Read Against Racism

lit candle against a dark background

The staff at the Belmont Public Library encourages those who want to learn more about the racial climate in the US and how we got here to explore the following resources.

Statement from the Library | For Adults and Older Teens | For Middle and High School Students | For Kids and Families | From the Belmont Community

If you need help accessing the below eBooks, eAudio, documentaries, or Boston Globe articles, watch our how-to videos or Ask A Librarian.

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June 18, 2020

The recent events in our country have given us all the opportunity to stop and look inwards, to see what type of people we want to be, and to consider how we might now rise to the challenges set before us. Libraries have traditionally focused on being neutral on political issues — but the reality is, this is not a political issue. For too long have the voices of justice, and the calls for equality gone unheard.

Let’s focus on the words of the great Desmond Tutu, who said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” We at the Belmont Public Library have chosen to not be neutral.

In support of the protests following the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Riah Milton, Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, and countless others named and unnamed, the staff at the Belmont Public Library encourages those who want to learn more about the racial climate in the US and how we got here to explore the following resources.

We’ve selected books, documentaries, and articles that reflect the history of racial injustice in our country and illustrate the race-related issues still happening today. We also share hopeful messages about the advocacy and antiracist activism that we want to inspire in all members of our community. Our reading lists include books that can be read by children, teens, and adults of all ages. In addition, we’ve prioritized books that inspire children to feel pride and joy in who they are.

We hope this list will inspire discussion and learning among families, provide a way to better understand history, and encourage us all to better understand each other. We will continue to add to and update these resources. Our Read Against Racism resources can help us all take a step towards fostering an antiracist culture of learning in Belmont.

Please share your thoughts and questions with Peter Struzziero, Library Director, at [email protected].

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For Adults and Older Teens

eBooks and eAudio

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander | OverDrive eBookhoopla eBook
White Rage by Carol Anderson | OverDrive eBook
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin | OverDrive eBook
I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown | OverDrive eBookOverDrive eAudio
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates | OverDrive eBookOverDrive eAudio
We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates | OverDrive eBookOverDrive eAudio
White Fragility by Robin Diangelo | OverDrive eBookOverDrive eAudio
Tears We Cannot Stop by Michael Eric Dyson | OverDrive eBookOverDrive eAudio
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Renni Eddo-Lodge | OverDrive eBook
Negroland by Margo Jefferson | OverDrive eBookhoopla eAudio
How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi | OverDrive eBookOverDrive eAudio
Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi | OverDrive eBookOverDrive eAudiohoopla eAudio
When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele | OverDrive eBook | OverDrive eAudio
In the Shadow of Statues by Mitch Landrieu | OverDrive eBookOverDrive eAudio
Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon | OverDrive eBook | OverDrive eAudio
The Lynching by Laurence Leamer | OverDrive eBookhoopla eBookhoopla eAudio
They Can’t Kill Us All: The Story of the Struggle for Black Lives by Wesley Lowery | OverDrive eBook | OverDrive eAudio
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo | OverDrive eBookOverDrive eAudio
Stamped by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi | OverDrive eBookOverDrive eAudio
You Can’t Touch My Hair by Phoebe Robinson | OverDrive eBookOverDrive eAudio
The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein | OverDrive eBook | OverDrive eAudio
Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad | hoopla eBook
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson | OverDrive eBook | OverDrive eAudio
Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Tatum | OverDrive eBook
From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor | OverDrive eBook
The Autobiography of Malcolm X | OverDrive eBook

Documentaries you can watch right now on Kanopy:

I Am Not Your Negro
White Like Me
Whose Streets?
Broken on All Sides
The Talk: Race in America
America After Ferguson
Cruel and Unusual

December 2017 series of articles by the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team:

Trailer on YouTube for the series

Johnson, Akilah. “Boston. Racism. Image. Reality.”Boston Globe, Dec 10 2017. 
“A Brand New Boston, Even Whiter than the Old.”Boston Globe, Dec 11 2017. 
“Color Line Persists, in Sickness as in Health.”Boston Globe, Dec 12 2017.
“Lost on Campus, as Colleges Look Abroad.”Boston Globe, Dec 13 2017.
“The Bigot in the Stands and Other Stories”Boston Globe, Dec 14 2017.
“For Blacks in Boston, a Power Outage.”Boston Globe, Dec 15 2017.
“A Better Boston? the Choice is Ours.”Boston Globe, Dec 16 2017.

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For Middle and High School Students

An Indigenous People’s History of the United States for Young People by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz; adapted by Jean Mendoza and Debbie Reese
This Book is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell; illustrated by Aurélia Durand
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds; adapted from Stamped from the Beginning by and with an introduction from Ibram X. Kendi
One Person, No Vote: How Not All Voters are Treated Equally by Carol Anderson, with Tonya Bolden
Things That Make White People Uncomfortable: Adapted for Young Readers by Michael Bennett and Dave Zirin
We Rise, We Resist, We Raise our Voices edited by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson; foreword by Ashley Bryan
Black Women Who Dared by Naomi M. Moyer
Twelve Days in May: Freedom Ride 1961 by Larry Dane Brimner
The Freedom Summer Murders by Don Mitchell
Double Victory: How African American Women Broke Race and Gender Barriers to Help Win World War II by Cheryl Mullenbach
The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin

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For Kids and Families

Books discussing race and racism and what it means

Let’s Talk About Race. Julius Lester. Illustrated by Karen Barbour. HarperCollins, 2005.
From the School Library Journal review: “Beginning with the line, “I am a story,” Lester tells his own story with details that kids will enjoy, like his favorite food, hobbies, and time of day. Then he states, “Oh. There’s something else that is part of my story-I’m black.” Throughout the narrative, he asks questions that young readers can answer, creating a dialogue about who they are and encouraging them to tell their own tales. He also discusses “stories” that are not always true, pointing out that we create prejudice by perceiving ourselves as better than others . . . strongly recommended as a springboard for discussions about differences.”

We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices. Edited by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson. Crown Books for Young Readers, 2018.
What do we tell our children when the world seems bleak, and prejudice and racism run rampant? With 96 lavishly designed pages of original art, poetry, and prose, fifty diverse creators lend voice and comfort to young activists.

Books on race and racism for very young children

Sesame Street’s We’re Different, We’re the Same, and We’re All Wonderful. Bobbi Jane Kates. Illustrated by Joe Mathieu. Random House, 1992.
Elmo and his Sesame Street friends help teach toddlers and the adults in their lives that everyone is the same on the inside, and it’s our differences that make this wonderful world, which is home to us all, an interesting—and special—place. 

The Skin You Live in. Michael Tyler. Illustrated by David Lee Csicsko. Chicago Children’s Museum, 2005. 
From the School Library Journal review: this picture book takes a cheerful look at human diversity by focusing on skin. Rhyming verses describe the many experiences that can be had.

Books discussing race and police violence  

Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice. Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard. Magination Press, 2018.
This book, written by three child psychologists, addresses the hard questions that many children have about traumatic events like police shootings, through the perspectives of a White family and a Black family. 

Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness. Anastasia Higginbotham. Dottir Press, 2018.
A white child sees a TV news report of a white police officer shooting and killing a black man. “In our family, we don’t see color,” the child’s mother says. An afternoon in the library’s history stacks uncovers the truth of white supremacy in America. From the School Library Journal review: “The inclusion of a relatable narrative alongside age-appropriate language and direct explanations make this an essential text for young readers, and adults, unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the role of white people in dismantling racism.” 

Books about historic African-American Civil Rights events

We March. Shane W. Evans. Roaring Book Press, 2012.
On August 28, 1963, a remarkable event took place–more than 250,000 people gathered in our nation’s capital to participate in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. From the School Library Journal review: “It is the remarkable simplicity of this book that makes it so outstanding . . . The contrast between the conciseness of the writing and the grandness of the story gives the book a powerful punch.”

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer and the Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement. Carole Boston Weatherford. Illustrated by Ekua Holmes. Candlewick Press, 2015. 
Stirring poems and stunning collage illustrations combine to celebrate the life of Fannie Lou Hamer, a champion of equal voting rights.”I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.” From the Booklist Review: Bold, unapologetic, and beautiful.” 

The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist. Cynthia Levinson. Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2017. 
Presents the life of nine-year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks who became the youngest known child to be arrested for picketing against Birmingham segregation practices in 1963. From the School Library Journal review: ” . . .  a significant portrayal of Audrey Faye Hendricks and the Children’s March.”

Let the Children March. Monica Clark-Robinson. Illustrated by Frank Morrison. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018.
In 1963 Birmingham, Alabama, thousands of African American children volunteered to march for their civil
rights after hearing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak. They protested the laws that kept black people separate
from white people. Facing fear, hate, and danger, these children used their voices to change the world. Frank
Morrison’s emotive oil-on-canvas paintings bring this historical event to life, while Monica Clark-Robinson’s
moving and poetic words document this remarkable time.

The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial. Susan E. Goodman. Illustrated by E.B Lewis. Bloomsbury, 2016. 
In 1847, a young African American girl named Sarah Roberts tried to attend a white school in Boston. After being forced out of the school because of her race, Sarah and her family fought for her right to have an equal education. It was the first case asking our legal system to outlaw separate schools and the first time an African-American lawyer worked in a supreme court. 

Books about pride in race and skin color 

All the Colors We Are. Katie Kissinger; photographs by Chris Bohnhoff. Redleaf Press, 2014.
Celebrate the essence of one way we are all special and different from one another–our skin color! This
bilingual (English/Spanish) book offers children a simple, scientifically accurate explanation about how our skin
color is determined by our ancestors, the sun, and melanin. It’s also filled with colorful photographs that
capture the beautiful variety of skin tones. Reading this book frees children from the myths and stereotypes
associated with skin color and helps them build positive identities as they accept, understand, and value our
rich and diverse world. Unique activity ideas are included to help you extend the conversation with children.

Chocolate Me! Taye Diggs. Illustrated by Shane W. Evans. Feiwel and Friends, 2011. 
A boy is teased for looking different than the other kids. His skin is darker, his hair curlier. He tells his mother he wishes he could be more like everyone else. And she helps him to see how beautiful he really, truly is.

The Undefeated. Kwame Alexander. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson. Versify, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019.  
Originally performed for ESPN, this poem is a love letter to black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world’s greatest heroes. 

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut. Derrick Barnes. Illustrated by Gordon C. James. Bolden, An Agate Imprint, 2017.  
The barbershop is where the magic happens. Boys go in as lumps of clay and after a fresh cut, they come out royalty. This rhythmic, read-aloud title is an unbridled celebration of the self-esteem, confidence, and swagger boys feel when they leave the barber’s chair

I Love My Hair! Natasha Tarpley, Illustrated by E.B Lewis. Little Brown, 1998. 
From the School Library Journal review: “A young African-American girl describes the familiar mother-daughter nightly ritual of combing the tangles out of her hair. When she cries because it hurts, her sympathetic mother tells her how lucky she is to have such beautiful hair. Pictures and text reflect the expanding horizons of the child’s world as she learns to be proud of her distinctive hair and her heritage.”

Hair Love. Matthew A. Cherry. Illustrated by Vashti Harrison. Kokila, 2019.
Zuri’s hair has a mind of its own. It kinks, coils, and curls every which way. Zuri knows it’s beautiful. When Daddy steps in to style it for an extra special occasion, he has a lot to learn. But he LOVES his Zuri, and he’ll do anything to make her — and her hair — happy.

I Believe I Can. Gracey Byers. Illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo. Balzer + Bray, 2020. 
From the Book List Review: “Filled with warmth, positive affirmations, and good vibrations . . . a heartfelt exploration of the idea that believing in oneself is key to achieving one’s goals. Kids of all races, religions, and creeds are shown in ballet class together, playing make-believe, gardening, and being superheroes, underscoring the message that children are at their very best when working together.”

Sulwe. Lupita Nyong’o. Illustrated by Vashti Harrison. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2019.
When five-year-old Sulwe’s classmates make fun of her dark skin, she tries lightening herself to no avail, but her encounter with a shooting star helps her understand there is beauty in every shade.

Books calling for activism

A is for Activist. Innosanto Nagara. Seven Stories Press, 2016.
“The bestselling ABC book for families who want their kids to grow up in a space that is unapologetic about activism, environmental justice, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, and everything else that we believe in and fight for.”–Page [4] of cover.

Counting on Community. Innosanto Nagara. Seven Stories Press, 2015.
Counting up from one stuffed piñata to ten hefty hens–and always counting on each other–children are encouraged to recognize the value of their community, the joys inherent in healthy eco-friendly activities, and the agency they posses to make change. A broad and inspiring vision of diversity is told through stories in words and pictures. And of course, there is a duck to find on every page!

Say Something. Peter Hamilton Reynolds. Orchard Books, 2019.
In this empowering new picture book, beloved author Peter H. Reynolds explores the many ways that a single voice can make a difference. Each of us, each and every day, have the chance to say something : with our actions, our words, and our voices. Perfect for kid activists everywhere, this timely story reminds readers of the undeniable importance and power of their voice.

Fiction relating to race and police violence for a middle grade audience (grades 4 through 6)

A Good Kind of Trouble. Lisa Moore Ramee. Balzer + Bray, 2019. 
After attending a powerful protest, Shayla starts wearing an armband to school to support the Black Lives Matter movement, but when the school gives her an ultimatum, she is forced to choose between her education and her identity.

Ghost Boys. Jewell Parker Rhodes. Little Brown and Company, 2018. 
Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real threat. As a ghost, he observes the devastation that’s been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing.

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From the Belmont Community

On Thursday, June 4, 2020, Belmont Against Racism, Belmont Religious Council, and the Human Rights Commission hosted a virtual Unity Vigil and candle lighting. Watch the video recording presented by the Belmont Media Center.

On June 8, 2020, nine Belmont High School graduates and students produced a timely Public Service Announcement expressing their views that It’s Time To Take A Stand Against Racism.

Further reading:
Belmont Against Racism Asks ‘Why And How We Can Accept This?” Belmontonian, June 1, 2020.
Letter from John P. Phelan, Belmont Superintendent of Schools, June 2, 2020.