7 Books to Educate Yourself on America’s Long History of Systemic Racism

anti-racist books to read

It is no longer acceptable to be merely “not racist.” You must actively be anti-racist and willing to fight injustice day in and day out.

But before you can truly call yourself an ally, it’s important you educate yourself on the systematic racism that has been engrained in this country since its formation.

That means reading novels, books, and essays written by Black folks who can speak to their experiences with racism as well as materials written by historians and experts who can help you understand just how we got to this point in time.

The list below is made up of books I’ve read, books I need to read, and anti-racist book recommendations from the New York Times and Buzzfeed.

1. How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

anti-racist books list

Now is the time when many white people are finally understanding that being a passive opponent of racism is not enough. If that’s a thought you’ve been having recently then order this book for what anti-racism looks like. You’ll learn from Kendi’s own life experiences while also better understanding the varied ways racism manifests in society.

2. Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

ta-nehisi coates book

A must-read nonfiction book that speaks to the reality of being a Black man in America today, written as a letter to Ta-Nehisi Coates’ son. It gives you a more honest and uncensored view of what we are protesting now: police brutality against unarmed Black people. But it also does so with a voice of hope for future change.

3. The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein

racism books to read

Recognizing racism in America starts with understanding the ways it is written into the law and our legal system. This is a good step to contextualize the systemic spread of racism in this country.

4. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

the hate u give

This book, also adapted into a great movie starring Amandla Stenberg, examines the life of a teenage girl who witnesses her Black friend get murdered by police. It couldn’t be more relevant to current events and will hopefully inspire you toward more activism.

5. White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo

black lives matter books

Another one at the top of the list for my fellow white people. To fight against racism, you have to first address the inherent racism within yourself — that you are both aware and not aware of. This is a great resource to help you learn how to spot racism and how to talk about it.

6. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

the new jim crow book

This book is for anyone who doesn’t fully understand how the War on Drugs, stop and frisk, and other racist policing led to targeted attacks and mass incarceration of Black Americans. It expertly speaks to the use of mass incarceration as another government-backed attempt at making Black Americans second-class citizens while causing irreparable harm to Black communities. Once you finish this, then check out Netflix’s documentary 13th.

7. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment by Patricia Hill Collins

black feminist thought

Every liberal feminist should read this book. It will vastly expand your understanding of the history of feminism and educate you on how race plays a significant role.


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Shannon Vize
Shannon Vize is a freelance writer and content strategist living in Brooklyn, NY. Her writing has been published by Elite Daily, Taylor Magazine, CIO, and Forbes. When she’s not hate-binging the latest episode of The Bachelor franchise, she’s busy trying to dismantle the patriarchy by dissecting the latest anti-feminist theme in pop culture to anyone who will listen.