The best books on The Civil Rights Era, recommended by Lerone Martin

The struggle for Black freedom in America has been going on since the first enslaved Africans were brought to the continent, but it was the civil rights era of 1954 to 1968 that finally resulted in a raft of legislation that gave equal citizenship to Black people in the United States. Here, Professor Lerone Martin of Stanford University recommends the best books to understand the American civil rights movement, with a focus on some of the individuals who were key to its success.

The best books on Race and Slavery, recommended by David Olusoga

Race is a real and powerful force and one he has spent his adult life trying to understand, says Anglo-Nigerian historian, writer and producer, David Olusoga. He talks us through five books on the tragedy of slavery—from the horrors of the gulag, to the plantations of Virginia, to the Islamic slave trade.

The best books on Racism, recommended by Kurt Barling

The concept of ‘race’ is misleading and inaccurate, argues Kurt Barling, Professor of Journalism at the University of Middlesex and author of The R Word: Racism and Modern Society. He recommends the best books to think about racism.

The best books on The Slave Trade, recommended by William A. Pettigrew

In the 17th and 18th century millions of Africans were shipped across the Atlantic to the Americas as slaves. This trade took place at the same time as ‘liberal’ ideas about the importance of human freedom took root in Great Britain and North America. Here, historian William A. Pettigrew recommends five books to help understand the slave trade, how it was established, why it flourished and why it was eventually abolished.

The Best Antiracist Books for Kids, recommended by Paula Young Shelton

Understanding the African American experience is not just about learning about suffering, it’s also about celebrating a vibrant culture and its roots across the millennia. Paula Young Shelton, author of Child of the Civil Rights Movement, recommends the best antiracist books for kids.

The Best African American Literature, recommended by Farah Jasmine Griffin

An ever-growing body of authors are writing about the reality of what it means to be black in America, says Farah Jasmine Griffin, director of the Institute for Research in African American Studies at Columbia University. Here she recommends five works of African American literature, from greats like Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison to lesser-known gems by Ann Petry.

The best books on White Supremacy, recommended by Kathleen Belew

Defined by University of Chicago historian Kathleen Belew, white supremacy is a “broad system of laws, norms and customs that create a society with unequal opportunities for people based on race”. It persists to this day, and has surprising intersections with issues of labor and women’s reproduction. Here, she recommends books for coming to grips with the history of this complex topic.

The Best Movies about Race, recommended by Greg Garrett

Movies are a big part of American cultural life and also one of the country’s biggest cultural exports. As a result, movies play an important role in how Americans see themselves, including in attitudes to race. Here Professor Greg Garrett of Baylor University—film historian, cultural theologian and author of A Long, Long Way: Hollywood’s Unfinished Journey from Racism to Reconciliation—talks us through five movies that best illustrate how Hollywood has evolved in terms of race over the past century, from Gone with the Wind to Get Out.

The best books on Interracial Relationships, recommended by Tineka Smith and Alex Court

You might think that books about interracial couples aren’t relevant unless you’re part of one or are close to someone who is, but nothing could be further from the truth. In Mixed Up: Confessions of an Interracial Couple, a fascinating audiobook narrated by Tineka Smith and Alex Court, the husband and wife duo tell the story of their own relationship and, in doing so, give the listener unique insights into racism and racial identity. Here, they recommend their top books on interracial relationships.

Best Books by Black Queer Writers, recommended by Robert Jones Jr.

The novels of James Baldwin, Alice Walker, Wallace Thurman and James Early Hardy bring the America of the last two centuries vividly to life. Marlon James brings us a fantasy trilogy set in ancient Africa. Robert Jones Jr., author of The Prophets—a love story set on a plantation in the American South—talks us through his choices of the best books by Black queer writers.

African American History Books, recommended by Imani Perry

Princeton Professor Imani Perry—a prolific scholar of African American Studies whose biography of Lorraine Hansberry, Looking For Lorraine,  won the 2019 PEN Biography Prize—recommends five books she considers essential to an understanding of the history of black life in America.

The best books on Multiculturalism, recommended by Tariq Modood

Rather than an exciting concept that opens up societies to new ideas and cultures, the idea of 'multiculturalism' is currently out of favour, at least in popular political discourse. Yet, according to sociologist Tariq Modood, founding Director of the Bristol University Research Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship, many of the problems we face today are crying out for multicultural solutions. He recommends the best books on multiculturalism, beginning with its development as a political theory in 1980s Canada.