8 Great Books About Black Lives Matter (BLM)

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To understand #BlackLivesMatter today, you first have to understand the scope of a political movement that people like Brittany Packnett were part of before they became famous. Packnett helped start a group called We The Protestors in Ferguson, and they organized in the Missouri town for months before Michael Brown was killed in 2014, Chris Hayes of MSNBC says. Packnett and her allies picked the date of the protest in August of that year, for example, because it was the one-year anniversary of the death of another unarmed black man, John Crawford, who was killed by police over a toy gun in an Ohio Walmart. Not long after the Brown shooting, a 16-year-old girl named Taylor Smith was also killed by police — not in Ferguson, but in nearby Berkeley, Missouri.

It took Packnett and her allies months to make sense of those cases in Ferguson, to figure out what to do about them, and then they spent more months planning Ferguson’s response. As the Columbia Journalism Review wrote way back in 2013:

“‘I don’t know anyone who was so naive as to think that it would be quick, that it would be all at once,’ Packnett recalled. ‘So, for everyone who thinks that we are just in a post-Ferguson moment, there’s been work that’s gone into this.’”

In other words, to understand why dozens of people (many of them black women, many of them queer) are in jail right now in St. Louis for protesting police, it’s best to look actively at how and when those people tried to change the systems of police violence before they ever touched a banner.

It takes a lot of energy to keep a movement going this long.

In that spirit, here are 16 books about #BlackLivesMatter.

All of these books will provide you with history that you can use right now, if you are engaged in the movement or thinking of becoming engaged. Some of them are going to get you angry and some of them are going to inspire you about the long-lasting power of Black Lives Matter. All of them will help you understand how the kind of organizing we’re seeing today got started.

But remember: This is just a starter kit. Many of these titles are drawn from the work of one of the most crucial groups of people who are currently organizing around Black Lives Matter, black women. Books by black women have been doing essential work in political organizing, and are some of the most useful tools of our time.

It’s just an opening selection. There are a lot of great titles, in fact, and you don’t have to look hard to find them. Just visit your public library, order one of them online, or read them with your friends. If you tweet about them, please tag them #BlackLivesMatter — that’ll help others find them, too. Readers can recommend titles in the comments, as well.

They Can’t Kill Us All by Wesley Lowery

This product was recommended by Ali Rizvi from Dream Superhero

They Can’t Kill Us All offers a historically informed look at the standoff between the police and those they are sworn to protect.

The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein

This product was recommended by Albert Griesmayr from Scribando

The book is a masterpiece. The Rothstein book gathers thorough research showing how governments at all levels implemented racially discriminatory policies to deny from giving the blacks the opportunity to enjoy with jobs, good schools, and upward mobility. The Color of Law shows what happens when Americans lose their natural rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, or in the case of African-Americans, when there are those still waiting to receive them in full. It’s virtually indispensable. I will suggest anyone interested in understanding the depth of today’s problem to read this valuable book. This compassionate and scholarly diagnosis of past policies and a prescription for our current racial maladies highlights all the dark spaces that are the root source of current situations.

100 Questions and Answers About African Americans by Michigan State University School of Journalism

This product was recommended by Susan Stitt from Front Edge Publishing

This simple, introductory guide answers 100 of the basic questions people ask about African Americans and Black people in everyday conversation. It has answers about identity, language, religion, culture, customs, social norms, economics, politics, education, work, families and food. It also covers contemporary issues of race, employment, criminal justice, heath, wealth and housing. This guide is for people in business, education, faith communities, government, medicine, law enforcement and human resources who need a starting point in learning or teaching more about African Americans.

Biased by Jennifer Eberhardt

This product was recommended by Leia Kalani from Tropical Topics

In this book, Dr. Eberhardt lays out what unconscious racial bias is. She helps readers understand how unconscious biases affect our perception, memory, attention, and behaviors in ways that are subtle yet influence every aspect of our lives. Eberhardt further goes on to explain how unconscious bias can be cured so that we can all go on to lead a more tolerant life.

Little Leaders Bold Women in Black History By Vashti Harrison

This product was recommended by Melanie Musson from AutoInsuranceCompanies

This book introduces readers to women of color who overcame oppression and fought their way to success and leadership. You may be surprised at the adversity they faced and just how significantly their accomplishments have changed the world. The brief overviews written in this book provide a launching pad for further study and individual biographies.

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

This product was recommended by Albert Griesmayr from Scribando

A contemporary book that not only talks about the harsh truth about racism on a day to day basis but the author also provides an in-depth struggle of social media afflictions through comments, slurs and this book also shows people that have been victimized by racism and hate how to survive.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

This product was recommended by Albert Griesmayr from Scribando

Between the World and Me is a book in an essay form written by the author to his son about the role of race in America. He carefully writes to his son about the oppression that is still existent in the shaping of America’s history up to this present day. He informs him of police brutality and the deaths of Michael Brown and the impaired justice for Trayvon Martin whose killer is still free.

Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi

This product was recommended by Albert Griesmayr from Scribando

This book won the National Book Award in 2017 used the life stories of five-figure in American History and it enumerates the different ideas of racism that were created that still proliferates hate and ignorance that have been instilled in America for reasons of greed and staying on top of the pack.

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