These books are a great place to begin or strengthen your anti-racist journey.
1. This is Why I Resist: Don’t Define My Black Identity
Urgent and uncompromising, Mos-Shogbamimu’s passionate polemic against the enduring prevalence of systemic racism examines all areas of the issue, from white ingratitude to performative allyship, in a fearless, eloquent call for fundamental change.
In This Is Why I Resist activist and political commentator, Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu digs down into the deep roots of racism and anti-blackness in the UK and the US. Using real life examples from the modern day, Dr Shola shows us the different forms racism takes in our day-to-day lives and asks us to raise our voice to end the oppression. She delves into subjects not often explored such as racial gatekeepers, white ingratitude, performative allyship (those black squares on Instagram), current identity politics and abuse of the Black trans community.
Where other books take White people by the hand to help them negotiate issues of race, This Is Why I Resist offers no sugar-coated comfort, instead it challenges and asks WHEN will White people progress on race inclusion. Black Lives Matter and change is now. It’s time for a conscious revolution.
2. The Uncomfortable Truth about Racism – John Barnes
Deftly interweaving personal experience and incisive cultural insight, the former Liverpool and England player confronts racism in Britain today in a timely and accessible read. An accessible and thought-provoking book on racism and prejudice by the Liverpool and England football legend John Barnes.
John Barnes spent the first dozen years of his life in Jamaica before moving to the UK with his family in 1975. Six years later he was a professional footballer, distinguishing himself for Watford, Liverpool and England, and in the process becoming this country’s most prominent black player. Barnes is now captivating social commentator on a broad range of issues, and in The Uncomfortable Truth About Racism he tackles head-on the issues surrounding prejudice with his trademark intelligence and authority.
By vividly evoking his personal experiences, and holding a mirror to this country’s past, present and future, Barnes provides a powerful and moving testimony. The Uncomfortable Truth About Racism will help to inform and advance the global conversation around society’s ongoing battle with the awful stain of prejudice.
3. Against White Feminism – Rafia Zakaria
Tracing the connections between feminism and white supremacy from the suffrage movement to the present day, Zakaria’s crisp and acute manifesto is an urgent clarion call for the change that is needed to create a truly equal society: An essential, comprehensive account of what white feminism is – and an empowering manifesto for revolution.
Since its very beginning, mainstream feminism has catered to a particular group of women: middle class, cis-gendered, Western, and above all, white. And the exclusion of everyone outside this narrow category is not merely an oversight, a coincidence, a slip. It is baked into the way feminism works. This must change. White supremacy is killing feminism. Until all of us are free and equal in society, none of us are. The power to transform it lies with each one of us. It starts with understanding how we got here in the first place.
Eye-opening, timely and impossible to ignore, Against White Feminism traces the connections between feminism and white supremacy from the earliest stirrings of the women’s suffrage movement to the ‘fourth wave’ we see today, demonstrating how an idea based on equality has been corrupted by prejudice and exploitation from the start. Rafia Zakaria issues a powerful call to arms to every reader to build a new kind of feminism which will light the path to true emancipation for all.
4. Jews Don’t Count – David Baddiel
The comedian and author combines powerful polemic and personal testimony to investigate why, in an age of heightened awareness of the evils of systemic racism, anti-Semitism appears to have been neglected by those who consider themselves progressive and enlightened: How identity politics failed one particular identity.
Jews Don’t Count is a book for people who consider themselves on the right side of history. People fighting the good fight against homophobia, disablism, transphobia and, particularly, racism. People, possibly, like you.
It is the comedian and writer David Baddiel’s contention that one type of racism has been left out of this fight. In his unique combination of close reasoning, polemic, personal experience and jokes, Baddiel argues that those who think of themselves as on the right side of history have often ignored the history of anti-Semitism. He outlines why and how, in a time of intensely heightened awareness of minorities, Jews don’t count as a real minority: and why they should.
5. Sista, Sister: Notes on things I’ve learned the hard way, so that you don’t have to – Candice Braithwaite
Candice Brathwaite’s much-anticipated second book about all the things she wishes she’d been told when she was young and needed guidance. I Am Not Your Baby Mother was a landmark publication in 2020. A Sunday Times top five bestseller, it was an important call-to-arms allowing mothers to take control and scrap the parenting rulebook to do it their own way.
Sista Sister goes further. It is a compilation of essays about all the things Candice wishes someone had talked to her about when she was a young black girl growing up in London. From family and money to black hair and fashion, as well as colourism and relationships between people of different races, this is a fascinating read that will launch some much-needed conversations, between Sistas and Sisters alike.
Written in Candice’s trademark straight-talking, warm and funny style, it will delight her fans, old and new.
“This book is like the older sibling you wish you’d had growing up” – Cosmopolitan
6. Millennial Black: The Ultimate Guide for Black Women at Work – Sophie Williams
An empowering, comprehensive roadmap for building a satisfying career, Millennial Black offers practical advice for young Black women at the workplace, along with inspiring interviews and wisdom from the likes of June Sarpong and Candice Brathwaite.
The much-needed roadmap for young black women to succeed in the workplace in 2021 and beyond.
From tips on setting boundaries, and avoiding the race pay gap, through advice on building your own ‘lady gang’, establishing your value and being able to negotiate, to tackling the serious issues of workplace sexual harassment and racist abuse, this is a comprehensive guide to building the career you want and being recognised in the workplace.
It also offers implementable guidance for employers and business owners who are tackling the essential task of building and retaining inclusive and diverse offices, as well as looking to be effective allies and leaders in the future of inclusive working. Packed with interviews and insight from trailblazers at every stage of their careers, including June Sarpong, Aja Barber, Candice Brathwaite, Naomi Ackie and Munroe Bergdorf, this is the ultimate guide to the workplace for black women.
7. They: What Muslims and non-Muslims get wrong about each other – Sarfaz Manzoor
A BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week: Manzoor weaves together history, memoir and reportage to explore divisions between British Muslim and non-Muslim populations, as well as sharing deeply inspiring stories of tolerance and unity from around the country that give hope for a better future. It is a powerful and deeply personal exploration of a divided country – and a hopeful vision for change.
Sarfraz Manzoor grew up in a working-class Pakistani Muslim family in Luton – where he was raised to believe that they were different, they had an alien culture and they would never accept him. They were white people.
In today’s deeply divided Britain we are often told they are different, they have a different culture and values and they will never accept this country. This time they are Muslims. Weaving together history, reportage and memoir, Sarfraz Manzoor journeys around Britain in search of the roots of this division – from the fear that Islam promotes violence, to the suspicion that Muslims wish to live segregated lives, to the belief that Islam is fundamentally misogynistic.
They is at once fiercely urgent, resolutely hopeful and profoundly personal. It is the story of modern, Muslim Britain as it has never been told.
8. Biracial Britain: A different way of looking at race – Remi Adekoya
Mixed-race is the fastest-growing minority group in Britain. By the end of the century roughly one in three of the population will be mixed-race, with this figure rising to 75 per cent by 2150. Mixed-race is, quite literally, the future.
Paradoxically, however, this unprecedented interracial mixing is happening in a world that is becoming more and more racially polarized. Race continues to be discussed in a binary fashion: black or white, we and they, us and them. Mixed-race is not treated as a unique identity, but rather as an offshoot of other more familiar identities.
Therefore, where does a mixed-race person fit? Stuck in the middle of these conflicts are individuals trying to survive and thrive. It is high time we developed a new understanding of mixed-race identity better suited to our century. Remi Adekoya (the son of a Nigerian father and a Polish mother, now living in Britain) has spoken to mixed-race Britons of all ages and racial configurations to present a thoughtful and nuanced picture of what it truly means to be mixed-race in Britain today. A valuable new addition to discussions on race, Biracial Britain is a search for identity, a story about life that makes sense to us. An identity is a story.
9. Black British Lives Matter – Lenny Henry + Marcus Ryder
Boasting contributors from Doreen Lawrence to David Olusoga, Henry and Ryder’s wide-ranging and urgent anthology highlights the vital benefits that Black Britons bring to society and the crucial importance of eradicating systemic racism.
In response to the international outcry at George Floyd’s death, Lenny Henry and Marcus Ryder have commissioned this collection of essays to discuss how and why we need to fight for Black lives to matter – not just for Black people but for society as a whole.
Recognising Black British experience within the Black Lives Matter movement, seventeen prominent Black figures explain why Black lives should be celebrated when too often they are undervalued. Drawing from personal experience, they stress how Black British people have unique perspectives and experiences that enrich British society and the world; how Black lives are far more interesting and important than the forces that try to limit it.
“Our identity and experience will shape every story, bleed into every poem, inform every essay whether it’s about Black ‘issues’ or not” Kit de Waal
10. Natives: Race & Class in the Ruins of Empire – Akala
A searing modern polemic and Sunday Times bestseller from the BAFTA and MOBO award-winning musician and political commentator, Akala.
From the first time he was stopped and searched as a child, to the day he realised his mum was white, to his first encounters with racist teachers – race and class have shaped Akala’s life and outlook. In this unique book he takes his own experiences and widens them out to look at the social, historical and political factors that have left us where we are today.
Covering everything from the police, education and identity to politics, sexual objectification and the far right, Natives will speak directly to British denial and squeamishness when it comes to confronting issues of race and class that are at the heart of the legacy of Britain’s racialised empire.
11. Black & British A Forgotten History – David Olusoga
In Black and British, award-winning historian and broadcaster David Olusoga offers readers a rich and revealing exploration of the extraordinarily long relationship between the British Isles and the people of Africa. Drawing on new genetic and genealogical research, original records, expert testimony and contemporary interviews, Black and British reaches back to Roman Britain, the medieval imagination and Shakespeare’s Othello. It reveals that behind the South Sea Bubble was Britain’s global slave-trading empire and that much of the great industrial boom of the nineteenth century was built on American slavery. It shows that Black Britons fought at Trafalgar and in the trenches of the First World War.
Black British history can be read in stately homes, street names, statues and memorials across Britain and is woven into the cultural and economic histories of the nation. Unflinching, confronting taboos and revealing hitherto unknown scandals, Olusoga describes how black and white Britons have been intimately entwined for centuries. Black and British is a vital re-examination of a shared history, published to accompany the landmark BBC Two series.
12. Why I’m no longer talking to White people about race – Reni Eddo-Lodge
In 2014, award-winning journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge wrote about her frustration with the way that discussions of race and racism in Britain were being led by those who weren’t affected by it. She posted a piece on her blog, entitled: ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’.
Her words hit a nerve. The post went viral and comments flooded in from others desperate to speak up about their own experiences. Galvanised by this clear hunger for open discussion, she decided to dig into the source of these feelings.
Exploring issues from eradicated black history to the political purpose of white dominance, whitewashed feminism to the inextricable link between class and race, Reni Eddo-Lodge offers a timely and essential new framework for how to see, acknowledge and counter racism.
It is a searing, illuminating, absolutely necessary exploration of what it is to be a person of colour in Britain today.
13. Brit(ish) – Afua Hirsch
Where are you really from? You’re British. Your parents are British. You were raised in Britain.
Your partner, your children and most of your friends are British. So why do people keep asking you where you are from? Brit(ish) is about a search for identity. It is about the everyday racism that plagues British society.
It is about our awkward, troubled relationship with our history. It is about why liberal attempts to be `colour-blind’ have caused more problems than they have solved. It is about why we continue to avoid talking about race.
In this personal and provocative investigation, Afua Hirsch explores a very British crisis of identity. We are a nation in denial about our past and our present. We believe we are the nation of abolition, but forget we are the nation of slavery.
We are convinced that fairness is one of our values, but that immigration is one of our problems. Brit(ish) is the story of how and why this came to be, and an urgent call for change.
14. How to be an Antiracist – Ibram X. Kendi
SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER
“Could hardly be more relevant … it feels like a light switch being flicked on”. Owen Jones
Not being racist is not enough. We have to be antiracist.
In this rousing and deeply empathetic book, Ibram X. Kendi, founding director of the Antiracism Research and Policy Center, shows that when it comes to racism, neutrality is not an option: until we become part of the solution, we can only be part of the problem. Using his extraordinary gifts as a teacher and story-teller, Kendi helps us recognise that everyone is, at times, complicit in racism whether they realise it or not, and by describing with moving humility his own journey from racism to antiracism, he shows us how instead to be a force for good.
Along the way, Kendi punctures all the myths and taboos that so often cloud our understanding, from arguments about what race is and whether racial differences exist to the complications that arise when race intersects with ethnicity, class, gender and sexuality. In the process he demolishes the myth of the post-racial society and builds from the ground up a vital new understanding of racism – what it is, where it is hidden, how to identify it and what to do about it.
15. White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism – Robin Di Angelo
Robin DiAngelo coined the term ‘White Fragility’ in 2011. Using knowledge and insight gained over decades of running racial awareness workshops and working on this idea as a Professor of Whiteness Studies, she shows us how we can start having more honest conversations, listen to each other better and react to feedback with grace and humility.
It is not enough to simply hold abstract progressive views and condemn the obvious racists on social media – change starts with us all at a practical, granular level.
“With clarity and compassion, DiAngelo allows us to understand racism as a practice not restricted to “bad people.” In doing so, she moves our national discussions forward. This is a necessary book for all people invested in societal change” Claudia Rankine
16. Wish We Knew What to Say: Talking with Children About Race – Dr Pragya Agarwal
Wish We Knew What to Say is a timely and urgent book that gives scenarios, questions, thought starters, resources and advice in an accessible manner on how to tackle tricky conversations around race and racism with confidence and awareness. it brings in the science of how children perceive race and form racial identity, combining it with personal stories and experiences to create a handy guide that every parent would refer to again and again.
Written by behavioural and data scientist, Dr Pragya Agarwal, Wish We Knew What to Say will help all parents, carers and educators give children the tools and vocabulary to talk about people’s differences and similarities in an open, non-judgemental, curious way, and help them address any unfairness they might see or encounter.
17. Asians in Britain 400 Years of History – Rozina Visram
This is a comprehensive history of Asians from the Indian subcontinent in Britain. Spanning four centuries, it tells the history of the Indian community in Britain from the servants, ayahs and sailors of the seventeenth century, to the students, princes, soldiers, professionals and entrepreneurs of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Rozina Visram examines the nature and pattern of Asian migration; official attitudes to Asian settlement; the reactions and perceptions of the British people; the responses of the Asians themselves and their social, cultural and political lives in Britain.
This imaginative and detailed investigation asks what it would have been like for Asians to live in Britain, in the heart of an imperial metropolis, and documents the anti-colonial struggle by Asians and their allies in the UK. It is an invaluable contribution to our understanding of the origins of the many different communities that make up contemporary Britain.
1. Black and British: A short, essential history
Revised and rewritten for younger readers, Olusoga’s insightful and invaluable history of the Black experience in the British Isles ranges from forgotten Africans in the Roman legions to the multicultural society of the present day.
A short, essential introduction to Black British history for readers of 12+ by award-winning historian and broadcaster David Olusoga.
When did Africans first come to Britain? Who are the well-dressed black children in Georgian paintings? Why did the American Civil War disrupt the Industrial Revolution?
These and many other questions are answered in this essential introduction to 1800 years of the Black British history: from the Roman Africans who guarded Hadrian’s Wall right up to the present day. This children’s version of the bestseller Black and British: A Forgotten History is Illustrated with maps, photos and portraits.
Macmillan Children’s Books will donate 50p from every copy sold to The Black Curriculum.
2. ‘Windrush Child’ – Benjamin Zephaniah
In this heart-stopping adventure, Benjamin Zephaniah shows us what it was like to be a child of the Windrush generation. Leonard is shocked when he arrives with his mother in the port of Southampton. How can a boy so far from home learn to enjoy his new life when so many things count against him?
“Zephaniah pulls no punches in his depictions of the racism that Leonard suffers both at school and in the streets in a powerful, moving account of family and fitting in” iNews
“An invaluable story for any young readers who enjoy adventure and want to learn more about the Windrush generation’s experience. Essential reading” Alex Wheatle
Zephaniah reflects the authentic, unsung stories of our past, showing that, even in times of great upheaval, a myriad of people have arrived on this island and made a home for themselves. Perfect for teaching children about inclusivity and diversity.
3. My Coily Crowny Hair – Zulaikha Patel
There couldn’t be any better time than today to celebrate the heritage of natural hair, as well as to encourage young girls to embrace their hair. Having lived a courageous and sometimes a difficult journey in relation to natural hair, Zulaikha Patel has written this children’s book to empower and encourage girls from an early age to embrace and not to be ashamed of their natural hair.
She aims to spark a global conversation about natural hair amongst parents/guardians and children, which will further create a culture of self-love, self-care and confidence. Lisakhanya, the main character of the book, is a 7 year old girl who draws courage from her mother, grandmother and the African queen, to style her hair in different hairstyles that girls from around the world can also relate to. The hairstyles include braids, bantu knots, twists, a tied up phondo and many more. Inspired by Mama, Gogo, and the African queen, Lisakhanya is proud of her natural hair that grows up towards the sun like a summer sunflower. She calls it her COILY, CROWNY HAIR.
4. You Matter – Christian Robinson
This sensitive and impactful picture book from award-winning author-illustrator Christian Robinson is all about seeing the world from different points of view, and the perfect entry point for parents to help teach their little people about empathy and community.
The small stuff too small to see.
Those who swim with the tide and those who don’t.
The first to go and the last.
In this bright and beautiful picture book, many different perspectives around the world are deftly and empathetically explored – from a pair of bird-watchers to the pigeons they’re feeding, from the hugest dinosaur to the tiniest fly. Young readers will be drawn into the luminous illustrations inviting them to engage with the world in a new way and see how everyone is connected and that everyone matters.
To go beyond reading and support Black business you could also try and source your books from books stores such as New Beacon Books.
@mirrormewrite has loads of great children’s books written by Black and Brown writers.