I grew up in a town that majority black in central New Jersey. At the time that I went to school (in the mid-80s through mid-90s) there was a barrage of information and access to information that gave me a strong sense that the world wasn’t to be taken with whatever narrative I might have picked up from it. People in neighboring towns were always talking about how dangerous our schools were, how bad they were compared to other ones and what’s funny about a narrative is if you believe the hype long enough you start to embrace the myths.
The reality is, in those days, things weren’t that bad. For most of my time in school, there was still money to be dredged for all manner of extra curricular things, as well as in-class activities which supplemented the learning experience in class if that’s what you wanted.
Anyway, over the years I learned that not as many people were as fortunate as I was to grow up in a world where I never assumed there were barriers placed on what I could achieve based on race. We were made aware of it and we lived it, but I didn’t spend much of my school life being actively concerned about race because it wasn’t relevant to our existence as a school that was almost entirely Black & Hispanic.
This is solely a book list to backfill the sorts of history schools don’t cover and can help you better understand when you read something from someone like Ta-Nehisi Coates you’re not flying quite as blind. Not everyone needs this, but I assure you that there’s at least one book on here you haven’t read and that’ll better inform you.
With that, here’s some reading worth adding to your list.
Some of the highlights below:
Education of Blacks in the South 1860-1935, James D. Anderson
The Forsaken: An American Tragedy in Stalin’s Russia, Tim Tzouliadis
Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson, Geoffrey C. Ward
Black on Red: My 44 Years Inside the Soviet Union: An Autobiography, Robert Robinson
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Michelle Alexander
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, Isabel Wilkerson
Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States, Kenneth T. Jackson