“I Want to Know More”: Resources on black history, culture, and racial justice

First things first: I did not make this list. I surveyed my white racially-conscious, Latino, and black friends for resources that had helped them understand racial justice issues and compiled their results along with a few recommendations of my own. I was, however, happy to provide suggestions for how to get started with the list at the end.

Second, this list is dedicated to the guy I met at that party who wanted to know more but didn’t know where to start. I hope this helps!

And finally, before the list, here’s a guide to symbols used:
★ = recommended by several people
* = I have read/seen and second this recommendation
^ = Based on reviews and synopsis looks especially interesting to me

START HERE: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack ← single most referenced resource

The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X [9.5 hrs]
Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur [6.5 hrs]
*Between the World and Me by Ta-nehisi Coates [3.5 hrs]
There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America by Alex Kotlowitz [6.5 hrs]
The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African by Olaudah Equine [4 hrs]
Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference by David Garrow [16.5 hrs]

*The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois [3.3 hrs]
Dear White America: Letter to a New Minority by Tim Wise [4 hrs]
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin [2.5 hrs]
Race Matters by Cornel West [3 hrs]
Tears we Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson [5 hrs]
Some of My Best Friends are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America by Colby Tanner [6.5 hrs]
Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum [6 hrs]
This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa [7 hrs]
Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire [4 hrs]

Criminal Justice
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander* [7 hrs]
★*Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson* [7.5 hrs]

Words at Work and Play by Shirley Brice Heath [5 hrs]
Ways with Words: Language, Life and Work in Communities and Classrooms by Shirley Brice Heath [9 hrs]
The Skin That We Speak: Thoughts on Language and Culture in the Classroom by Lisa Delpit [5 hrs]
Beyond Ebonics: Racial Pride & Linguistic Prejudice by John Baugh [3.5 hrs]

^ Savage Inequality by Jonathan Kozol (#4 in Educational Psychology) [7 hrs]
Unequal Childhoods: Race, Class, and Family Life by Annette Lareau [10 hrs]
The Shame of a Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America by Jonathan Kozol [9 hrs]
Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality by Elizabeth A. Armstrong and Laura T. Hamilton [7 hrs]
The Long Shadow: Family Background, Disadvantaged Urban Youth, and the Transition to Adulthood by Karl Alexander and Doris Entwistle [6 hrs]
Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom by bell hooks [6 hrs]

★ Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe [4 hrs]
The Sellout: A Novel by Paul Beatty [6 hrs]
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison [12 hrs]
Black Like Me by John Howard Griffith [4 hrs]
Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Novel by Zora Neale Hurston [4.5 hrs]
★ To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee [8 hrs]
★ Beloved by Toni Morrison [6.5 hrs]
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison [4.5 hrs]
Small Great Things by Jodi Picot [10 hrs]
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe [8 hrs]
Coming Through Slaughter by Michael Ondaatje [3 hrs]
The Color of Water by James McBride [6 hrs]

Race and Christianity
America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America by Jim Wallis [5.5 hrs]
Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism by Drew Hart [4 hrs]
*Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart by Christena Cleveland [4.5 hrs]
The Heart of Racial Justice: How Soul Change Leads to Social Change by Brenda Salter McNeil and Rick Richardson [4 hrs]
*Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America by Christian Smith and Michael Emerson [4.5 hrs]
Strangers at My Door: A True Story of Finding Jesus in Unexpected Guests by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove [4.5 hrs]
*Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just by Tim Keller [5.5 hrs]

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson [13 hrs]
A Different Mirror by Ron Takai [11 hrs]
A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn [16 hrs]
Women, Race, & Class by Angela Davis [6 hrs]

Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets by Sudhir Venkatesh [6.5 hrs]

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Eherenreich [5 hrs]

Poets from the Harlem Renaissance + Black Arts Movement of the 60s

Maya Angelou
James Baldwin
Toni Cade Bambara
Octavia Butler (sci-fi)
Angela Davis
W.E B. Du Bois
Michael Eric Dyson
bell hooks
Langston Hughes
Zora Neale Hurston
Ernest J. Gaines
Toni Morrison
Alice Walker
Cornel West
Howard Zinn


Traditional print
Essence (@Essence) – Black women’s lifestyle guide
Ebony (@EbonyMag) – business, health, fashion, sports, entertainment and general news

Digital magazine
Very Smart Brothas (@VerySmartBros) – news, pop culture, race, and sex
Colorlines (@Colorlines) – race, culture, and organizing
Blavity (@Blavity) – news and lifestyle site for black millennials
The Undefeated (@TheUndefeated) – sports, race, culture for blacks by ESPN

The Grio – (@theGrio) video-centric African-American news and opinion
Huffington Post Black Voices – (@blackvoices) Black entertainment, news, beauty, and money
The Root (@TheRoot) – news from African American perspective

Based on a true story
Fruitvale Station (2013) – portrays the last day in the life of a young black man killed by BART police in Oakland [1.5 hrs]
Amistad (1997) – historical drama about the Atlantic Slave Trade [2.5 hrs]
*Selma (2014) – historical drama about MLK’s 1965 marches for voting rights  [2 hrs]
Roots (1977) – drama following a family line from slavery through emancipation [9.5 hrs]

The Brothers (2001) – romantic comedy about four friends questioning of women and relationships [1.5 hrs]
The Inkwell (1994) – romantic comedy [2 hrs]
*Set It Off (1996) – crime action drama about four desperate women who rob a bank
every House Party movie [2 hrs]
★ Do the Right Thing (1989) – Spike Lee comedy about violence erupting in Brooklyn on the hottest day of the summer [2 hrs]
A Soldier’s Story (1984) – drama about a racially-charged murder during World War II [1.5 hrs]
Menace II Society (1992) – drama set in South Central LA portraying urban violence. Made Siskel and Ebert’s best of 1992 list [1.5 hrs]
Boyz n the Hood (1991) – crime drama about social problems in inner-city LA [2 hrs]
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967) – a film about a white woman who brings home her black fiance to meet the family [1.5 hrs]
Guess Who (2005) – a remake of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner except a black woman brings home her white fiance to meet the family [1.5 hrs]
Malcolm X (1992) – biographical epic of Black Nationalist leader Malcolm X [3.5 hrs]
Hollywood Shuffle (1987) – satirical comedy about African American stereotypes in film and television [1 hr]
Hairspray (2007) – a musical romantic comedy about integrating a popular TV show [2 hrs]
Mississippi Masala (1991) – romantic drama about a relationship between an African American man and an Indian American woman [2 hrs]
Trading Places (1983) – a modern take on the Prince and the Pauper with a blacker Pauper and a white prince [2 hrs]
Dear White People (2014) – the lives of four black students at an Ivy League college [2 hrs]

*13th by Ava Duvernay – mass incarceration and criminal justice [2 hrs]
Up from Slavery – 7-part documentary about history of slavery [5 hrs]
★ Good Hair – [1.5 hrs]
Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise by Henry Louis Gates [4 hrs]
RACE: The Power Of An Illusion – Episode 3: The House We Live In [57 min]
Freedom Riders – story behind the civil rights activists called freedom riders [2 hrs]
The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 – [1.5 hrs]
CSA: The Confederate States of America – alternative history mockumentary about life if the South had won the Civil War [1.5 hrs]

★ Bryan Stevenson: We Need to Talk About an Injustice TED talk [23 min] https://www.ted.com/talks/bryan_stevenson_we_need_to_talk_about_an_injustice
Grace, Justice, and Mercy: An Evening with Bryan Stevenson & Tim Keller  [51 min] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32CHZiVFmB4
5 Part Lecture Series at Brown’s Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America on How Structural Racism Works [~1.5 hrs each] https://www.brown.edu/academics/race-ethnicity/how-structural-racism-works
Tim Wise: On White Privilege [] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3Xe1kX7Wsc
The West – Southwest Houston [53 min] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=piDDhmt_byk
Major African American Speeches through History http://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history-major-speeches
Craig Steward speaking at #ZumaMustFall protest in Cape Town [6 min] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6uFC6Jk4biU
Freakonomics Asks: Can your given name keep you from getting a job [2 min] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=goGe0CbARDE
Cornel West talks
The Black Curriculum by Justin Willis https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdbeRMU3927yUaqfIdd-7Iw
Angela Davis talks: How Does Change Happen, BLM panel discussion, Anuradha Ghandy Memorial Lecture

★ Tupac: Changes, Keep Ya Head Up, Trapped, *Brenda’s Got a Baby, Dear Mama, Baby Don’t Cry (feat. The Outlawz)
★ Nina Simone: Mississippi Goddam; Nobody; For a While; I Wish I Knew (How It Would Feel To Be Free); To Be Young, Gifted, and Black; Strange Fruit; *Why? (The King of Love is Dead)
★ India Arie: Beautiful Flower, I Am Not My Hair, Breathe
*Solange – Seat at the Table (album)
Beyonce – Lemonade
★ Outkast: Da Art of Storytelling; Git Up, Get Out; 13th Floor/Growing Old; Liberation; Nathaniel; Rosa Parks; *Humble Mumble; Gasoline Dreams; Toilet Tisha
Taleb Kweli: The Beautiful Struggle, Hostile Gospel Pt. 1, Get By, Around My Way, Ghetto Show, Soon the New Day, Black Star (album)
Mos Def’s 1999 album, ‘Black on Both Sides’ as well; the song “Mr. Nigga” is especially good.

Common: Black America Again (Note: explicit language)
★ Kendrick Lamar: For Free, u, *Alright, Mortal Man, Hood Politics, Complexion, The Blacker the Berry, i, Momma, Sing About Me I’m Dying of Thirst (Note: explicit language)
D’Angelo: The Charade, 1000 Deaths, Til It’s Done
Bob Marley

Dead Prez
Public Enemy
Native Tongues collective
The O Jays
Bobby Womack
Frankie Beverly and Maze
The Isleys
Earth, Wind and Fire
Cab Calloway
Etta James
Mahalia Jackson

Black Lives Matter
Showing up for Racial Justice (@ShowUp4RJ) – SURJ is a national network of groups and individuals organizing white people for racial justice
Race Forward (@RaceForward) – A public policy, educational and research institute whose work emphasizes issues of race and social change
18 Million Rising (@18millionrising) – 18MR.org was founded to promote AAPI civic engagement, influence, and movement by leveraging the power of technology and social media

Code Switch – NPR’s podcast about race and identity
The Read – hip hop and pop culture




TV Shows
Blackish – sitcom about black family struggling to gain a sense of cultural identity in the a predominately white, upper-middle-class neighborhood
MTV’s Decoded with Franchesca Ramsey – weekly series on MTV News that tackles race, pop culture, and other uncomfortable things, in funny and thought-provoking ways.
Insecure – HBO original series by Issa Rae based on her popular web series Awkward Black Girl
Luke Cage – Netflix original series based on the Marvel Comic superhero of the same name
Atlanta – Golden Globe winning series about cousins navigating their way through the Atlanta rap scene

The Night Of – original HBO crime series about a murder case with political and cultural overtones
Queen Sugar – series by Ava DuVernay on Oprah’s OWN network that follows the lives of three siblings in Louisiana
Greenleaf – a black megachurch family in Memphis and their intrigues
Being Mary Jane – BET series inspired by MSNBC’s Tamron Hall featuring my favorite, Gabrielle Union, as a successful news anchor 
The Get Down – a Netflix mythological musical drama series about the origins of hip hop and disco created by Baz Luhrmann (of “Moulin Rouge” and “The Great Gatsby”)
Empire – a FOX musical drama series about the legal battles of a hip hop record label exec’s family
The Wire – HBO series looking at the narcotics scene in Baltimore through the eyes of law enforcers as well as the drug dealers and users. Other facets of the city explored are government and bureaucracy, schools and the news media.
A Different World – Cosby Show spinoff from the late 80s/early 90s set in a historically black college

In the Heat of the Night – 80s mystery race thriller about a murder investigation involving a black cop set in Mississippi
Dear White People – a Netflix series based on the movie about the lives of four black students at an Ivy League college


Back in November, a friend asked me for resources on race for her kids so here are a few more lists I didn’t make that I shared with her if you’re a parent:

Oh my gosh, there’s so much here I don’t know where to start!

Admit it. You multitask. You listen to a playlist for work/gym/running, you play podcasts during your commute, you watch movies and TV to unwind with friends or family eating dinner.

You also space out. Emptying the dishwasher. Folding laundry. Taking the trash out. Cleaning. Grooming.

Redeem the time, people!

Integrate resources into existing habits

The podcasts, magazines, and people to follow on twitter can probably already be seamlessly integrated into what you’re already doing. I would not suggest listening to the specific song recommendations (vs. the artist recommendations) while you’re doing anything else that requires thinking because you need to be able to concentrate on the lyrics. (I would however like to put in a yuuge plug for listening to the suggested songs, even the ones with explicit lyrics. Seriously, I was surprised by how often music was suggested and its depth has defied my preconceptions.)

Dedicate 1 hour a week to learning

That’s 52 hours in a year out of the 8,760 hours we have. That’s .5% of your year. When you put it that way it seems manageable, right? It’s 1/40 of the time we spend working, 1/56 of the time we spend sleeping, 1/33 of the time we spend on average watching TV, 1/14 of the time we spend on social media. Easy.

The reason I put the length next to each resource is for this very purpose. To help you put together your 52 hours worth of resources to work through this year.


If it were me and I wasn’t thinking just one hour a week, I’d:

  • choose 6 books (one every other month)—one autobiography, one essay, one on education, one novel, Divided by Faith, Generous Justice
  • follow all the people and magazines/newspapers on twitter/fb (if you have neither, God help you)
  • subscribe to the podcasts
  • watch 13th (it features Michelle Alexander and Bryan Stevenson, the authors of The New Jim Crow and Just Mercy respectively, both highly recommended), Good Hair, and Black America Since MLK  the documentaries
  • choose 1 black TV show to watch

Or, here’s a 52 hours list (in addition to integrating podcasts into my normal routine):



One thought on ““I Want to Know More”: Resources on black history, culture, and racial justice

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s