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)