Paint splatter accent Nationals Philanthropies Black History Month Reading List

February 24, 2021

In honor of Black History Month, Nationals Philanthropies shares a reading list of recommended titles that staff have appreciated to understand better the history of the black experience in America. From historical accounts to fictional stories, these recommendations offer applications to our work and lives today to address systemic racism.

Between the World and Me
By Ta-Nehisi Coates

Recommended by Chris Henderson, Program Associate, Advocacy & Community Engagement

As a black man, I found the book all too relatable – fortunately and unfortunately speaking. It is informative about the issues and obstacles black people have faced, but it puts a great focus on blending that into what can be relatable to anyone in today’s society. To name a few, white supremacy, code-switching, and “the streets,” were all described in ways in which I felt were different and exposed me to different thought processes.

Women, Race, and Class
By Angela Davis

Recommended by Brenna Saucier, Fundraising Coordinator

Women, Race, and Class is a deeper dive into the intersectionality of labor, gender, race, and class that you do not get simply from lived experience and a self-selected grouping of historical texts. It is a strong piece of historical knowledge to add to someone’s collection who already has a good foundation and is looking to build on that foundation. The main lesson is that one perspective is not always the right one and it is important to learn from others so that when you are in a position to affect change, you do so in good faith.

White Fragility
By Robin DiAngelo

Recommended by Kate Greenberg, Chief Marketing & Development Officer

White Fragility challenges a simplistic view of racism by expanding on different forms including color-blind racism, aversive racism, and cultural racism. It helps the reader understand common and prevalent expressions of white privilege and white supremacy that counter the notion that these perspectives are only extreme or overt.  This book has challenged me to examine my own lived experience so that I can be a better ally to the BIPOC community in the effort to dismantle systemic forms and institutions of racism.

The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes
By Langston Hughes

Recommended by Charlie Sperduto, Director, Advocacy & Community Engagement

The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes deepened my empathy for my black brothers and sisters – portraying the black, American experience through artistic prose. It has given me more perspective of learning these different stories from writers, particularly Langston Hughes. It has strengthened my relationship with my black partner and of course, it has helped me lift the white blinders I have had throughout my privileged, white life in America.

Such A Fun Age
By Kiley Reid

Recommended by Kelly Decerbo, Marketing Manager

Through each character’s experience, Such A Fun Age demonstrates how race and privilege are embedded in people’s personalities, the way we think and react, and in our relationships with others. Reid casts a wide net that uncovers for readers that nearly every career, friendship, relationship, or trip to the grocery store is a different lived experience for BIPOC individuals. As a result of that narrative I am being active in making unbiased choices in both work and life settings that envelop not just non-racism, but anti-racism.

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

Recommended by Tal Alter, Chief Executive Officer

Because of Color of Law, I feel more educated about how explicit government policies have directly led to segregation in America’s major cities and has contributed to/perpetuated so much social strife. This book showed details about how policies at the local, state, and federal levels, while sometimes thinly veiled, created clear boundaries, based on race, for where people have an opportunity to live. Knowing history helps me understand how Nationals Philanthropies work can change the future.

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria
By Beverly Daniel Tatum

Recommended by Kate Whitaker, Director, Academics & Skill Building

Tatum opened my eyes to how racism is learned and understood differently by BIPOC youth than their white peers. It was important for me to read to be able to have conversations about racism with my student-athletes. The premise of this book is that in any racially mixed high school, you will see groups of youth clustered by ethnicity. Because of this book, I feel more comfortable having conversations with my youth and friends about race and the way it impacts them as opposed to me.

The Hate U Give
By Angie Thomas

Recommended by Rose Broberg, Program Associate, Academy Events & Volunteerism

The Hate U Give gave me a greater understanding of systemic racism. I’ll never personally experience and feel the same things, but I can use my voice to speak for and help give those who need a platform the space they deserve. It is well written with vivid imagery which brings you there. It shows how systemic racism effects America and how societies views are skewed all too often. It doesn’t hold back or sensor true life out of the book to be sensitive or easy to swallow to others.

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents
By Isabel Wilkerson

Recommended by Tamara Wilds Lawson, Executive Director, Collective Impact

Caste has provided a new tool to help me better understand the insidiousness of racism and white supremacy culture. Wilkerson weaves her intense narrative around the stories and lived experiences of real people, making Caste an accessible and fascinating read.

The Warmth of Other Suns
By Isabel Wilkerson

Recommended by Marsha Williamson, Teacher Coordinator

The Warmth of Other Suns taught me the migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life. Between 1915 to 1970 there was an exodus of almost six million people who changed the face of America. This book helped me appreciate that the migration described demonstrated the struggles and sacrifices that were made on my behalf.

A People’s History of the United States
By Howard Zinn

Recommended by John Bramlette, Chief Operating Officer

A People’s History of the United States taught me how the basis of this country and its founding were a structure of inequity (manifested in genocide first and slavery second) and how those structures still manifest the current American mindset. In other words, they are not simply relics of the past. It helped me understand how short the arc of American history has actually been and explained so much about people’s mindset today.