Anti-Racism Books and Movies for All Ages

Will Harlan | June 8, 2020



four people holding up signs which read the public library of brookline anti racist reading list and resource guide

Are you looking to start, or continue, your anti-racism education? Our librarians have compiled this list of books and films about anti-racism activism and the history of systemic racism in the United States. While self-education is just one small component of the work of anti-racism, we hope this resource can help support our community’s pursuit of social justice.

All of the books and films listed here are available through the Library. Looking for more resources? We have you covered. Check out our entire resource list OR, for more personalized suggestions, fill out our recommendation form.

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Race for Profit

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

By the late 1960s and early 1970s, reeling from a wave of urban uprisings, politicians finally worked to end the practice of redlining. Reasoning that the turbulence could be calmed by turning Black city-dwellers into homeowners, they passed the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968, and set about establishing policies to induce mortgage lenders and the real estate industry to treat Black homebuyers equally. The disaster that ensued revealed that racist exclusion had not been eradicated, but rather transmuted into a new phenomenon of predatory inclusion. Race for Profit uncovers how exploitative real estate practices continued well after housing discrimination was banned. The same racist structures and individuals remained intact after redlining's end, and close relationships between regulators and the industry created incentives to ignore improprieties. Meanwhile, new policies meant to encourage low-income homeownership created new methods to exploit Black homeowners. The federal government guaranteed urban mortgages in an attempt to overcome resistance to lending to Black buyers – as if unprofitability, rather than racism, was the cause of housing segregation. Bankers, investors, and real estate agents took advantage of the perverse incentives, targeting the Black women most likely to fail to keep up their home payments and slip into foreclosure, multiplying their profits. As a result, by the end of the 1970s, the nation's first programs to encourage Black homeownership ended with tens of thousands of foreclosures in Black communities across the country. The push to uplift Black homeownership had descended into a goldmine for realtors and mortgage lenders, and a ready-made cudgel for the champions of deregulation to wield against government intervention of any kind. Narrating the story of a sea-change in housing policy and its dire impact on African Americans, Race for Profit reveals how the urban core was transformed into a new frontier of cynical extraction.

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Invisible No More

Andrea J. Ritchie

A timely examination of the ways Black women, Indigenous women, and other women of color are uniquely affected by racial profiling, police brutality, and immigration enforcement. Invisible No More is a timely examination of how Black women, Indigenous women, and women of color experience racial profiling, police brutality, and immigration enforcement. Placing stories of individual women--such as Sandra Bland, Rekia Boyd, Dajerria Becton, Monica Jones, and Mya Hall--in the broader context of the twin epidemics of police violence and mass incarceration, it documents the evolution of movements centering women's experiences of policing and demands a radical rethinking of our visions of safety--and the means we devote to achieving it.

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How to Be an Antiracist

Ibram X. Kendi

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the National Book Award–winning author of Stamped from the Beginning comes a “groundbreaking” (Time) approach to understanding and uprooting racism and inequality in our society—and in ourselves. “The most courageous book to date on the problem of race in the Western mind.”—The New York Times NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review • Time • NPR • The Washington Post • Shelf Awareness • Library Journal • Publishers Weekly • Kirkus Reviews Antiracism is a transformative concept that reorients and reenergizes the conversation about racism—and, even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. At it's core, racism is a powerful system that creates false hierarchies of human value; its warped logic extends beyond race, from the way we regard people of different ethnicities or skin colors to the way we treat people of different sexes, gender identities, and body types. Racism intersects with class and culture and geography and even changes the way we see and value ourselves. In How to Be an Antiracist, Kendi takes readers through a widening circle of antiracist ideas—from the most basic concepts to visionary possibilites—that will help readers see all forms of racism clearly, understand their posionous consequences, and work to oppose them in our systems and in ourselves. Kendi weaves an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science with his own personal story of awakening to antiracism. This is an essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond the awareness of racism to the next step: contributing to the formation of a just and equitable society. Praise for How to Be an Antiracist “Ibram X. Kendi’s new book, How to Be an Antiracist, couldn’t come at a better time. . . . Kendi has gifted us with a book that is not only an essential instruction manual but also a memoir of the author’s own path from anti-black racism to anti-white racism and, finally, to antiracism. . . . How to Be an Antiracist gives us a clear and compelling way to approach, as Kendi puts it in his introduction, ‘the basic struggle we’re all in, the struggle to be fully human and to see that others are fully human.’ ”—NPR “Kendi dissects why in a society where so few people consider themselves to be racist the divisions and inequalities of racism remain so prevalent. How to Be an Antiracist punctures the myths of a post-racial America, examining what racism really is—and what we should do about it.”—Time

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The Fire Next Time

James Baldwin

A national bestseller when it first appeared in 1963, The Fire Next Time galvanized the nation and gave passionate voice to the emerging civil rights movement. At once a powerful evocation of James Baldwin's early life in Harlem and a disturbing examination of the consequences of racial injustice, the book is an intensely personal and provocative document. It consists of two "letters," written on the occasion of the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, that exhort Americans, both black and white, to attack the terrible legacy of racism. Described by The New York Times Book Review as "sermon, ultimatum, confession, deposition, testament, and chronicle...all presented in searing, brilliant prose," The Fire Next Time stands as a classic of our literature.

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The New Jim Crow

Michelle Alexander

Named one of the most important nonfiction books of the 21st century by Entertainment Weekly‚ Slate‚ Chronicle of Higher Eduction‚ Literary Hub, Book Riot‚ and Zora A tenth-anniversary edition of the iconic bestseller—“one of the most influential books of the past 20 years,” according to the Chronicle of Higher Education—with a new preface by the author “It is in no small part thanks to Alexander’s account that civil rights organizations such as Black Lives Matter have focused so much of their energy on the criminal justice system.” —Adam Shatz, London Review of Books Seldom does a book have the impact of Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. Since it was first published in 2010, it has been cited in judicial decisions and has been adopted in campus-wide and community-wide reads; it helped inspire the creation of the Marshall Project and the new $100 million Art for Justice Fund; it has been the winner of numerous prizes, including the prestigious NAACP Image Award; and it has spent nearly 250 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Most important of all, it has spawned a whole generation of criminal justice reform activists and organizations motivated by Michelle Alexander’s unforgettable argument that “we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.” As the Birmingham News proclaimed, it is “undoubtedly the most important book published in this century about the U.S.” Now, ten years after it was first published, The New Press is proud to issue a tenth-anniversary edition with a new preface by Michelle Alexander that discusses the impact the book has had and the state of the criminal justice reform movement today.

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One Person, No Vote (YA edition)

Carol Anderson, Tonya Bolden

In her New York Times bestseller White Rage, Carol Anderson laid bare an insidious history of policies that have systematically impeded black progress in America, from 1865 to our combustible present. With One Person, No Vote, she chronicles a related history: the rollbacks to African American participation in the vote since the 2013 Supreme Court decision that eviscerated the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Known as the Shelby ruling, this decision effectively allowed districts with a demonstrated history of racial discrimination to change voting requirements without approval from the Department of Justice. Focusing on the aftermath of Shelby, Anderson follows the astonishing story of government-dictated racial discrimination unfolding before our very eyes as more and more states adopt voter suppression laws. In gripping, enlightening detail she explains how voter suppression works, from photo ID requirements to gerrymandering to poll closures. And with vivid characters, she explores the resistance: the organizing, activism, and court battles to restore the basic right to vote to all Americans as the nation gears up for the 2020 presidential election season.

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Brown Girl Dreaming

Jacqueline Woodson

"Contains seven new, original poems by the author"--Page [4] of cover.

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Tell Me Who You Are

Winona Guo, Priya Vulchi

An eye-opening exploration of race in America In this deeply inspiring book, Winona Guo and Priya Vulchi recount their experiences talking to people from all walks of life about race and identity on a cross-country tour of America. Spurred by the realization that they had nearly completed high school without hearing any substantive discussion about racism in school, the two young women deferred college admission for a year to collect first-person accounts of how racism plays out in this country every day--and often in unexpected ways. In Tell Me Who You Are, Guo and Vulchi reveal the lines that separate us based on race or other perceived differences and how telling our stories--and listening deeply to the stories of others--are the first and most crucial steps we can take towards negating racial inequity in our culture. Featuring interviews with over 150 Americans accompanied by their photographs, this intimate toolkit also offers a deep examination of the seeds of racism and strategies for effecting change. This groundbreaking book will inspire readers to join Guo and Vulchi in imagining an America in which we can fully understand and appreciate who we are.

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Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You

Jason Reynolds, Ibram X. Kendi

The #1 New York Times bestseller and a USAToday bestseller! A timely, crucial, and empowering exploration of racism--and antiracism--in America This is NOT a history book. This is a book about the here and now. A book to help us better understand why we are where we are. A book about race. The construct of race has always been used to gain and keep power, to create dynamics that separate and silence. This remarkable reimagining of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi's National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning reveals the history of racist ideas in America, and inspires hope for an antiracist future. It takes you on a race journey from then to now, shows you why we feel how we feel, and why the poison of racism lingers. It also proves that while racist ideas have always been easy to fabricate and distribute, they can also be discredited. Through a gripping, fast-paced, and energizing narrative written by beloved award-winner Jason Reynolds, this book shines a light on the many insidious forms of racist ideas--and on ways readers can identify and stamp out racist thoughts in their daily lives.

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March

John Lewis, Andrew Aydin

The groundbreaking graphic novel memoir of a living legend of the civil rights movement, MARCH- BOOK ONE has swiftly become an iconic work. Created by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell, this #1 New York Times bestseller is also a Coretta Scott King Honor book, a required text in classrooms across America, and the first graphic novel to win a Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. Now for the first time ever, this modern classic - praised by everyone from President Bill Clinton to LeVar Burton to Tim Cook - appears in an oversized hardcover edition, so the stunning work of Lewis, Aydin, and Powell can be appreciated on a grander scale.

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We Are the Change

Harry Belafonte

Sixteen award-winning children's book artists illustrate the civil rights quotations that inspire them in this stirring and beautiful book. Featuring an introduction by Harry Belafonte, words from Eleanor Roosevelt, Maya Angelou, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. among others, this inspirational collection sets a powerful example for generations of young leaders to come. It includes illustrations by Selina Alko, Alina Chau, Lisa Congdon, Emily Hughes, Molly Idle, Juana Medina, Innosanto Nagara, Christopher Silas Neal, John Parra, Brian Pinkney, Greg Pizzoli, Sean Qualls, Dan Santat, Shadra Strickland, Melissa Sweet, and Raúl the Third.

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Heart and Soul

Kadir Nelson

The story of America and African Americans is a story of hope and inspiration and unwavering courage. But it is also the story of injustice; of a country divided by law, education, and wealth; of a people whose struggles and achievements helped define their country. This is the story of the men, women, and children who toiled in the hot sun picking cotton for their masters; it’s about the America ripped in two by Jim Crow laws; it’s about the brothers and sisters of all colors who rallied against those who would dare bar a child from an education. It’s a story of discrimination and broken promises, determination and triumphs. Kadir Nelson, one of this generation’s most accomplished, award-winning artists, has created an epic yet intimate introduction to the history of America and African Americans, from colonial days through the civil rights movement. Written in the voice of an “Everywoman,” an unnamed narrator whose forebears came to this country on slave ships and who lived to cast her vote for the first African American president, heart and soul touches on some of the great transformative events and small victories of that history. This inspiring book demonstrates that in gaining their freedom and equal rights, African Americans helped our country achieve its promise of liberty and justice—the true heart and soul of our nation.

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The Undefeated

Kwame Alexander

The Newbery Award-winning author of THE CROSSOVER pens an ode to black American triumph and tribulation, with art from a two-time Caldecott Honoree. Originally performed for ESPN's The Undefeated, this poem is a love letter to black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world's greatest heroes. The text is also peppered with references to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others, offering deeper insights into the accomplishments of the past, while bringing stark attention to the endurance and spirit of those surviving and thriving in the present. Robust back matter at the end provides valuable historical context and additional detail for those wishing to learn more.

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Not My Idea

Anastasia Higginbotham

People of color are eager for white people to deal with their racial ignorance. White people are desperate for an affirmative role in racial justice. Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness helps with conversations the nation is, just now, finally starting to have.

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Something Happened in Our Town

Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, Ann Hazzard

After discussing the police shooting of a local Black man with their families, Emma and Josh know how to treat a new student who looks and speaks differently than his classmates.

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Watch

Here are a few documentaries to check out. Click on a box to expand the selection list.


Let the Fire Burn

Jason Osder makes an impressive feature film debut through his unbiased and thorough account of the incidents leading up to and during the 1985 standoff between the extremist African-American organization MOVE and Philadelphia authorities. The dramatic clash claimed eleven lives and literally and figuratively devastated an entire community. Let the Fire Burn is a real-life Wild West story absent the luxury of identifying its heroes by the color of their hats.

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Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise

A look at the last five decades of African American history since the major civil rights victories through the eyes of Henry Louis Gates, Jr., exploring the tremendous gains and persistent challenges of these years.

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Whose Streets?

A nonfiction account of the Ferguson uprising told by the people who lived it, this is an unflinching look at how the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown inspired a community to fight back—and sparked a global movement.

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I Am Not Your Negro

Working from the text of James Baldwin’s unfinished final novel, director Raoul Peck creates a meditation on what it means to be Black in the United States.

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