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#BlackLivesMatter: The essential anti-racism books to read now

Here’s how to educate yourself and stay informed about the ongoing global fight for race equality

The death of George Floyd and the wave of anti-racism protests currently sweeping across America – and the rest of the world – as part of the Black Lives Matter movement has led many to take stock and think about how they can act better and do more when it comes to race issues. There are numerous ways you can get involved, from donating to key non-profit organisations and signing petitions to learning about racism and black history through seminal books. Here we’ve collated a list of resources to help you stay educated, informed and engaged – while it is by no means exhaustive, it offers a starting point for better understanding racial inequality.


Black Lives Matter: The essential anti-racism reading list

Books

Black Lives Matter: The essential anti-racism reading list

How To Be An Antiracist
by Ibram X. Kendi

“The opposite of ‘racist’ isn’t ‘not racist’,” asserts Ibram X. Kendi in this New York Times-bestselling memoir, which weaves together a combination of ethics, history, law and science – as well as the story of his own awakening to anti-racism – to reshape the conversation about racial justice in America. Through helping us rethink our most deeply held beliefs, Kendi shows that when it comes to racism, neutrality is not an option and that until we become part of the solution, we can only be part of the problem (Kendi has also recently shared his own anti-racist reading list, which is available here).

Black Lives Matter: The essential anti-racism reading list

The Fire Next Time
by James Baldwin

This 1963 classic by the seminal black homosexual writer James Baldwin contains two essays: ‘My Dungeon Shook – Letter to my Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Emancipation’ and ‘Down At The Cross — Letter from a Region of My Mind’. The first, addressed to Baldwin’s 14-year-old nephew, discusses the central role of race in American history, while the second deals with the relationship between race and religion, focusing in particular on the author’s experiences with the Christian church in his youth. While his debut 1952 novel Go Tell It on the Mountain introduced Baldwin as a literary sensation, it was his searing non-fiction work in the Sixties that saw him established as one of America’s most prominent public intellectuals.

Black Lives Matter: The essential anti-racism reading list

How To Be An Antiracist
by Ibram X. Kendi

“The opposite of ‘racist’ isn’t ‘not racist’,” asserts Ibram X. Kendi in this New York Times-bestselling memoir, which weaves together a combination of ethics, history, law and science – as well as the story of his own awakening to anti-racism – to reshape the conversation about racial justice in America. Through helping us rethink our most deeply held beliefs, Kendi shows that when it comes to racism, neutrality is not an option and that until we become part of the solution, we can only be part of the problem (Kendi has also recently shared his own anti-racist reading list, which is available here).

Black Lives Matter: The essential anti-racism reading list

Freedom is a Constant Struggle
by Angela Davis

This 2016 book from the pioneering activist and icon of the Black Power movement Angela Davis, whose galvanising quotes from the Seventies have been shared countless times on social media in recent days, brings together a collection of her finest essays, interviews and speeches, discussing both the legacies of previous liberation struggles and today’s issues. Tackling everything from the importance of black feminism and prison abolitionism to the South African anti-Apartheid movement and our current struggles against state terror, Davis highlights a world of injustice and challenges us to build the movement for human liberation. Illuminating and eye opening, it’s a must-read.

Black Lives Matter: The essential anti-racism reading list

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race
by Reni Eddo-Lodge

In 2014, award-winning journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge wrote a blog post about her frustration with the way discussions around race and racism in Britain were being led by those who weren’t affected by it. The post went viral and this resulting book is an expansion on that theme, picking apart the nature of white privilege and exploring issues from eradicated black history to the inextricable link between class and race. The author has recently taken to Twitter to urge anyone who would like to buy her book, which has seen a huge surge in sales with the recent focus on the Black Lives Matter movement, to do so from an independent bookstore as well as “donate to your local and national racial justice organisations, if you can spare the funds”.

Black Lives Matter: The essential anti-racism reading list

Beloved
by Toni Morrison

The late Toni Morrison is widely regarded as one of the most influential black authors of all time, and Beloved the most urgent and essential of all her books. This Pulitzer Prize winning masterpiece – which was Morrison’s fifth book – is set in the mid-1800s in the aftermath of the American Civil War and follows former slave Sethe, who is now living with her youngest daughter as a free woman in Cincinnati. Yet Sethe’s past continues to come back to haunt her, both through the traumatic memories of her former enslaved life and the shameful secrets that refuse to stay buried. Part ghost story, part reflection of the evils of slavery, Beloved is lyrical, mythically charged and, above all, emotionally devastating.

Black Lives Matter: The essential anti-racism reading list

The Lonely Londoners
by Samuel Selvon

This 1956 novel by Trinidadian author Samuel Selvon was one of the first to focus on poor, working class black people following the enactment of the British Nationality Act in 1948. Set in 1950s London, it follows the group of Caribbean immigrants known as the “Windrush” generation, who arrived on the SS Windrush in 1948. It is here they are forced to face the grim realities of living hand to mouth and start to fully understand their bleak prospects, as well as come to terms with the freezing climate. And yet friendships flourish amidst the hardships and, in time, they learn how to adapt. Often hailed as “the father of black writing” in Britain, Selvon’s book explores themes of exile and alienation, fictionalising the hustle of black migrants in a city that saw them as both threat and exotic curiosity, while remaining an entertaining, even humorous work of art.

Black Lives Matter: The essential anti-racism reading list

The Good Immigrant
edited by Nikesh Shukla

Bringing together essays by 21 of the most exciting black, Asian and minority ethnic voices emerging in the UK today – including Riz Ahmed, Reni Eddo-Lodge and Bim Adewunmi – The Good Immigrant explores what it means to be ‘other’ in a country that doesn’t seem to want you, as well as offering a range of unique perspectives on deeply ingrained racist attitudes in the UK. Edited by the British journalist Nikesh Shukla, the crowdfunded book was sparked by a comment left underneath one of his articles for the Guardian, which compelled Shukla to compile this progressive tome on race issues in Britain.

Black Lives Matter: The essential anti-racism reading list

The Underground Railroad
by Colson Whitehead

This engrossing novel about the subterranean system that transported slaves across the United States rightly won Colson Whitehead the Pulitzer Prize when it was released in 2017 – his next novel, The Nickel Boys, which brilliantly dramatizes another strand of black American history, scooped the prize this year, making him the first author to win it with consecutive books. Following slave Cora as she takes the perilous decision to escape to the North from her cotton plantation in Georgia, The Underground Railroad recreates the unique terrors faced by black people in the pre-Civil War era through one woman’s ferocious desire to escape the horrors of bondage.

Black Lives Matter: The essential anti-racism reading list

Girl, Woman, Other
by Bernardine Evaristo

British author Bernardine Evaristo’s eighth novel, which won her the joint Booker Prize along with veteran writer Margaret Atwood last year, follows the lives and struggles of 12 characters, most of them black British women, as they move through the world in different generations and social classes. While all of the characters are very different, ranging from a lesbian socialist playwright to an alienated teacher and an unhappy bride, their lives all overlap, whether as close friends, lovers or relatives, or simply as people who argue with each other over Twitter. Vibrant and fizzing with energy, it’s been referred to as a “a love song to modern Britain and black womanhood”. 

Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad, part of our Black Lives Matter reading list

Me and White Supremacy 
by Layla F. Saad

When author Layla Saad first launched her #meandwhitesupremacy challenge on Instagram during the summer of 2018, she had no idea what the reaction would be. She certainly didn’t expect it to become an international cultural crusade, leading to over 80,000 people downloading her guide to the movement, the Me and White Supremacy Workbook, in the space of six months. That guide forms the basis of this book, which takes readers through a journey of understanding their own white privilege and the part they play (however unwittingly) in white supremacy, in order to teach them how to engage effectively in anti-racist efforts.

Social Media accounts to follow

Black Lives Matter

The official account for the Black Lives Matter global network, this is the place to come for the latest updates on the movement. Featuring tributes to key figures in black history and the black people who have lost their lives in America at the hands of police brutality, as well as key information on how the Covid-19 crisis continues to disproportionately affect people of colour, it’s a vital resource for those wanting to educate themselves on race issues.
@blklivesmatter

Mireille Cassandra Harper

When writer Mireille Cassandra Harper took to Twitter after George Floyd’s death to share her thread ’10 Steps to Non-Optical Allyship’ for those “who actively want to support and be an ally right now”, she had no idea how quickly the thread would go viral. Simply portrayed, it’s a smart distillation of the principles outlined in key anti-racist works, starting with understanding what optical allyship is and ending with how you can make a long-term impact and fundamentally affect change.
twitter.com/mireillecharper

Noname Book Club

This vibrant online community is dedicated to amplifying and uplifting the voices of people of colour, which it does by highlighting two books every month that explore human conditions in critical and original ways, with texts chosen ranging from cult classics to emerging works by exciting new authors. Alongside their enlightening reading lists, they also raise funds to send their monthly book choices to select prisons in various cities across America.
twitter.com/NonameBooks

Show Up For Racial Justice

Are you a white person who wants to know how you can best express your solidarity with the cause and persecuted communities? You could start by following this Twitter account, Showing Up for Racial Justice, which works to organise white people into accountable action as part of a multi-racial movement. Featuring guidelines on how to participate in black-led protests as well as key actions to take each week, it’s a practical resource for those looking to make a difference in the right way.
twitter.com/ShowUp4

Where to donate in the UK

Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust

This educational charity, established in the name of the black teenager who was murdered at the age of 18 in a racist attack in southeast London, was created to “tackle inequality in all forms” and works with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to help them succeed in the career of their choice.
stephenlawrence.org.uk

Stop Hate UK 

First originating in 1995, Stop Hate UK is an organisation that supports people affected by all forms of hate crime and discrimination across the UK. With helplines open 24 hours a day, they provide access to independent support and information and offer an alternative for people who don’t want to report to the police.
stophateuk.org

Black Minds Matter 

This organisation raises money to support black people struggling with their mental health during this particularly difficult time. All the money raised goes towards connecting black families and individuals with black therapists and providing free sessions for those in need.
gofundme.com

Belly Mujinga’s GoFundMe Campaign  

Created in honour of Belly Mujinga, the TFL worker who died from Covid-19 after a man who said he had the virus spat at her and a colleague at Victoria station, this campaign is raising vital funds to support Mujinga’s family. Change.org is also currently running a petition to get justice for Mujinga, after the British Transport Police said they would not be looking into the incident further, which you can sign here.
gofundme.com

Exist Loudly Fund

Set up by youth worker and activist Tanya Compas, this fund supports Queer Black young people in London and across the country. The money raised will go towards funding essential talks, workshops and mentorships to provide a space for young people to explore their identities in a safe and welcoming space.
gofundme.com

Where to donate in the US

The Minnesota Freedom Fund

Dedicated to paying the bail for low-income individuals who can’t afford the fees themselves, this was one of the first organisations to receive donations after George Floyd’s death. However, the fund has since been so inundated with generous contributions that they’re now asking people to give to other non-profit organisations instead, such as the ones listed on their website, which include the Black Visions Collective and Reclaim the Block, both grassroots groups based in Minneapolis.
minnesotafreedomfund.org

George Floyd Memorial Fund

This fund, established in honour of George Floyd by his brother, Philonise, is raising funds to cover Floyd’s funeral and burial expenses, mental health and grief counselling and lodging and travel for all court proceedings, as well as provide for the benefit and care of his children and their education.
gofundme.com

Black Lives Matter Global Network

All donations to this fund go directly towards backing the Black Lives Matter movement and fuel their multiple campaigns for justice, as well as supporting the ongoing fight to stop state-sanctioned violence, liberate black people and end white supremacy for good.
actblue.com

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