Beacon Authors Reflect on the 400th Anniversary of Slavery in America
A Solar Eclipse, An Axe, and the Blood of White Folks: Nat Turner’s Slave Rebellion

400 Years a Traumatized Nation: A Reading List for the Fourth Centennial of Slavery in America

Slave auction block at Green Hill Plantation, Pannill family plantation, Long Island vicinity, Campbell County, Virginia.tion block
Where our societal trauma began. Slave auction block at Green Hill Plantation, Pannill family plantation, Long Island vicinity, Campbell County, Virginia.

It’s a clear-cut case of PTSD: Post-Traumatic Societal Disorder. The centuries-long trauma wrought by our nation’s history of slavery requires intensive therapy, because everybody is affected. Even our author, Daina Berry, said, “We are still living in the aftermath of slavery. It’s the stain on our flag and the sin of our country. Once we recognize this, face it, study it, and acknowledge the impact it has on all Americans, then we will be in a position to determine how we can move forward.” One of the ways to come to terms with it and move forward is to take in the full history, unabridged—free of sugar-coating, mythmaking, and claims of “American exceptionalism.” (What’s “exceptional” is the amount of damage done.) What better occasion than the 400th anniversary of this inhumane industry? Working back to 1619 and before, here’s a list of titles from our catalog to get us on the path to recovery . . . and hopefully, reparations.


African Voices of the Atlantic Slave Trade

“Bailey is not afraid to ask difficult questions . . . [She] expands and troubles our understanding of the African diaspora. In this fine and accessible study of the slave trade, Bailey places African voices of this era at the center of the writing of history.”
Atlanta Journal Constitution


The Price for Their Pound of Flesh

“A brilliant resurrection of the forgotten people who gave their lives to build our country. Rigorously researched and powerfully told, this book tallies the human price paid for the nation we now live in and restores these unrecognized Americans—their hopes, loves, and disregarded dreams—to their rightful place in history. Searing, revelatory, and vital to understanding our nation’s inequities.”
—Isabel Wilkerson, author of The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration


A Black Women's History of the United States

“A powerful and important book that charts the rich and dynamic history of Black women in the United States. It shows how these courageous women challenged racial and gender oppression and boldly asserted their authority and visions of freedom even in the face of resistance. This book is required reading for anyone interested in social justice.”
—Keisha N. Blain, author of Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom



“In Kindred, Octavia Butler creates a road for the impossible and a balm for the unbearable. It is everything the literature of science fiction can be.”
—Walter Mosley


The Long Walk to Freedom

“This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the historical reality of the slave experiences. Carbado and Weise have diligently selected narratives that will challenge readers’ presumptions and cut against the mythology that slaves were passive, that mostly men (and not women) ran away, that slaves typically ran North (not South), and that gender and racial passing were rare occurrences. A landmark achievement, The Long Walk to Freedom allows fugitive slaves to speak for themselves—on their own terms and in their own voices.”
—Dr. Mary Frances Berry, author of History Teaches Us to Resist: How Progressive Movements Have Succeeded in Challenging Times 


Anarcha Speaks

“Dominique’s poems paint brutal truths. Beautiful truths. They seek to uncover a history hidden under the skin. In an era in which such truths are in danger of being forgotten, Dominique’s voice is an essential. Her stories are an unearthing, the soil that connects us to our past, a lens through which, if we look close enough, we may see something that directs us to a kinder future.”
—Staceyann Chin, author of The Other Side of Paradise 


Inheriting the Trade

“DeWolf’s intimate confrontation with white America’s ‘unearned privilege’ sears the conscience.”
Kirkus Reviews 


Gather at the Table

“What a courageous journey-communicated in an engaging, readable style with candor, humor, and deep feeling. This book shed light on the thoughts, questions, and feelings I have about race, society, culture, and historical, generational, and structurally induced trauma—and the human ability to transcend. In reading it, I realized there are questions I’m still afraid to ask about race, things I’m afraid to say, and yet I realized anew the power of acknowledgment, mercy, justice, and conflict transformation. I’m grateful to DeWolf and Morgan for not just taking the journey but for sharing their story with us.”
—Carolyn Yoder, founding director of STAR: Strategies for Trauma Awareness & Resilience 


An African American and Latinx History of the United States

An African American and Latinx History of the United States is a gift. Paul Ortiz wields the engaging power of a social historian to bring vividly to life so many Black and Brown fighters for human rights in the Americas. Ambitious, original, and enlightening, Ortiz weaves together the seemingly separate strivings of Latinx and Black peoples into a beautiful tapestry of struggle.”
—Ibram X. Kendi, National Book Award–winning author of Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America 


Epic Journeys of Freedom

“This book shines because of Ms. Cassandra Pybus’s stellar research. Her description of the upheaval surrounding the American Revolution is sound . . . Cassandra Pybus’s book adds much needed historical documentation to a group of people who have largely been forgotten by history. Every school and public library should own a copy of this book.”
—Christina Maria Beaird (PLA), Plainfield Public Library District, Plainfield, IL


The Fearless Benjamin Lay

“A modern biography of the radical abolitionist Benjamin Lay has long been overdue. With the sure hand of an eminent historian of the disfranchised, Marcus Rediker has brought to life the wide-ranging activism of this extraordinary Quaker, vegetarian dwarf in a richly crafted book. In fully recovering Lay’s revolutionary abolitionist vision, Rediker reveals its ongoing significance for our world.”
—Manisha Sinha, author of The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition 


The Sounds of Slavery

“A fascinating book . . . that brings to life the historical soundscape of 18th- and 19th-century African Americans at work, play, rest, and prayer . . . This remarkable achievement demands a place in every collection on African American and US history and folklife.”
Library Journal

Slave auction block