In this day and age—when the country is deeply divided and hatred incites violence and discrimination—it’s comforting to know that there are many present-day activists who have carried on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. In honor of Dr. King and the voices he’s inspired, here are nine books from activists of our time and writers who use their platform to unveil America’s racist past, illustrate how discrimination ails our nation today, give a voice to the under-represented, and offer hope for the future.
Originally performed at the Kennedy Center for the unveiling of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Jason Reynolds’s stirring and inspirational poem is a rallying cry to dreamers of the new world. No matter how many times a dreamer gets beat down, the passion and the hope are never fully extinguished.
Marc Lamont Hill’s work of journalism, NOBODY, carefully considers a string of high-profile deaths—Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, and more—and the ways in which communities such as Flint, Michigan—where citizens have been without clean water for close to five years—have eluded government aide. He digs underneath these events to uncover patterns and policies of authority that have allowed some citizens to become disempowered, disenfranchised, poor, uneducated, exploited, vulnerable, and disposable.
Forever wearing his iconic blue vest, DeRay Mckesson has used his platform and voice to push a message of accountability and justice; he even joined hundreds in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, after the shooting of Michael Brown. Honest, courageous, and imaginative, ON THE OTHER SIDE OF FREEDOM is a work brimming with hope. Mckesson draws from his own experience as an activist, organizer, educator, and public official, to exhort all Americans to work to dismantle the legacy of racism in America.
THE HATE U GIVE has sparked so many conversations about police brutality, racial tension, and identity—and has even been banned in several states. THUG follows a young woman named Starr, who moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school that she attends. When she finds herself at the center of a police brutality controversy, how Starr chooses to use her voice could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
After her YouTube video “Sh*t White Girls Say . . . to Black Girls” went viral, Franchesca Ramsey got a reality check on using one’s voice to speak on race and identity. Now the star of MTV’s Decoded—where she takes a deep dive into race, identity, and online activism—Ramsey speaks on her many missteps and triumphs on her journey to becoming an accidental activist in her essay collection WELL THAT ESCALATED QUICKLY. As a victim of trolling, mean-spirited “doxxing,” and even “blacklash,” Ramsey uses her experience to provide advice on dealing with Internet trolls and low-key racists.
In SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE, Ijeoma Oluo offers an accessible take on race in America, exploring complex topic like white privilege, police brutality, intersectionality, micro-aggressions, and the ever-elusive “N” word. For those who still struggle to understand the complexities of race in America and the world, this text explains hard to grasp concepts and helps bridge the gap between the experiences of people of color and white Americans.
A National Book Award-winning work, STAMPED FROM THE BEGINNING is a deeply researched and fast-moving narrative that chronicles the origin of anti-Black racist ideas and their staggering power over American history.
The author of imaginative poetry collection ELECTRIC ARCHES, Eve Ewing puts on her hat as a scholar and former Chicago educator in GHOSTS IN THE SCHOOLYARD to discuss ways in which the broken public school system has failed Black children in Chicago and all over America. Watch Ewing discuss her book and break down structural racism with Trevor Noah.
Edited by the bestselling author of PRIDE and AMERICAN STREET, Ibi Zoboi, bestselling young adult authors, like Tracey Baptiste, Jason Reynolds, Dhonielle Clayton, Jay Coles, and many others, pen captivating stories on what it means to be young and Black in America. Exploring blackness in urban and rural areas, among the wealthy and the poor, and among immigrants and those of mixed-races, BLACK ENOUGH reminds us there are countless ways to be Black.