in Politics

Ron Bronson’s American History Reading List

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:

In Search of the Racial Frontier: African Americans in the American West, 1528-1990, Quintard Taylor

Education of Blacks in the South 1860-1935, James D. Anderson

Trouble In Mind: Black Southerners in the Age of Jim Crow, Leon Litwack

Black Picket Fences: Privilege and Peril among the Black Middle Class, Mary Patillo

Rising from the Rails: Pullman Porters and the Making of the Black Middle Class, Larry Tye

The Forsaken: An American Tragedy in Stalin’s Russia, Tim Tzouliadis

We Who Are Dark: The Philosophical Foundations of Black Solidarity, Tommie Shelby

Other People’s Children, Lisa Delpit

Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson, Geoffrey C. Ward

“Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?”: A Psychologist Explains the Development of Racial Identity, Beverly Tatum

The Hidden Cost of Being African American: How Wealth Perpetuates Inequality, Thomas Shapiro

Race and the Invisible Hand: How White Networks Exclude Black Men from Blue-Collar Jobs, Deidre Royster

Black on Red: My 44 Years Inside the Soviet Union: An Autobiography, Robert Robinson

Risks of Faith: The Emergence of a Black Theology of Liberation 1968-98, James Cone

Blue-Chip Black: Race, Class, and Status in the New Black Middle Class, Karyn Lacy

Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America, Paul Tough

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Michelle Alexander

Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority, Tom Burrell

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