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#SorryNotSorry, Book Banners, Black History Is Still Happening

Black man with shades

What a difference a year makes. Book banning is back—and it’s on steroids. Is it a coincidence that it’s all the rave—more like rage—during Black History Month? The pearl-clutchers have assembled and are targeting not only books dealing with sex and gender but also books featuring Black themes and US history. It’s a predictable flex. A tired flex.

Don’t forget that Paul Ortiz’s An African American and Latinx History of the United States holds the dubious honor of making it on that little Krause list of around 850 books that “might make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex.” We know which students he’s referring to. That’s what you call cosigning ignorance. Is “psychological distress” the new doublespeak for learning and enlightenment?

And so, starting with Ortiz’s book, here’s a batch of recommended reading on Black history and Black lives for the month and year round. Psychological distress be damned. Because Uncle Jimmy Baldwin put it best in The Price of the Ticket: “One wishes that Americans—white Americans—would read, for their own sakes, this record and stop defending themselves against it. Only then will they be enabled to change their lives.” 


An African American and Latinx History of the United States

An African American and Latinx History of the United States

“In a time of endless war, with democracy in full retreat, I argue that we must chart pathways toward equality for all people by digging deep into the past and rediscovering the ideas of Emancipation Day lecturers, Mexicano newspaper editors, abolitionists, Latin American revolutionaries, and Black anti-imperialists who dreamed of democratic ways of living in the Americas.”
—Paul Ortiz


An Afro-Indigenous History of the US

An Afro-Indigenous History of the United States

“If I am to imagine a new world, one that brings an end to a world that hates Black people and reproduces antiblackness and white supremacy, and a world that erases Indigenous people and reproduces their dispossession through settler colonialism, I intend to tell some histories that have been ignored at best or made invisible at worst.”
—Kyle T. Mays



And the Category Is . . . : Inside New York’s Vogue, House, and Ballroom Community

“What is Ballroom? First, let’s be clear about what it isn’t. Ballroom is not a single song, movie, catchphrase, TV show, pop star, or ‘scene.’ Ballroom, ball culture, or the house-vogue system is part of a thriving arts-based culture founded over a century ago by LGBTQ African American and Latinx people of Harlem . . . If identity is a construct, and the world a stage, then Ballroom is the world’s Met Gala.”
—Ricky Tucker


How To Be Less Stupid About Race

How to Be Less Stupid About Race: On Racism, White Supremacy, and the Racial Divide

“Have you ever wondered how people lived with slavery, Jim Crow, and lynching but looked the other way? Look around right now. This is how they did it.”
—Crystal M. Fleming


Living While Black

Living While Black: Using Joy, Beauty, and Connection to Heal Racial Trauma

“This book sheds a light on the trauma of racism—its impact on both our mental and physical health and its consequences across individuals’ lifespans, across generations, and across social contexts . . . I want there to be no doubt that racism harms and that racial trauma is real. But, equally, I want to show that it is possible to resist and to practice radical self-care while navigating white supremacy.”
—Guilaine Kinouani


The Price of the Ticket

The Price of the Ticket: Collected Nonfiction: 1948-1985

“My point of view certainly is formed by my history, and it is probable that only a creature despised by history finds history a questionable matter. On the other hand, people who imagine that history flatters them (as it does, indeed, since they wrote it) are impaled on their history like a butterfly on a pin and become incapable of seeing or changing themselves, or the world.”
—James Baldwin, from “White Man’s Guilt”


The Spirit of Our Work

The Spirit of Our Work: Black Women Teachers (Re)member

“(Re)membering serves to honor the complexity of that wholeness in the long history of Black life, a history that moves us to be more fully human through both the joy and the tragedies of our existence as a people, and to learn from all of it.”
—Cynthia B. Dillard


Ten Lives Ten Demands

Ten Lives, Ten Demands: Life-and-Death Stories, and a Black Activist’s Blueprint for Racial Justice

“The demands in this book are drawn from my desire to see my people fight and win the equality we deserve . . . America is our country. Its wealth is built on our backs. Its capitalism depends on our consumption, and its future will be defined by our success. We demand much more than I could list in these pages, but these ten things are a damn good start.”
—Solomon Jones


Until I Am Free

Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer’s Enduring Message to America

“As Hamer reminded audiences across the country, it was impossible to ‘make democracy work’ when only some Americans had access to rights and resources.”
—Keisha N. Blain


Where Do We Go From Here

Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?

“One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of the status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. But today our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.”
—Martin Luther King, Jr., from “The World House”


White Space Black Hood

White Space, Black Hood: Opportunity Hoarding and Segregation in the Age of Inequality

“A basic move, of creating and maintaining Black-subordinating institutions to confer value on affluent whites, has not changed, though the mechanics and propaganda have metastasized. I argue that policy decisions made in the early twentieth century, to construct ghettos, have profound consequences for producing current inequality. I also contend that geography is now central to American caste, a mechanism for overinvesting in affluent white space and disinvesting and plundering elsewhere.”
—Sheryll Cashin



The Young Crusaders: The Untold Story of the Children and Teenagers Who Galvanized the Civil Rights Movement

“Children and teenagers were on the front lines at nonviolent protests and demonstrations throughout the 1950s and 1960s, but their major contributions to civil rights activism has generally gone unacknowledged.”
—V. P. Franklin

Black man with shades