Social Justice Books and Education

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”
– James Baldwin

Knowledge is power. Intentionally learning about, and teaching about, systemic oppression and racial injustice is vital to creating sustainable change and building true equality. Below are books from acclaimed authors who have inspired us and our children in our own growth journeys.

Notes of a Native Son

by James Baldwin

A collection of essays written by an iconic writer—James Baldwin. In this classic, Mr. Baldwin shares of the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s. His voice provides a unique and powerful contribution as he explores not only his firsthand experiences of the injustices in the African American communities, but also shows empathy and strives to understand the point of view of the oppressor.

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Kaffir Boy: An Autobiography

The True Story of a Black Youth's Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa

by Mark Mathabane

Systemic oppression is not unique to the American populace. In this powerful literary journey you will be transported to the desperate poverty and discrimination of the ghettos in South Africa. Experience the incredible power of the human spirit to triumph against all odds. 

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All Are Welcome

by Alexandra Penfold & Suzanne Kaufman

A warm, welcoming picture book that celebrates diversity and gives encouragement and support to all kids. Follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcomed with open arms. A school where kids in patkas, hijabs, and yarmulkes play side-by-side with friends in baseball caps. A school where students grow and learn from each other’s traditions and the whole community gathers to celebrate the Lunar New Year. All Are Welcome lets young children know that no matter what, they have a place, they have a space, they are welcome in their school.

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When They Call You a Terrorist

A Black Lives Matter Memoir

by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele

This New York Times Bestseller and Time Magazine’s Best Memoirs of 2018 (as well as countless other recognitions) tells the powerful story of one of the founders of the Black Lives Matters movement. A movement born out of passion for justice and outrage at a broken system—Patrisse shares the deep pain of being branded a terrorist in her home country and the incredible resilience of the human spirit to fight for what is true, no matter the cost.

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We Were Eight Years In Power

An American Tragedy

by Ta-Nehisi Coates

This collection of essays about  race and history in the Obama presidency explores modern day social, political and cultural  conversations and how they relate to history. The book features the landmark essay “The Case for Reparations.”  The National Book Award–winning author of Between the World and Me “reflects on race, Barack Obama’s presidency and its jarring aftermath.” New York Times Bestseller, finalist for the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize.

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Lovely

by Jess Hong

Big, small, curly, straight, loud, quiet, smooth, wrinkly. Lovely explores a world of differences that all add up to the same thing: we are all lovely!

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White Fragility

Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism

by Robin DiAngelo

In this “vital, necessary, and beautiful book” (Michael Eric Dyson), antiracist educator Robin DiAngelo deftly illuminates the phenomenon of white fragility and “allows us to understand racism as a practice not restricted to ‘bad people’ (Claudia Rankine). Referring to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and by behaviors including argumentation and silence. These behaviors function to reinstate white racial equilibrium and prevent meaningful cross-racial dialogue.

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We're Different, We're the Same and We're Beautiful

Who better than Sesame Street to teach us that we may all look different on the outside, but it’s important to remember that deep down, we are all very much alike. We all have the same needs, desires, and feelings. 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 interestiing, and special, place. This enduring, colorful, and charmingly illustrated book offers an easy, enjoyable way to learn about differences, and what truly matters. It is an engaging read for toddlers and adults alike.

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Just Mercy

Adapted for Young Adults

by Bryan Stevenson 

Attorney and advocate Bryan Stevenson writes from years of witnessing and advocating for the lives of those wrongfully imprisoned. A powerful look into the unjust realities of the America justice system and the efforts to address it, Stevenson’s story is one of working to protect basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society–the poor, the wrongly convicted, and those whose lives have been marked by discrimination and marginalization. A portion of the proceeds of this book will go to charity to help in Stevenson’s important work to benefit the voiceless and the vulnerable as they attempt to navigate the broken U.S. justice system.Bryan Stevenson also the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative. 

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The Bluest Eye

by Toni Morrison

Pecola Breedlove, a young black girl, prays every day for beauty. Mocked by other children for the dark skin, curly hair, and brown eyes that set her apart, she yearns for normalcy, for the blond hair and blue eyes that she believes will allow her to finally fit in. Yet as her dream grows more fervent, her life slowly starts to disintegrate in the face of adversity and strife. A powerful examination of our obsession with beauty and conformity, Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison’s first novel asks powerful questions about race, class, and gender with the subtlety and grace that have always characterized her writing.

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Sulwe

by Lupita Nyong’o, Vashti Harrison (Illustrator)

From Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o comes a powerful, moving picture book about colorism, self-esteem, and learning that true beauty comes from within. Sulwe has skin the color of midnight. She is darker than everyone in her family. She is darker than anyone in her school. Sulwe just wants to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister. Then a magical journey in the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything. New York Times bestseller, recipient of a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award and recipient of an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Children’s Literary Work.

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One Last Word

Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance

by Nikki Grimes

Poetry has the ability to speak with power and beauty while cutting straight to the core. Nikki Grimes adds her own nuances in this beautiful collation of poems based on those born from the Harlem Renaissance and is illuminated by artwork from modern-day African American artists. This book celebrates the vibrancy of the culture of the Harlem Renaissance in the context of present-day American racial injustice.

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Me and White Supremacy

Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor

by Layla F. Saad

Me and White Supremacy: A 28-Day Challenge to Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor leads readers through a journey of understanding their white privilege and participation in white supremacy, so that they can stop (often unconsciously) inflicting damage on black, indigenous and people of color, and in turn, help other white people do better, too. The book goes beyond the original workbook by adding more historical and cultural contexts, sharing moving stories and anecdotes, and includes expanded definitions, examples, and further resources.

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The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse

by Charlie Mackesy

Charlie Mackesy offers inspiration and hope in uncertain times in this beautiful book based on his famous quartet of characters. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse explores their unlikely friendship and the poignant, universal lessons they learn together. Radiant with Mackesy’s warmth and gentle wit, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse blends hand-written narrative with dozens of drawings, including some of his best-loved illustrations (including “Help,” which has been shared over one million times) and new, never-before-seen material. A modern classic in the vein of The Tao of Pooh, The Alchemist, and The Giving Tree, this charmingly designed keepsake will be treasured for generations.

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The Fire Next Time

by James Baldwin

A national bestseller when it first appeared in 1963, The Fire Next Time galvanized the nation, gave passionate voice to the emerging civil rights movement—and still lights the way to understanding race in America today. At once a powerful evocation of James Baldwin’s early life in Harlem and a disturbing examination of the consequences of racial injustice, the book is an intensely personal and provocative document from the iconic author of If Beale Street Could Talk and Go Tell It on the Mountain. It consists of two essays that address racial tensions in America, the role of religion as both an oppressive force and an instrument for inspiring rage, and the necessity of embracing change and evolving past our limited ways of thinking about race.

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