their ideas, White-owned sports institutions have managed ways to suppress their employees voices through money and promised fame. This trade for identity is not a new policy, Rhoden examines the ways this concerted effort has shown up throughout America’s history with sports.

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Shortly after the Jim Crow Era began, Black America had to adapt to the new version of racism being shown. While some stayed in their neighborhoods to build their lives, some ventured West and North to create a new chapter. Wilkerson’s award-winning work chronicles three different stories, all affected by The Great Migration. Though lengthy, Wilkerson makes sure there is no discrepancy in understanding the lengths Black Americans are willing to go through in the name of equality.

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Williams researches the history of Black America and dives into the history before the Transatlantic Slave Trade, looking to more positive examples of Black edification as a means to assess the damage colonization has caused. Heavily sourced, the book spurs a great conversation around how Black history should really be taught and is not afraid to call out how Black history has often been shaped to assuage both conservative and liberal agendas. His sections on how to take action are always worth reading over.

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Dr. Welsing released a book comprised of 25 essays discussing colonial-related brutality and its effect on POC. She speaks of White supremacy as a global concept and how it weaves its way into Black lives while simultaneously remaining invisible. This book could fit easily into any of the other categories due to it’s versatility on a number of subjects but I found it most helpful to examine this as a historical text.

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The verbiage can take some getting used to but for those that are interested in the toll the slave trade can take on a person with firsthand experience, Hurston’s work will remain as a narrative for every other book you decide to read after. From Cudjo’s childhood experiences in Africa to being being freed after the Civil War, Barracoon examines the identity that being a slave can build for one person and how that can ripple through a community, even after you are “free”.

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Contemporary Reads

This section is dedicated to books that have themes that are still readily discussed today. Books here have a more novel-based approach when exploring racial topics are are great books for reading groups and discussions. Paring these books with Historical or Perspective Reads allow the reader to approach different racial and gender intersections.

Though technically a Historical Read, Alexander’s work continually is drawn upon when discussing racial injustices today. Though the Civil Rights Act ended Jim Crow laws, that does not mean its practices were immediately abolished. Multiple institutions managed to continue discriminatory practices under different aliases, including law enforcement. This book is critical in understanding how ingrained racism and prejudice is in our institutional practices and how best to combat it effectively.

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Though realistic fiction, The Hate U Give could easily be based on a true story on many accounts. The story follows Starr and her experiences with Du Bois’ concept of “Double Consciousness” as she navigates two worlds joined together over the killing of her best friend Khalil. How she and her family tread through this ordeal opens up a crucial dialogue surrounding policing and activism. Reading this with a teenager can give you an extra perspective on how they are viewing the world today versus where you were at their age.

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Before making his way to The Daily Show on Comedy Central, Trevor Noah had to navigate South Africa during apartheid. The added layer of complexity was that he was “Colored” – meaning biracial by South Africa’s terms. Being Colored in South Africa was illegal meaning his identity had to be hidden. This had its pros and cons for Noah and he uses plenty of wit and suspense to weave a fabulous autobiography.

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Published in 2006, Adichie’s second major novel covers the Nigeria in the late 1960s during their Civil War. The story follows five different characters and their perspectives during the war and how their identities could become influenced by violence, whether direct or indirect. This book could also be a Perspective Read for those looking to view how Black American identities differ from Pan-African ones. Given this is the same time period as the Civil Rights Movement here in America, it is interesting to draw comparisons between some the the obstacles the Nigerians faced alongside of Black Americans.

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In Adichie’s most recent book (2013), westernized perceptions of race are brought through the lens of Ifemelu and Obinze as they make their ways from Nigeria in hopes of starting a new life together in the United States. Both characters struggle to develop their own identities outside Nigeria, their paths diverge, and their journeys are equally interesting as it opens dialogues surrounding migration as well the Americanization of other cultures and how pervasive it can be.

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Coates’ first novel highlights the impact his own father, Paul Coates, has had on his own life. Growing up in West Baltimore, Coates recounts how his father’s Black Panther influence shaped Ta-Nehisi despite never being consistently present. These experiences would trickle into Ta-Nahesi’s own relationships and views on education and eventually begin to shape how Ta-Nahesi saw himself as a father.

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In 2015, Coates penned a letter to his own teenage son about the concerns of growing up Black in a world that has the power to unceremoniously take your life without any repercussion. Channeling Baldwin, Coates recalls his own experiences growing up and how it will eventually affect his own son’s life. What sets this book from others is the deft to which he describes White Supremacy as both inevitable and indestructible. Those themes can easily be discussed in any context.

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A collection of short stories, Thompson-Spires explores a range of different characters – each with their own strengths and faults as they handle a number of different experiences. There are multiple layers of themes to sift through which makes this a great reading group book for teenagers and young adults. It is a quick read but great for those looking to discuss comparative literature

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One of my favorites. Given my own love for Black Futurism as a novel, this book manages blend Black Mirror-esque subjects with racial undertones (sometimes overtones). It is a collection of short stories that examine the relationship between American consumerism and the Black experience. The themes of Friday Black will make you wonder if this is the partial future we are expecting if we stay on our current trajectory.

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Abu-Jamal should be dead. He was sentenced to death in 1982 for the alleged killing of a police officer in Philadelphia. During his time on Death Row, holes were found in the testimony and eventually, Abu-Jamal’s sentence was reduced to life in prison. During this time, Abu-Jamal evaluates the American Justice System and its exploitation of Black bodies. Recounts of many unarmed Black deaths at the hands of police have been discussed and the recurring themes are not lost on Abu-Jamal as he criticizes the current legislative and judicial practices and uses his text as call to action.

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Gyasi’s novel starts us in eighteenth-century Ghana and follows two women Effia and Esi. Their paths would split dramatically as Esi would be sold off to slavery in America while Effia would endure the war occurring in Ghana. The story follows descendants of both women as they learn to handle their respective situations and continue to create an understanding of their outlooks. This book is great as a Perspective Read as well and can be a great reading group book for young adults.

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Geared towards young adults, Adeyemi’s first novel follows Zelie, Amari, and Inaan in the fictional land of Orisha. War threatens to consume the land and all who inhabit it as the Kingdom of Orisha’s magic-less ruling class, the Kosidans begins to seek out the Maji – magic-sensitive people highlighted by their white hair and locs. Zelie is a Maji and is spurred on an adventure to restore magic to the land of Orisha. Her brother, Tzain, also a Kosidan, will aim to help her along in her mission. She will be joined by Amari, who’s family puts her in direct conflict with Zelie. If they can put their differences aside, they may be able to bring peace to Orisha.

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Zelie, Tzain, and Amari are back in Adeyemi’s second novel to try and seek peace in the land of Orisha. The added layer of relationships have complicated the sides of war. Without spoiling the book, Children of Virtue and Vengeance challenges the concept of blood being thicker than water. Given the overall themes of loyalty and family throughout the series, it is interesting to see how these themes are constantly challenged throughout the novel.

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