There has been an avalanche in recent years of books, films, music and online resources that focus on issues of race and racism. These join an already crowded genre that boasted some truly inspirational content alongside some total rubbish.
If you’ve never read an anti-racist book then our ‘cut-out and keep’ 8 Good Reads on Race is a good starting point. It suggests a mix of history, fiction, biography and monograph. It’s also a great resource to download and share for anyone trying to encourage others to engage with this crucial genre.
If you want to take a deep dive into a focused area like history or education, or want some suggestions for children’s fiction, then our curated list of key resources below should prove helpful. If you click on the broad classification type below then the drop-down list will expand. These lists will be constantly added to and updated, with lists of music, films and online sources coming soon.
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For anyone wanting to gain an in-depth understanding of Black British history then the two books by Peter Fryer on the subject are a must read, and we would recommend reading them together. Staying Power gives a historical account of Black people in Britain from as far back as the Roman Empire. It details the catalysts for the trans-atlantic slave trade, Britain's involvement and, painstakingly evidences its contribution to the industrial revolution. It also analyses the legacies of the slave trade such as the rise of English racism. Fryer has supported all of this with primary source material that was absent from other accounts of history. Black People in the British Empire is an insightful book, not only does it expose the oppression, exploitation and dehumanisation of Black people by empire it also raises uncomfortabel questions about attitudes and negative stereotypes of Black people which still persist.
For people wanting a less involved overview then the historian David Olusoga offers up Black and British, A Forgotten History. This book draws on geneaological research, original records and expert testimony to demonstrate the history of the relationship between Britain and peoples of African and Caribbean descent.
For more of a personal exploration of the impact of history on identity Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala is insightful. This book uses the author's personal experiences and extensive knowledge of world history to ground an exploration of the complexities of identity, immigration and the politics of race and class in modern Britain.
There is a reason that Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed is so widely celebrated. It clearly explains how education creates and sustains oppression. It also sets out a vision for how education could liberate. If you haven't read this monograph you should. Published in Portugese in 1968 and English in 1970, downloadable copies are widely available and easy to find online.
For practicing educators seeking guidance on how to make classes more inclusive and engaging bell hooks' in Teaching to Tansgress shares her experiences of being a student and an educator in a bid to demonstrate the possibilities and results of having an inclusive curriculum.
For secondary school and college teachers Disengagement from Education by Lynne Rogers deals with exactly what the title suggests! The book is a helpful mix of explanation of the problem and proposed solutions.
Kalwant Bhopal's White Privilege: The Myth of a Post-racial Society gives an overview of racism in modern Britain and the chapters focusing on education and particularly Higher Education explain the nature of endemic racism. Her publishers have released a free sample from the book which you can read here.
For academics seeking an edited collection of essays on race in Higher Education then the recent book edited by Jason Arday and Heidi Safia Mirza, Dismantling Race in Higher Education: Racism, Whiteness and Decolonising the Academy is essential. Key academics working in this field cover everything from policy to staff and student experiences.
White Fragility by Robin Di'Angelo explores the responses to racism by white people. The self-obsessed histrionics when these difficult topics are discussed are what she describes as white fragility. This book will challenge anyone who thinks they are not racist to reflect on their own behaviours.
There Ain't No Black in the Union Jack: The Cultural Politics of Race and Nation by Paul Gilroy gives a post-modern perspective on race and racism. It focuses on the anti-racist movements of the 1970s and highlights the importance of culture within Black communities. This powerful call for action is both challenging and inspiring.
Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge has similarities with White Fragility but is from the perspective of a Black author. She explores the defensiveness of white people and their failure to empathise with the oppression felt by Black people.
For a more philosophical exploration of issues surrounding Race and Racism then Bernard Boxill's edited collection of essays of that title is far-reaching in its coverage.
Kalwant Bhopal's White Privilege: The Myth of a Post-racial Society is included in our education section because of its focus but as it gives an overview of racism in modern Britain it deserves a mention here too. Her publishers have released a free sample from the book which you can read here.
Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice that Shapes what we See, Think and Do by Jennifer Eberhardt employs a combination of history, research, science and personal narrative in uncovering the reality and impact of 'othering'. This book is a must-read for anyone who wishes to understand everyday racism and bias.
Brit(ish) by Afua Hirsch is auto-biographical in its approach and as Afua is the narrator is well worth considering listening to on Audible. She explores growing up as a wealthy mixed-race girl in the 1980s and contrasts that with the experiences of Sam, a Black boy from a disadvantaged background. Race, gender and class all feature prominently and there's a hefty dose of Afua's refreshing opinions on identity and racism in modern Britain.
Becoming by Michelle Obama is obviously American in its focus but has global appeal. Michelle is explicitly directing her advice at young Black women and doesn't fail to inspire.
The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano: or, Gustavus Vassa, the African by Olaudah Equiano gives a personal account of capture, enslavement and transportation. Olaudah learned, illegally, to read and write and was able to argue for his freedom. This riveting account exposes what life was actually like for slaves.
Chimamanda Adiche deserves multiple mentions on any reading list and all of her novels come highly recommended. Her monograph We Should All be Feminists does a lot in a very short space. It is based on her Ted Talk of the same title and explores feminism from the perspective of a Black Nigerian Woman who wants to wear lipstick, fabulous dresses and have a successful career.
Decolonising the Mind by Ngugi Wa Thiong'o examines language as a tool of oppression, he argues that: "the night of the sword and the bullet was followed by the morning of the chalk and the blackboard." This fascinating text exposes the full extent of the "cultural bomb" of colonisation on those growing up speaking another language.
The Masters' Tools Will Never Dismantle the Masters' House by Audre Lorde is a collection of essays by Audre that call for liberation and systemic change, not just empowerment. A radical and progressive approach that speaks to anyone who has experienced oppression.
Africa's Tarnished Name is a collection of essays written by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe who describes himself as born a "British protected person" and continued as such until Nigeria's independance. The book is rooted in colonial critique and post-colonial discourse. A riveting read, Achebe contends that colonisation gave the world a perspective of Africa which isn't hers, this was a deliberate invention devised to facilitate the atlantic slave trade and the colonisation of Africa by Europe.
Elliott (12) has selected his favourite books.
Illegal by Andrew Donkin and Eoin Colfer is a graphic novel about an Ethiopian boy who follows his older brother to find their sister who left for Europe in pursuit of a better life. The book explores the difficult and dangerous journey that some refugees face. Elliott loved this book so much that he has read it literally hundreds of times, it made him feel sympathy for the characters. A real account from an asylum seeker is also included at the end.
Refugee Boy by Benjamin Zephaniah tells the story of a young boy's experiences of being a lone asylum seeker in Britain. Elliott said he could relate to the boy's experiences which made him feel like he was part of the story.
Shadow by Michael Murpugo is a story about a dog, Shadow, in Afghanistan who links an Afghan-born asylum seeker to a British soldier. The story is told through the eyes of Grandpa who visits his grandson's best friend whilst the boy is held in an immigration detention center. Elliott says it is a good young adult, it makes you realise what is actually happening in the world.
William (6) and Alexander (2) helped select these books.
Rosa by Nikki Giovanni is a beautifully illustrated re-telling of the famous story of Rosa Parks. It is written in a way that is accessible to young children whilst not shying away from the reality of racism.
Alexander loves collections of short stories which can be read at bedtime. There are plenty that expose him to other cultures and perspectives and three of his favourites are:
- The Barefoot Book of Earth Tales by David Casey and Anne Wilson,
- The Oxfam Book of Children's Stories: South, North, East and West Edited by Michael Rosen, and
- Stories from India by Anna Milborne