a short resource list w/context wrt the white supremacist history of the united states

I threw this short, very oversimplified history together in a comment thread for the My Favorite Murder podcast group. A person from outside the US was asking on a thread about a POC subgroup about the history of US race relations, and I put this together quickly so that they’d have a basic idea of the historical context and framing. This may be helpful to some of you educating others/having arguments with families or friends right now—or just in case you’d like to read some more on the topic.

You’ll find tons of suggested reading at the end.

It all goes back to the very first European settlers, who found indigenous peoples living here when their ships first came to these shores. Through the spread of diseases brought to the US by European colonists (some by accident, some as active attempts at genocide), and active violence when colonists sought to take Native land, millions of Native lives were lost during the most rapid period of colonial expansion from 1492 to 1900. Also starting in 1492 with Columbus’ expedition landing on American shores, European slave traders started bringing enslaved Africans over to work in the Spanish colonies in the Americas. Often, enslaved Africans and Native peoples were pitted against one another, and the suffering of enslaved Africans was key to establishing what would become the thirteen original colonies of the US in 1776. Without slaves, there would be no American industry.

Many of America’s founding fathers, of course, owned slaves. This country fought a civil war between northern and southern states in the 1800s; the institution of slavery was the central issue. The conventional narrative says that slavery was abolished with the passage of the 13th Amendment in 1865. The institution was, and there were significant civil rights gains for Black Americans granted by the 13th and 14th Amendments. But the Civil War has left an indelible imprint on the American psyche, and even the “free” states of the north weren’t—and still aren’t—exactly racist-free zones. (Of note for understanding racialized police violence in this country: our police force derives DIRECTLY from fugitive slave patrols.) And we can’t forget the history of immigration policy in the construction of US concepts of race and race relations. It’s also worth studying the U.S.-Mexico border and how that got to be.

While the formal system of slavery no longer existed after 1865, another form of strictly encoded systemic discrimination existed for another century, the Jim Crow system. From the 1950s through the 1980s, black Americans and those who struggled alongside them gained a number of civil rights victories, including the end of Jim Crow, through grassroots organizing and demonstration. What I was taught in school (I graduated in 1997) was that the civil rights era “solved” everything with regard to racism in the US, but that’s clearly untrue and was mega-evident to me even then. The color of one’s skin and one’s national origin and ethnic identification are clearly still INCREDIBLY important to how we experience the world — they shouldn’t be, but they are. This history resonates through our experiences today.



General History:

Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, Ibram X. Kendi

Racial Formation in the United States, Michael Omi and Howard Winant

How Race Survived US History: From Settlement and Slavery to the Obama Phenomenon, David Roediger

Native Americans (including Central and South America) and Genocidal Atrocities:

American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World, David E. Stanner

Manifest Destiny: The Making of the Mexican-American Race, Laura E. Gomez

Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent, Eduardo Galeano

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America, Andrés Reséndez

Slavery in Early America:

The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, Edward E. Baptist

In the Shadow of Liberty: The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives, Kenneth C. Davis

Slavery and the Founders: Race and Liberty in the Age of Jefferson, Paul Finkelman

The Price for Their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved, from Womb to Grave, in the Building of a Nation, Daina Raimey Berry

Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market, Walter Johnson

The Civil War and Slavery:

Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory, David W. Blight

The Slaves’ War: The Civil War in the Words of Former Slaves, Andrew Ward

Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and the Great Migration:

Black Reconstruction in America, W.E.B. duBois

At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America, Philip Dray

Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All its Phases, Ida B. Wells

When Affirmative Action was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America, Ira Katznelson

Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II, Douglas A. Blackmon

A Nation Under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South from Slavery to the Great Migration, Steven Hahn

Remembering Jim Crow: African Americans Tell About Life in the Segregated South, Chafe/Gavins/Korstad (ed.)

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, Isabel Wilkerson

American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the American Underclass, Douglas S. Massey

WWII, Civil Rights, and Black Power:

Harlem at War: The Black Experience in World War II, Nathan Brandt

The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin

Voices of Freedom: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement from the 1950s through the 1980s, Henry Hampton

Freedom’s Daughters: The Unsung Heroines of the Civil Rights Movement from 1830 to 1970, Lynne Olson

At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance—A New History of the Civil Rights Movement to the Rise of Black Power, Danielle L. McGuire

Waiting ‘Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America, Peniel E. Joseph

Let Nobody Turn Us Around: An African American Anthology, Manning Marable

Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party, Joshua Bloom

Assata: An Autobiography, Assata Shakur

Women, Race, and Class, Angela Davis

The Revolution Has Come: Black Power, Gender, and the Black Panther Party in Oakland, Robyn C. Spencer

Present Day:

Racism Without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva

The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics, George Lipsitz

Reproducing Racism: How Everyday Choices Lock In White Advantage, Daria Roithmayr

From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation, Keeanga-Yahmatta Taylor

Immigration Policy and the Construction of Whiteness:

Culling the Masses: The Democratic Origins of Racist Immigration Policy in the Americas, David FitzGerald and David Cook-Martin

How Race is Made in America: Immigration, Citizenship, and the Historical Power of Racial Scripts, Natalia Molina

Working Toward Whiteness: How America’s Immigrants Became White, David Roediger

Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race, Matthew Frye Jacobson

American Law, Policing and the Construction of the Criminal Justice System:

Worse than Slavery: Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice, David M. Oshinsky

Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America, Kristian Williams

Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces, Radley Balko

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, Richard Rothstein

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

Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence, and America’s Prison Nation, Beth Richie

From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America, Elizabeth Hinton

Race and Housing Policy:

Family Properties: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America, Beryl Satter

Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago 1940–1960, Arnold R. Hirsch

New Deal Ruins: Race, Economic Justice, and Public Housing Policy, Edward G. Goetz

Additional Recommendations:

The Lit Review Podcast has another great list of recommended reading here. I didn’t duplicate recommendations because I knew I’d be linking this.

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