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An illuminating reading list on racism and resistance

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, historians at King's College London have drawn together a selection of readings that offer important perspectives on histories of racism and anti-racist struggles.

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As the surge of protest, activism and debate prompted by the killing of George Floyd continues, the History Department at King's has compiled a list of readings that are examples of useful entry points for considering the deeper historical context behind contemporary racism and anti-racist movements.

The first section focuses on black diasporic histories, while the second addresses some additional global and regional dimensions of the histories of race, racism and resistance. Items which are starred can be accessed freely online without library membership.

Black diaspora 

Paul Gilroy, There Ain't No Black in the Union Jack: The Cultural Politics of Race and Nation (1987)

*Beverley Bryan, Stella Dadzie and Suzanne Scafe, The Heart of the Race: Black Women's Lives in Britain (1985) 

(currently available as a free e-book via Verso)

*Catherine Hall, 'Gendering Property, Racing Capital,' History Workshop Journal 78 (Autumn 2014) 

  • An overview of the work carried out over the past ten years by the Legacies of British Slave-ownership project, which has been tracing the connections between slavery, abolition and the development of British capitalism, prompting some companies to apologise for their role in the slave trade.

(Free to access)

Kennetta Hammond Perry, London is the Place for Me: Black Britons, Citizenship, and the Politics of Race (2015)

Marc Matera, Black London: The Imperial Metropolis and Decolonization in the Twentieth Century (2015)

Barbara Bush, Imperialism, Race and Resistance: Africa and Britain (1999)

Wendy Webster, Mixing It: Diversity in Second World War Britain (2018)

*Una Marson, Tropic Reveries (1930) 

  • This is the first book of poems by the Jamaican feminist, anti-colonial campaigner, newspaper editor, publisher and BBC broadcaster Una Marson, a pioneer of 'intersectional' thinking.
  • Features on the reading list for 5AAH2026, 'Sexuality and Gender in Modern Britain'

(Free to read via British Library)

George Lipsitz, How Racism Takes Place (2011)

Angela Davis, Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude' Ma' Rainey, Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday (1998)

*Ta-Nehisi Coates, 'The Case for Reparations,' The Atlantic (June 2014)

  • A widely-discussed essay that reignited the debate about reparations for slavery in the United States, the UK and around the world.

* US Congressional Hearing on Reparations (video), June 2019

  • Coleman Hughes and Ta-Nehisi Coates debate the merits of reparations.

W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903)

  • A renowned meditation on the place of black people within the society and culture of the United States, which makes a forceful case against compromise with racism.

Glenn Loury, The Anatomy of Racial Inequality (2002)

  • An economist considers how racial stigma and stereotypes serve to entrench and rationalise discrimination against black people within the United States.

Thomas Chatterton Williams, Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race (2019)

A memoir that challenges limiting and prescriptive notions of racial identity.

*‘Unheard,' The Last Archive

  • Historian Jill Lepore's podcast episode examines the types of evidence that our histories of African Americans are based on, from slavery to Black Lives Matter, via a discussion of Ralph Ellison's novel Invisible Man (1952).

Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye (1970)

  • A novel offering an unflinchingly disturbing depiction of racial oppression and the oppression of women, set in the United States during the 1940s and still deeply relevant today.

*Elizabeth Hinton, 'The Minneapolis Uprising in Context,' Boston Review (29 May 2020)

  • A scholar of African American history considers Black Lives Matter protests and questions surrounding violent resistance in the longer context of African American freedom struggles.

Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double-Consciousness (1993)

Hakim Adi, Pan-Africanism: A History (2018)

C.L. R. James, The Black Jacobins (1938)

Laurent Dubois, Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution (2004)

  • A compelling narrative of how African slaves seized upon new democratic ideals, overthrew slavery and declared their independence from Napoleonic France in 1804.
  • Features on the reading list for 6AAH3065/66' Worlds of the French Revolution.'

*Oscar de la Torre, 'The Backlash Against Reparations for Slavery in Brazil' (2018)

  • A historian of slavery and emancipation in Brazil discusses two significant anti-racist programmes that Brazilian activists are currently fighting to retain.

*'Devyn Spence Benson on Race and Revolution across the Florida Straits' (2016)

Johny Pitts, Afropean: Notes from Black Europe (2020)

  • A contemporary exploration of black diasporic life and identity across the continent of Europe.




Global and regional perspectives on race, racism and resistance

Francisco Bethencourt, Racisms: From the Crusades to the Twentieth Century (2014)

  • A major historical overview of ideas and practices of racism by a King's historian.

Bruce S. Hall, A History of Race in Muslim West Africa, 1600-1960 (2011)

  • A multi-layered history of ideas of racial difference in the region along the southern edge of the Sahara Desert, spanning the precolonial and colonial periods.

Edward Said, Orientalism (1978)

  • Focused largely on the Middle East, this major text in post-colonial studies addresses the role of Western cultural representations of 'the Orient' in fortifying ideologies of imperialism and racism.

*Australian Journey

  • A collection of online documentaries, many (such as the episodes on Travelling Country, Encounters and The Stolen Generations) exploring the histories of Indigenous Australians.
  • Features on the reading list for 5AAH2013, 'The History of Australia'.

Max S. Hering Torres, María Elena Martínez and David Nirenberg, eds., Race and Blood in the Iberian World (2012)

  • A collection of essays charting the development of ideas of race in the Spanish Atlantic world between the 16th and 18th centuries.

Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (1972)

Kim Wagner, Amritsar 1919: An Empire of Fear and the Making of a Massacre (2019)

  • A 'microhistory of a global event,' charting the path that led to a notorious imperial atrocity in British India.

Gerald Horne, Race War! White Supremacy and the Japanese Attack on the British Empire (2005)

  • Examines how Japan sought support in the territories it occupied during the Second World War by appealing to common Asian experiences of European colonialism and white supremacy.

Anandi Ramamurthy, Black Star: Britain's Asian Youth Movements (2013)

Kay Anderson, 'The Idea of Chinatown: The Power of Place and Institutional Practice in the Making of a Racial Category,' Annals of the Association of American Geographers 77 (January 1987)

  • Explores the role that the denigration of racialised places has played in underpinning racist ideas and practices.
  • Features on the reading list for 5AAH0002, 'History & Memory II.'

Zygmunt Bauman, Modernity and the Holocaust (1989)

  • A still-provocative book arguing that the Holocaust occurred not as a temporary regression from modernity but as one possible product of modernity's core characteristics.

Robert Gerwarth and Stephan Malinowski, 'Arendt's Ghosts: Reflections on the Disputable Path from Windhoek to Auschwitz,' Central European History 42 (June 2009)