There are many excellent lists of resources about Black history, culture, and experience. The following list, which includes nonfiction books, novels and poetry, plays, films and videos, and organizations, represents a selection of works that have been meaningful to us. The authors are primarily but not exclusively Black. We hope that you will use these resources and others that we cite in Let’s Talk Race to start your exploration and learning about Black lives. We also hope that you will find many more on your own that you will then share with family, friends, and colleagues.

Nonfiction Books

  • Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (The New Press, 2012). Alexander masterfully chronicles the mass incarceration of Black and brown men and the ways that convicted felons continue to be discriminated against after they have served their sentences.
  • Carol Anderson, White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide (Bloomsbury USA, 2017). This historical analysis focuses on the actions of whites to thwart Black progress from the days of Reconstruction into the 21st century. Naming these efforts “white rage,” Anderson shows how white anger was mobilized against Blacks in the name of protecting democracy, securing safety, and guarding against fraud. Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award.
  • Sarah M. Broom, The Yellow House (Grove Press, 2019). Broom writes eloquently about the history of the house her mother purchased in 1961 in New Orleans East, a neighborhood that promised a better life. The book is both a haunting memoir of growing up Black and a scathing indictment of racially discriminatory housing and banking policies. Winner of the 2019 National Book Award.
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me (Speigel & Grau, 2015). Coates writes an eloquent letter to his son about the hazards of life as a Black man and the hopes he has for his son’s future.
  • Tressie McMillan Cottom, Thick: And Other Essays (The New Press, 2019). Eight essays about how American culture treats Black women. Finalist for the 2019 National Book Award.
  • William A. Darity, Jr. & A. Kirsten Mullen, From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century (University of North Carolina Press, 2020). Darity and Mullen explore how systemic discrimination in housing, education, criminal justice, and employment has created and maintained racial disparities in wealth; they argue for economic reparations for Black descendants of slaves.
  • Gabrielle David & Sean Frederick Forbes (Eds.), What Does It Mean to Be White in America? Breaking the White Code of Silence, A Collection of Personal Narratives (2Leaf Press, 2016). To answer the question posed in the book’s title, the editors present a collection of 82 personal essays written by a diverse range of white people.
  • Debby Irving, Waking Up White: And Finding Myself in the Story of Race (Elephant Room Press, 2014). Irving reconstructs her memories and experience with race, focusing on how her white, economic privilege blocked her from grasping the meaning of race and racism. This memoir is especially helpful because Irving tells her story through concrete, everyday experiences that she reflects upon and learns from.
  • E. Dolores Johnson, Say I’m Dead: A Family Memoir of Race, Secrets, and Love (Lawrence Hill Books, 2020). Johnson, the daughter of a Black father and white mother who married in the 1940s, tells the story of her journey to find the white side of her family tree. The story recounts the perils of interracial marriage and Johnson’s own struggle to achieve professional success.
  • Ibram X. Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist (One World, 2019). With an orientation toward action, Kendi unpacks racist ideas and thinking and offers ways for people to be actively anti-racist.
  • Paul Kivel, Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice, 4th ed. (New Society Publishers, 2017). Kivel presents an extensive and practical compendium of things white people can do to work toward racial equity and justice.
  • Melvin L. Oliver & Thomas M. Shapiro, Black Wealth/White Wealth: A New Perspective on Racial Inequality, 2nd ed. (Routledge, 2006). Both sociologists, the authors examine the racial wealth gap in the U.S. and the inadequacies of current public policies to diminish it.
  • Ijeoma Oluo, So You Want to Talk About Race (Seal Press, 2018). Using personal experiences, Oluo offers an analysis of key issues that block whites from understanding the Black experience.
  • Leslie Houts Picca & Joe R. Feagin, Two-Faced Racism: Whites in the Backstage and Frontstage (Routledge, 2007). Picca and Feagin analyzed over 600 journal entries by white college students detailing racial events on their campuses. Their analysis revealed ingrained racist beliefs held by white students.
  • Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption (One World, 2015). This memoir recounts Stevenson’s experience as a young lawyer who founded the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, dedicated to gaining legal justice for those wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for murders they claimed they did not commit. The story centers on Stevenson’s challenging and successful effort to exonerate one of his first clients, Walter McMillan.
  • Beverly Tatum, Can We Talk about Race? And Other Conversations in an Era of School Resegregation (Beacon Press, 2008). The book includes four essays that present important challenges for honest discussion about race and the educational system: the resegregation of schools; the racial context of students, teachers, and curriculum in the classroom; cross-racial friendships; and changing demographic challenges for higher education.
  • Beverly Tatum, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations about Race, 2nd edition (Basic Books, 2017). In the updated version of her classic 1997 book, Tatum offers a probing analysis of key issues facing education and society: understanding being Black in a white society and white in a white society; issues of identity development among Latinx, Native, Asian ancestry, Middle Eastern and N. Africans in the U.S.; and cross-racial dialogue.
  • Isabel Wilkerson, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent (Random House, 2020). Wilkerson identifies eight pillars that underlie the caste systems in India, Nazi Germany, and the U.S. and explores how caste, a hierarchy of human rankings, has shaped America and brutalized African Americans.
  • Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns (Random House, 2010). In this National Book Critics Circle Award winner for nonfiction, Wilkerson eloquently tells the story of the 1915-1970 migration of southern Blacks in the U.S. seeking a better life in the cities of the North and the West.
  • George Yancy, Backlash: What Happens When We Talk Honestly about Racism in America (Rowman & Littlefield, 2018). Yancy recounts the backlash to his 2015 New York Times letter, “Dear White America.” The letter asked white Americans to “listen with love” to confront the ways that they benefit from racism. The letter led to a barrage of racist responses and threats, leading Yancy to write this book. He expands on the letter to understand what led to the rage and calls for white people to see themselves as the racial problem and develop a new racial empathy.

Novels and Poetry

  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah (2014).
  • Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf, 2014).
  • Claudia Rankine, Just Us: An American Conversation (Graywolf, 2020).
  • Colson Whitehead, The Nickel Boys (Anchor, 2019).
  • Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad (Anchor, 2016).
  • Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, The Revisioners (Counterpoint, 2019).
  • Anything by James Baldwin, James McBride, Toni Morrison, Gloria Naylor, or Alice Walker.

Plays

  • Lydia R. Diamond, Stick Fly (2006). A story of unfolding secrets and deceits, this play takes place on Martha’s Vineyard, where an affluent African-American family is joined by the housekeeper’s daughter, who is filling in for her mother.
  • Kirsten Greenidge, The Luck of the Irish (2012). Blending racial and real-estate intrigue, this drama moves back and forth between the 1950s and early 21st century. The story revolves around the 3rd generation Black “owners” of a Boston suburban home and the offspring of an Irish family that was struggling at the time of the home purchase and agreed to “ghost buy” the home for the Black family because Blacks were not permitted to buy in the neighborhood.
  • Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun (1959). Winner of the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, this drama by an African American playwright was hailed for its ground-breaking new perspective on Black life.
  • Jeremy O. Harris, Slave Play (2018). The play focuses on race, sex, power, and trauma as three interracial couples participate in “Antebellum Sexual Performance Therapy”  because the Black partners no longer feel sexually attracted to their white partners.
  • Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, An Octoroon (2014). An adaptation as well as a critique of The Octoroon by Dion Boucicault (1859), Jacobs-Jenkins’ melodrama uses the original characters and plot to question what has changed. “White actors assume blackface and even, in the case of a Native American, redface in order to reinforce a key point: that, while Boucicault’s original was progressive in its anti-slavery message, it also traded on racial stereotypes that are still deeply embedded in today’s consciousness.” (The Guardian)
  • Antoinette Nwandu, Pass Over (2018). Drawing on both Waiting for Godot and the Exodus story, the play features two young Black men, Moses and Kitch, who stand on a  street corner passing time with a game of “Promised Land Top 10” (what they hope to see if they pass over into paradise—everything from collard greens to a pair of Air Jordans to “my brotha here with me back from the dead”). But they’re stuck in time and place dreaming of a promised land they can’t get to.
  • Suzan-Lori Parks, White Noise (2019). The play features a group of four friends—two are white and two are Black. One of the Black men, an artist and insomniac, is attacked by police one night for “walking while black.” To protest and express his anger, he comes up with the idea for one of the white men (the rich one) to enslave him for 40 days. He has drawn up a contract for “master person and enslaved person, walking the streets. Making a statement. Showing the world how far we’ve not come!” As it devolves from there, the scenes reveal the deep racism still in play.
  • Jackie Sibblies Drury, Fairview (2019). A middle-class Black family is having a birthday dinner for the grandma, but things aren’t quite right with the scene and its characters. The play turns on the idea of being watched, of surveillance, as the audience watches the zings and stings unfold. The New Yorker called it “an ugly show, gorgeously rendered.” Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
  • August Wilson, all of his cycle of ten plays about Black life in the 20th century: Jitney (1979), Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (1982), Fences (1984), Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (1984), The Piano Lesson (1986), Two Trains Running (1990), Seven Guitars (1995), King Hedley II (1991), Gem of the Ocean (2003), and Radio Golf  (2005).

Films & Video

  • BlacKkKlansman. Dir. Spike Lee. Focus Features, 2018. Story of Ron Stallworth, an African American police officer in Colorado who infiltrates the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan with the help of a Jewish surrogate. Based on a true story.
  • The Danger of a Single Story. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. TedGlobal video, 2009, available on YouTube. Adichie, a Black novelist and essayist, explains the importance of multiple stories, or cultural perspectives, in avoiding misunderstandings.
  • Do the Right Thing. Dir. Spike Lee. 40 Acres and a Mule, 1989. Violence erupts in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, NY on the hottest day of the year.
  • Fences. Dir. Denzell Washington. Paramount Pictures, 2016. Film version of one of the ten plays in August Wilson’s play cycle; focuses on Black life in 1950s Pittsburgh, PA.
  • Fruitvale Station. Dir. Ryan Coogler. The Weinstein Company, 2013. Docudrama about the last hours of Oscar Grant III, a Black man killed by a Bay area transit police officer.
  • Get Out. Dir. Jordan Peele. Universal Pictures, 2017. Horror film about a Black man meeting the parents of his white girlfriend for the first time; dramatizes the racially-motivated anxiety of being Black.
  • Good White People. Episode of The Conversation Remix on World Channel, 2021, available at https://worldchannel.org/special/the-conversation-remix-good-white-people/.Short video in which a white family in the Adirondacks, which are over 90% white, have a conversation about racism, their own complicity, and being an ally.
  • Hair Love. Dir. Matthew A. Cherry. Sony Pictures, 2019. Animated short film of a father who does his daughter’s hair for the first time. Winner of the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. The story is also told in a children’s book by the same name.
  • Jim Crow of the North, 2019. Twin Cities PBS Original. Available at https://www.pbs.org/video/jim-crow-of-the-north-stijws/ and also on YouTube. The documentary examines the history of housing covenants and red lining in Minneapolis that began in the early 1900s and that account for the racial segregation in housing that exists today.
  • Just Mercy. Dir. Destin Daniel Cretton. Warner Bros., 2020. Filmed version of civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson’s memoir.
  • Malcolm X. Dir. Spike Lee. Warner Bros., 1992. Filmed version of The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley and Malcolm X.
  • Marshall. Dir. Reginald Hudlin. Open Road Films, 2017. Dramatization of the life of Thurgood Marshall, first Black justice of the Supreme Court; focuses on State of Connecticut v. Joseph Spell, one of Marshall’s first cases.
  • Moonlight. Dir. Barry Jenkins. A24, 2016. Drama about a young Black gay man’s coming of age; winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture.
  • Self Made. Netflix, 2020. Television miniseries about the life of Madame C.J. Walker, a Black washerwoman who moved on to create a beauty empire producing Black hair care products and became the first self-made female millionaire in the U.S.
  • Selma. Dir. Ava DuVernay. Paramount, 2014. Historical dramatization of the 1965 voting rights marches from Selma to Montgomery led by Martin Luther King.
  • BlacKkKlansman. Dir. Spike Lee. Focus Features, 2018. Story of Ron Stallworth, an African American police officer in Colorado who infiltrates the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan with the help of a Jewish surrogate. Based on a true story.
  • The Danger of a Single Story. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. TedGlobal video, 2009, available on YouTube. Adichie, a Black novelist and essayist, explains the importance of multiple stories, or cultural perspectives, in avoiding misunderstandings.
  • Do the Right Thing. Dir. Spike Lee. 40 Acres and a Mule, 1989. Violence erupts in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, NY on the hottest day of the year.
  • Fences. Dir. Denzell Washington. Paramount Pictures, 2016. Film version of one of the ten plays in August Wilson’s play cycle; focuses on Black life in 1950s Pittsburgh, PA.
  • Fruitvale Station. Dir. Ryan Coogler. The Weinstein Company, 2013. Docudrama about the last hours of Oscar Grant III, a Black man killed by a Bay area transit police officer.
  • Get Out. Dir. Jordan Peele. Universal Pictures, 2017. Horror film about a Black man meeting the parents of his white girlfriend for the first time; dramatizes the racially-motivated anxiety of being Black.
  • Hair Love. Dir. Matthew A. Cherry. Sony Pictures, 2019. Animated short film of a father who does his daughter’s hair for the first time. Winner of the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. The story is also told in a children’s book by the same name.
  • Jim Crow of the North, 2019. Twin Cities PBS Original. Available at https://www.pbs.org/video/jim-crow-of-the-north-stijws/ and also on YouTube. The documentary examines the history of housing covenants and red lining in Minneapolis that began in the early 1900s and that account for the racial segregation in housing that exists today.
  • Just Mercy. Dir. Destin Daniel Cretton. Warner Bros., 2020. Filmed version of civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson’s memoir.
  • Malcolm X. Dir. Spike Lee. Warner Bros., 1992. Filmed version of The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley and Malcolm X.
  • Marshall. Dir. Reginald Hudlin. Open Road Films, 2017. Dramatization of the life of Thurgood Marshall, first Black justice of the Supreme Court; focuses on State of Connecticut v. Joseph Spell, one of Marshall’s first cases.
  • Moonlight. Dir. Barry Jenkins. A24, 2016. Drama about a young Black gay man’s coming of age; winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture.
  • Self Made. Netflix, 2020. Television miniseries about the life of Madame C.J. Walker, a Black washerwoman who moved on to create a beauty empire producing Black hair care products and became the first self-made female millionaire in the U.S.
  • Selma. Dir. Ava DuVernay. Paramount, 2014. Historical dramatization of the 1965 voting rights marches from Selma to Montgomery led by Martin Luther King.
  • BlacKkKlansman. Dir. Spike Lee. Focus Features, 2018. Story of Ron Stallworth, an African American police officer in Colorado who infiltrates the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan with the help of a Jewish surrogate. Based on a true story.
  • The Danger of a Single Story. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. TedGlobal video, 2009, available on YouTube. Adichie, a Black novelist and essayist, explains the importance of multiple stories, or cultural perspectives, in avoiding misunderstandings.
  • Do the Right Thing. Dir. Spike Lee. 40 Acres and a Mule, 1989. Violence erupts in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, NY on the hottest day of the year.
  • Fences. Dir. Denzell Washington. Paramount Pictures, 2016. Film version of one of the ten plays in August Wilson’s play cycle; focuses on Black life in 1950s Pittsburgh, PA.
  • Fruitvale Station. Dir. Ryan Coogler. The Weinstein Company, 2013. Docudrama about the last hours of Oscar Grant III, a Black man killed by a Bay area transit police officer.
  • Get Out. Dir. Jordan Peele. Universal Pictures, 2017. Horror film about a Black man meeting the parents of his white girlfriend for the first time; dramatizes the racially-motivated anxiety of being Black.
  • Hair Love. Dir. Matthew A. Cherry. Sony Pictures, 2019. Animated short film of a father who does his daughter’s hair for the first time. Winner of the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. The story is also told in a children’s book by the same name.
  • Jim Crow of the North, 2019. Twin Cities PBS Original. Available at https://www.pbs.org/video/jim-crow-of-the-north-stijws/ and also on YouTube. The documentary examines the history of housing covenants and red lining in Minneapolis that began in the early 1900s and that account for the racial segregation in housing that exists today.
  • Just Mercy. Dir. Destin Daniel Cretton. Warner Bros., 2020. Filmed version of civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson’s memoir.
  • Malcolm X. Dir. Spike Lee. Warner Bros., 1992. Filmed version of The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley and Malcolm X.
  • Marshall. Dir. Reginald Hudlin. Open Road Films, 2017. Dramatization of the life of Thurgood Marshall, first Black justice of the Supreme Court; focuses on State of Connecticut v. Joseph Spell, one of Marshall’s first cases.
  • Moonlight. Dir. Barry Jenkins. A24, 2016. Drama about a young Black gay man’s coming of age; winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture.
  • Self Made. Netflix, 2020. Television miniseries about the life of Madame C.J. Walker, a Black washerwoman who moved on to create a beauty empire producing Black hair care products and became the first self-made female millionaire in the U.S.
  • Selma. Dir. Ava DuVernay. Paramount, 2014. Historical dramatization of the 1965 voting rights marches from Selma to Montgomery led by Martin Luther King.

Organizations

  • Teaching Tolerance.” The program, which is part of the Southern Poverty Law Center, offers “free resources to educators—teachers, administrators, counselors and other practitioners—who work with children from kindergarten through high school.”   SPLC was founded in 1971 with the mission to realize the promise of the civil rights movement.
  • Anti-Defamation League. The organization was founded in 1913 to fight anti-Semitism. It has broadened its work over the years to become one of the leading anti-hate organizations in the world today.
  • Black Lives Matter website. Founded in 2013 after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the killing of Trayvon Martin, BLM has grown to become the Global Network Foundation spanning the U.S., U.K., and Canada, dedicated to eradicating white supremacy and building local power to intervene when violence is inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. The News link on the website is particularly useful.
  • Facing History and Ourselves. Founded in 1976, the organization focuses on resources for secondary school teachers. Grounded in historical analysis and research on human behavior, the approach aims to help students understand racism, religious intolerance, and prejudice; to place their own lives in historical context; and promote ethical democratic participation.
  • National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), founded in 1909, is dedicated to ensuring “political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminating race-based discrimination.” The website includes links to articles and research studies on the NAACP’s work in federal advocacy, environmental and climate justice, economic opportunity, criminal justice, education, health, and media diversity.
  • National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is part of the Smithsonian Institution, opened in 2016 as the only national museum devoted exclusively to documentation of African American life, history, and culture. A stunning building and even more magnificent collection, the museum is a must-see when you are in Washington, D.C. The museum also has an extensive website detailing its collection and providing additional resources, including a section on talking about race.