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10 Books on Race That Every American Should Read

December 20, 2016

Racism is a loaded term, a buzzword that often creates an immediate barrier if one perceives it is in any way being negatively connected with them. As such, reading a list called “10 books on racism” might make you want to run, because the mere suggestion of such a list might make you feel that someone is accusing you of being racist.

Or, it might make you want to run toward it, because perhaps like many of us, you’ve realized your initial understanding of race and racism in our world was missing important pieces, at best.

The reality is that each of our prejudices, fears, and acceptance of people different than us – on both a personal and societal level– has been shaped by a number of things, and none of us can avoid this entirely. We would all do well to examine this issue from viewpoints outside of our own.

Without further commentary, these are 10 of the books that shaped my understanding of race and racism in America:


1. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption (Bryan Stevenson)


2. Black Like Me (John Howard Griffin)


3. Twelve Years a Slave: The Autobiography of Solomon Northup (Solomon Northup, Sue Eakin)


4. Sundown Towns:  A Hidden Dimension of American Racism by James W. Loewen (Loewen, James W.) (My review on this, from 2012)


5. Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II


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


7. Buried in the Bitter Waters: The Hidden History of Racial Cleansing in America


8. Between the World and Me (Ta-Nehisi Coates)


9. The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., (Clayborne Carson)

10. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration (Isabel Wilkerson)

Bonus Resources:


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  • Chrystal December 20, 2016 at 10:52 am

    Wow! Fascinating! I’ve only read one of these.

  • Vicky MacInnis December 21, 2016 at 3:58 pm

    “Blood Done Sign my Name” is another great read on racism. It’s a true story by Timothy Tyson.

    • Keren December 22, 2016 at 7:52 pm

      Thanks, Vicky! I will definitely add this one to my list! I haven’t read this one.