This spring marks the 50th anniversary of two pivotal moments in the Civil Rights Movement: the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the passage of the Fair Housing Act. As we reflect on the last half-century of racial justice struggles and victories, many of the books in this roundup uplift overlooked artists and activists of color while others uncover racist institutions that endure through new models. Below, nonfiction titles to keep on your radar as we exit winter dormancy and enter the season of light and rebirth.
Civil Rights + Other Histories
“The Radical King” audiobook features Danny Glover, Gabourey Sidibe, Wanda Sykes and others reading M.L.K.’s revolutionary essays and speeches (Audible Studios). >> Dr. Janet Deward Bell illuminates Black women’s leadership during the Civil Rights Movement in “Lighting the Fires of Freedom“ (The New Press). >> A new edition of “Revolution in the Air,” with an introduction by Alicia Garza, presents the influence of Marxist thinkers on 1960s activism (Verso Books). >> “The Chinese Must Go” traces the origins of racist U.S. immigration policies to the late 19th Century when Congress passed the Chinese Restriction Act (Harvard University Press).
These Women’s Work
“In a Day’s Work” finds journalist Bernice Yeung traveling around the country to tell the stories of poor immigrant women who encounter sexual violence in domestic, custodial and farm work (The New Press). >> Roxane Gay also examines rape culture in ”Not That Bad,” an anthology of essays about sexual harassment and assault. (HarperCollins). >> Brittney Cooper writes about the power of anger in ”Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower“ (St. Martin’s Press).
“Carceral Capitalism” explores carceral models that have emerged since the 1990s, including the economy of fees and fines, digital surveillance of Black communities and algorithmic policing (MIT Press). >> In “Decarcerating America,” leaders in the criminal justice movement introduce policy proposals for making prisons obsolete (New Press). >> Education advocates examine how the growth of charter schools reinforces segregation in “Twenty-First Century Jim Crow Schools” (Beacon Press). >> Through extensive investigative reporting, “The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist” uncovers how racism and corruption in a Mississippi murder investigation led to the incarceration of two innocent Black men for 30 years (PublicAffairs Books).
Poetry + Memoir + Reflections
“Nepantla: An Anthology Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color,” the first literary collection of queer poets of color in the United States, features legends like Audre Lorde, June Jordan and James Baldwin alongside contemporary writers such as Danez Smith, Ocean Vuong and Joshua Jennifer Espinoza (Nightboat Books). >> “The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 2: Black Girl Magic” highlights how the cypher is a feminine form. (Haymarket). >> In “Go Home,”Asian-American writers reclaim the titular slur to tell intimate stories about belonging (The Feminist Press). >> ”Sisters in the Life” reflects on three decades of Black lesbian filmmakers (Duke University Press). >> Seattle Seahawks’ Michael Bennett shares the “Things That Make White People Uncomfortable” in his reflection on racism, police violence and sports activism (Haymarket).
ICYMI from winter, check out Ijeoma Oluo’s “So You Want to Talk About Race” (Seal Press), Morgan Jenkins’ “This Will Be My Undoing” (Harper Collins) and Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s “Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment” (City Lights Publishers).
*Post has been updated to reflect the correct title of “The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist.”