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Reading List on Systemic Racism and Racial Injustice

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In the wake of the horrific acts of violence resulting in the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd that brought pain and anguish across the country, including right here in our community, Queens University of Charlotte sent out a message on June 2, 2020, on ending systemic racism.

The message can be read in its entirety here.

Part of that message focused on doing the work to learn what it takes for us to become anti-racist, committing to learning about institutionalized and systemic racism and, with that knowledge, finding ways to combat and dismantle it.

With that in mind, Queens faculty and leadership from across campus collaborated to create a reading list on systemic racism and racial injustice.

It can be found in full below, along with the reason for each item's inclusion. You can also jump directly to the sections for nonfiction, fiction or poems, essays and collections.

The Everett Library has also compiled a curated guide to additional resources for anti-racism, including books, articles, videos, podcasts, and activities for those seeking to learn and step up.

Nonfiction

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

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

"With equal force and candor, Alexander breaks the silence about racial injustice in the modern legal system to reveal how mass incarceration has come to replace segregation. Alexander's work not only explores the myth surrounding our criminal justice system from a racial and ethical standpoint, but also offers solutions for combating this epidemic."

Queens Common Read 2019 

 

White Rage

"White Rage"
By Carol Anderson

"Historian Carol Anderson’s 'White Rage' offers a well-researched and very accessible discussion of the ways that historical advances of black people in this country have been met with white resistance and ultimately backlash that continues to sustain systemic racism and white supremacy in the U.S."

Submitted by:
Andrea McCrary
Assistant Professor, English

Racism Without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America

"Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America"
By Eduardo Bonilla-Silva

"This is a good source for exploring how unequal social outcomes by race persist even in the absence of blatant prejudices and discrimination. In other words, even while most people regard themselves as colorblind or at least not racist as individuals."

Submitted by:
Jeremiah Wills
Associate Professor, Sociology; Interim Dean, College of Arts and Sciences

Between the World and Me

"Between the World and Me"
By Ta-Nehisi Coates

"A clear-eyed exploration of a Black man's experience growing up, learning, and living in the United States, viewed through a personal and intellectual lens."

Submitted by:
Carolyn Radcliff
Director, Everett Library


 

The Cross and the Lynching Tree

"The Cross and the Lynching Tree"
By James Cone

"This is a black liberation theology read on the connection between Jesus' death and violence against black people."

Submitted by:
Suzanne Henderson
Professor, Interfaith Studies; Dean, The Belk Chapel

 

 

White Fragility

"White Fragility"
By Robin DiAngelo

"Robin DiAngelo’s 'White Fragility' is a straightforward explanation of how it is difficult for white people to understand and acknowledge that we live in a racist society and of the consequences of that denial."

Submitted by:
Helen Hull
Associate Professor, English

 

The Dream Long Deferred

"The Dream Long Deferred: The Landmark Struggle for Desegregation in Charlotte, North Carolina"
By Frye Gaillard

"A book with specific ties to North Carolina, 'The Dream Long Deferred' looks at the integration struggle in Charlotte."

Submitted by:
Bob Whalen
Professor, History


 

Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow

"Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow"
By Henry Louis Gates Jr.

"The story of how 'White Supremacy' as an ideology and political doctrine was established after the Civil War, and made possible and sustained by cultural images of African Americans that reinforced dehumanizing stereotypes that still resonate in our culture today. It is illustrated with many painful but historically important examples of those images."

Submitted by:
Michael Kobre
Dana Professor, English 

Our Separate Ways: Women and the Black Freedom Movement in Durham, North Carolina

"Our Separate Ways: Women and the Black Freedom Movement in Durham, North Carolina"
By Christina Greene

"'Our Separate Ways' looks at the civil rights struggle in Durham, North Carolina, especially the role of women."

Submitted by:
Bob Whalen
Professor, History

 

Color and Character: West Charlotte High and the American Struggle Over Educational Equality

"Color and Character: West Charlotte High and the American Struggle Over Educational Equality"
By Pamela Grundy

"A book with specific ties to North Carolina, 'Color and Character' looks at educational equality among Charlotte schools."

Submitted by:
Bob Whalen
Professor, History

 

White Awake: An Honest Look at What It Means to Be White

"White Awake: An Honest Look at What It Means to Be White"
By Daniel Hill

"'White Awake' follows the journey of Daniel Hill as he confronts racial and social injustice from a Christian perspective including exploring the sin of racism."

Submitted by:
Tama Morris
Professor/Dean, Blair College of Health

 

The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America

"The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America"
By Gerald Horne

"This book asks us to reconsider the United States’ revolutionary origins, and it helps reveal the inherent contradictions and racial injustices that have plagued our democracy ever since."

Submitted by:
Barry Robinson
Professor, History 

 

Privilege, Power and Difference

"Privilege, Power, and Difference"
By Allan Johnson

"The author deconstructs privilege and power from multiple perspectives and challenges individuals to reflect on the personal perspective of being priveleged and the power it brings."

Submitted by:
Tama Morris
Professor/Dean, Blair College of Health


 

How to Be an Antiracist

"How to Be an Antiracist"
By Ibram X. Kendi

"Kendi helps illustrate the many forms of racism, and explains why we must continually name it for what is and then begin to dismantle it."

Submitted by:
Shawn Bowers

Assistant Professor, English

 

 

Stamped from the Beginning

"Stamped from the Beginning"
By Ibram X. Kendi

"'Stamped from the Beginning' is a tremendous book that helps us trace a history of racist ideas."

Submitted by:
Willie Keaton
Justice Organizer, Greenspon Center for Peace and Social Justice

 

 

Mindful of Race: Transforming Racism from the Inside Out

"Mindful of Race: Transforming Racism from the Inside Out"
By Ruth King

"Charlotte author and nationally recognized expert Ruth King’s 2018 book. She speaks from experience to show how mindfulness and empathy can help us understand the effects of racism, and move toward its ending."

Submitted by:
John Bennett
Director, Graduate Programs; Professor, Business & Behavioral Science

 

Seeds of Destruction

"Seeds of Destruction"
By Thomas Merton

"Especially 'Letters to a White Liberal.' Written over 50 years ago, still relevant reflections by a white Catholic priest."

Submitted by:
Bob Whalen
Professor, History

 

 

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates

"The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates"
By Wes Moore

"'The Other Wes Moore' gives people an idea of how institutional racism impacts individuals’ choices and opportunities."

Submitted by:
Tim Brown
Dean, Knight School of Communication

 

 

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

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

"It chronicles the very intentional ways in which economic opportunity (largely through home ownership) was stymied by federal, state, and local government in the post-WWII years and beyond. The separation that occurred as a result affects everything: schools, health care, job opportunities, access to social capital..."

Submitted by:
Suzanne Henderson
Professor, Interfaith Studies; Dean, The Belk Chapel

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

"Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption"
By Bryan Stevenson

"A powerful examination of our unjust justice system. See too the film, 'Just Mercy,' starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx, directed by Destin Daniel Cretton."

Submitted by:
Bob Whalen
Professor, History

 
 

Blood Done Sign My Name

"Blood Done Sign My Name"
By Timothy Tyson

"The struggle for justice in Oxford, North Carolina."

Submitted by:
Bob Whalen
Professor, History

 



Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance

"Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance"
By Edgar Villanueva

"Villaneuva is a native American storyteller who uses his gifts to challenge our culture of philanthropy and explore the dynamics of race, power, and money. Money can be used to divide and exploit or as medicine to heal, repair harm, and prevent harm from continuing."

Submitted by:
Rabbi Judith Schindler
Sklut Professor of Jewish Studies; Director, Greenspon Center for Peace and Social Justice

Reconstructing the Gospel: Finding Freedom from Slaveholder Religion

"Reconstructing the Gospel: Finding Freedom from Slaveholder Religion"
By Jonathan Wilson-Hart

"As a Christian, it has been especially important for me to understand that the 'Church' and Christian communities were instrumental in the acceptance and promotion of holding slaves. Many white Christian communities ignore this history and remain silent, which perpetuates the injustices that exist today. This book challenged me to learn, understand, and acknowledge this history."

Submitted by:
Joey Haynes
Chaplain and Director, Davies Center for Faith and Outreach
 

White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son

"White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son"
By Tim Wise

"Wise provides a personal examination of the way in which racial privilege shapes the lives of white Americans from employment, to education, housing, criminal justice and much more."

Submitted by:
John Bennett
Director, Graduate Programs; Professor, Business & Behavioral Science


 

The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness

"The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness"
By Kevin Young

"Poet Kevin Young's epic attempt at 'a unifying theory of African American culture' and the ways it has shaped and defined American culture. Focusing on the concept of 'storying' — in books, in tall tales, in jokes, in jazz solos and song lyrics, in subterfuges to defy oppressors — Young argues that 'the fabric of black life has often meant its very fabrication, making a way out of no way, and making it up as you go along.'"

Submitted by:
Michael Kobre
Dana Professor, English

Wilmington's Lie

"Wilmington's Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy"
By David Zucchino

"A look at the 1898 white supremacy coup that took place in Wilmington, North Carolina."

Submitted by:
Bob Whalen
Professor, History

 

 

FICTION

Stella by Starlight

"Stella by Starlight"
By Sharon Draper

"YA novel about a young girl living in 1930s segregated small-town North Carolina. Set in an earlier time, it illuminates challenges for those living under oppression but also suggests their strengths and strategies for combatting oppressive systems are still relevant today. A good family read for parents who want to talk with their children about systemic racism."

Submitted by:
Helen Hull
Associate Professor, English

A Raisin in the Sun

"A Raisin in the Sun"
By Lorraine Hansberry

"The play follows a black family battling systemic racism in Chicago during the 1950s. I first encountered this play in middle school and fell in love with Hansberry’s nuanced understanding of the way the political impacts the personal; here was a family, much like my own, but who was facing extraordinary discrimination that, until then, I had not understood."

Submitted by:
Sarah Creech
Assistant Professor, English

Their Eyes Were Watching God

"Their Eyes Were Watching God"
By Zora Neale Hurston

"Zora Neale Hurston's 1937 novel 'Their Eyes Were Watching God' was an attempt to address the problem she brought to light in her essay 'What White Publishers Won't Print' by showing the richness and depth of African American communities in the age of Jim Crow. Hurston also depicts the epic quest of her protagonist Janie Crawford to 'the horizon' and back, to achieve identity and agency as an African American woman."

Submitted by:
Michael Kobre
Dana Professor, English

An American Marriage

"An American Marriage"
By Tayari Jones

"'An American Marriage' speaks powerfully about the experience of navigating systems and institutions built on white supremacy, especially marriage and the justice system, in a black male body."

Submitted by:
Bonnie Shishko
Assistant Professor, English


 

Beloved

"Beloved"
By Toni Morrison

"One of the greatest novels of modern American literature, 'Beloved' is a ghost story, a tragedy, and a deeply painful portrait of slavery and its aftermath. 'Freeing yourself was one thing,' Sethe, the novel’s protagonist and a runaway slave, thinks; 'claiming ownership of that freed self was another.'"

Submitted by:
Michael Kobre
Dana Professor, English


Song of Solomon

"Song of Solomon"
By Toni Morrison

"Morrison’s breakthrough novel from 1977 encapsulates the history of African Americans from the end of slavery to the civil rights movement through the story of one family, exploring how the painful truths of American history are both hidden and passed on in the stories and names handed down through generations."

Submitted by:
Michael Kobre
Dana Professor, English


John Henry Days

"John Henry Days"
By Colson Whitehead

"A retelling of the John Henry myth of the man who beat the steam machine, dying in the process. It is also the story of a contemporary black man dealing with this idea of black masculinity that is admired, feared, and exploited in America. Whitehead asks the questions: 'If he beat the steam engine, why did he have to die? Did he win or lose?'"

Submitted by:
Craig Renfroe
Associate Professor, English 

The Nickel Boys

"The Nickel Boys"
By Colson Whitehead

"Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2020, 'The Nickel Boys' examines the racism that hides in the guise of seemingly benevolent institutions."

Submitted by:
Craig Renfroe
Associate Professor, English

 

 

The Underground Railroad

"The Underground Railroad"
By Colson Whitehead

"Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2016, 'The Underground Railroad' imagines the Antebellum South with a real underground train that transports runaway slaves on a harrowing journey north. The book offers a unique portrait of a slave’s dangerous escape for freedom set in an alternate universe, and it’s one of the best novels I’ve read in years. "

Submitted by:
Sarah Creech
Assistant Professor, English 

 

POEMS, ESSAYS & COLLECTIONS

The Fire Next Time

"The Fire Next Time"
By James Baldwin

"The now classic 1963 call for racial justice by one of America's greatest writers."

Submitted by:
Bob Whalen
Professor, History

  

  

Of Poetry & Protest: From Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin

"Of Poetry & Protest: From Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin"
Edited and Compiled by Philip Cushway and Michael Warr

"The poetry anthology connects the Black Lives Matter movement to its cultural and historical context through rich and varied poems from 43 contemporary African American writers, including Pulitzer-Prize winning poets Rita Dove, Yusef Komunyakaa, Tracy K. Smith, and Natasha Trethewey. By also featuring photographs and personal essays, the book itself is a form of artistic protest."

Submitted by:
Julie Funderburk
Assistant Professor, English

If They Come in the Morning: Voices of Resistance

"If They Come in the Morning... Voices of Resistance"
Edited by Angela A. Davis

"A collection of essays, letters, and commentaries written by the likes of James Baldwin, Huey Newton, Bobby Seale and Erica Huggins. It offers not only an account of Davis’ incarceration but also a comprehensive analysis of the carceral system both past and present. Sadly, not a lot seems to have changed (aside from the prison system getting better at incarcerating minority peoples)."

Submitted by:
Sarah Griffith
Assistant Professor, History 

A Small Needful Fact

"A Small Needful Fact"
By Ross Gray

"List-readers could engage with this immediately and for free. It speaks remarkably and powerfully about Eric Garner by raising up his humanity."

Submitted by:
Julie Funderburk
Assistant Professor, English

 

 

Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin

"Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin"
By Terrance Hayes

"Hayes uses this venerable form (from sonetto, in Italian, meaning "little song") to capture a wide and horrifying range of the ways black American men have been killed. But the book isn't a mere history lesson, as Hayes leads us through the myriad homicidal threats black American men receive as we breathe."

Submitted by:
Charles Israel
Assistant Professor, English 

What White Publishers Won't Print

"What White Publishers Won't Print"
By Zora Neale Hurston

"'… [A]s long as the majority cannot conceive of a Negro … feeling and reacting inside just as they do, the majority will keep right on believing that people who do not look like them cannot possibly feel as they do,' Zora Neale Hurston wrote in her essay 'What White Publishers Won’t Print.'"

Submitted by:
Michael Kobre
Dana Professor, English


Letter from the Birmingham Jail

"Letter from the Birmingham Jail"
By Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

"This "call to action" in the form of a letter is as relevant today as it was in 1965. The letter can be accessed online."

Submitted by:
Richard Mathieu
Dean, McColl School of Business

 

 

The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism

"The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism"
By Audre Lorde

"Audre Lorde’s brief but powerful essay 'The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism' explores the real effects of exclusion, privilege, and silencing and charges readers to listen."

Submitted by:
Andrea McCrary
Assistant Professor, English


 

Citizen: An American Lyric

"Citizen: An American Lyric"
By Claudia Rankine

"Citizen is a blistering exploration of systemic racism. In prose poems written in the second person, the book examines and interrogates the countless moments, small and large, in which African-Americans experience racism and discrimination in the United States."

Submitted by:
Morri Creech
Associate Professor and Writer-in-Residence, English

 

The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race

"The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race"
Edited by Jesmyn Ward

"Inspired by James Baldwin’s 'The Fire Next Time,' this collection of essays, poetry, and memoir highlights the Black experience in the contemporary United States. In beautiful and sometimes gut-wrenching prose and poetry, it highlights how this country continues to grapple with systemic racism and encourages readers to develop empathy for experiences that may not be their own."

Submitted by:
Andrea McCrary
Assistant Professor, English

Charleston Syllabus: Readings on Race, Racism, and Racial Violence

"Charleston Syllabus: Readings on Race, Racism, and Racial Violence"
Edited by Drs. Chad Williams, Kidada E. Williams, and Keisha N. Blain

"The editors of this trenchant collection of speeches, essays, and accounts by historical figures, academics, and activists spanning U.S. history, compiled it in the wake of the 2015 massacre at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina, to demonstrate how white supremacy is not an aberration but a feature of the U.S.'s past and present."

Submitted by:
Caroline Greco
Assistant Professor, History 

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