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Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (National Book Award Winner) Paperback – August 15, 2017
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"An engrossing and relentless intellectual history of prejudice in America.... The greatest service Kendi [provides] is the ruthless prosecution of American ideas about race for their tensions, contradiction and unintended consequences."―Washington Post
"A deep (and often disturbing) chronicling of how anti-black thinking has entrenched itself in the fabric of American society."―The Atlantic
"A staggering intellectual history of racism in America that is both rigorous and ...readable."―New Republic
"An intricate look at the history of race in the U.S., arguing that many well-meaning American progressives inadvertently operate on belief systems tinged with a racist heritage."―TIME
"Ambitious, well-researched and worth the time of anyone who wants to understand racism."
"Kendi upends many commonly held beliefs about how racism works, exploring the ideas and thinkers behind our most intractable social and cultural problem."―Boston Globe
"An altogether remarkable thesis on history, but, in ways that are both moving and immediately painful, it also reverberates with the post-election autopsy we're all conducting right now... Stamped from the Beginning is a riveting (and often rivetingly written) work, well deserving of the National Book Award."―The Stranger
"The National Book Awards show the way toward the America we want, not the one we're getting."―New York Magazine
"Kendi has done something that's damn near impossible: write a book about racism that breaks new ground, while being written in a way that's accessible to the nonacademic. If you've ever been interested in how racist ideas spread throughout the United States, this is the book to read."―The Root
"Kendi is able to decisively quell the arguments that racism is a bygone byproduct of ignorance...Kendi's writing style is plainspoken, detail-oriented, and straightforward...In the midst of leaving Jefferson and his fellows open to judgment, Kendi leaves plenty of room for self-questioning, and for drawing connections between the racist apologetics of the past and those of the present. The process makes for a compelling, thoroughly enlightening, unsettling, and necessary read."―Vox
"Ambitious...Kendi bases his exhaustive study in one central thought: Racist ideas...have historically sprung from racist policies, and self-preservation of the ruling class. The policy leads to the ideology, not vice versa."―Dallas Morning News
"This book should be on every young leader's bookshelf. It's not pretty, but the truth often isn't."―Forbes Online
"Self-proclaimed as a definitive history of racist ideas in the US, this exhaustive, encyclopedic opus lives up to that claim. Kendi's mighty tome is breathtaking in its scope.... Both worthwhile and extraordinary.... Essential."―CHOICE
"An accomplished history of racist thought and practice in the United States from the Puritans to the present... In this tour de force, Kendi explores the history of racist ideas-and their connection with racist practices-across American history.... Racism is the enduring scar on the American consciousness. In this ambitious, magisterial book, Kendi reveals just how deep that scar cuts and why it endures, its barely subcutaneous pain still able to flare."―Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
"I honestly wish every American would read this book, especially people who haven't been exposed to the history of blatant, transparent racism in our public policy."
―Chicago Review of Books, Best Books of 2016
"Perhaps the most significant book of 2016, this National Book Award winner is a lucid, highly readable look at the origins of racist ideas in the United States."
―The Daily Kos
"This heavily researched yet easily readable volume explores the roots and the effects of racism in America. The narrative smoothly weaves throughout history, culminating in the declaration that as much as we'd like it to be, America today is nowhere near the 'postracial' country that the media declared following the election of Barack Obama in 2008. The hope here is that by studying and remembering the lessons of history, we may be able to move forward to an equitable society."―Booklist
"Kendi's provocative egalitarian argument combines prodigious reading and research with keen insights into the manipulative power of racist ideologies that suppress the recognition of diversity. This is a must for serious readers of American history, politics, or social thought."―Library Journal
"A work as prodigious as the subtitle implies.... Had Kendi only provided history, Stamped from the Beginning would be a meaningful contribution to the literature, but it is so much more. It a call for all Americans to look inward."―Albany Times Union
"In his relentless odyssey through the making of America's particular brand of prejudice...Kendi challenges our assumptions about racism by exposing the development of racist ideas-and their connection to racist actions and policies throughout our history."―Stephenie Livingston, University of Florida
"Stamped from the Beginning is a history of how racist ideas are built, and how they are built to last. Understanding this history is essential if we want to have any hope of progress. This book will forever change the way we think about race."―Touré, MSNBC contributor and author of Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness
"Both a penetrating treatise and a wonderfully accessible work of intellectual history, Stamped from the Beginning reveals the heritage of ideas behind the modern dialectic of race-denial and race-obsession. By historicizing our entrenched logic of racial difference, Kendi shows why "I don't see color" and other professions of post-racialism remain inexorable alibis for white supremacy. Stamped from the Beginning has done the cause of anti-racism a great service."
―Russell Rickford, Associate Professor, Cornell University, and author of We Are an African People: Independent Education, Black Power, and the Radical Imagination
"Ibram Kendi is an important new voice in African American intellectual and social history. This book, an intellectual history of racist ideas, promises to break important new ground for scholarly and general audiences interested in the construction of racism in America."―Peniel E. Joseph, author of Stokely: A Life and Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour
"Richly sourced and engaging, Ibram X. Kendi's Stamped from the Beginning is a highly accessible yet provocative study that seeks to complicate our understanding of racist ideas and the forces that produce them."―Yohuru Williams, Professor of History and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Fairfield University
"Stamped from the Beginning delivers a timely and bold corrective to the history of racist and anti-racist ideas that explodes our understanding of the root of anti-black violence as we know it today. Kendi's deft analysis of key thinkers from Cotton Mather to Angela Davis illustrates how racial thought, specifically debates about racial difference, take shape across space and time and influence racial policies and the persistence of racial discrimination. This book is a must read for those interested in working to unearth the foundational ideas and practices that hinder true racial progress."―Keisha-Khan Y. Perry, Associate Professor, Brown University, and author of Black Women against the Land Grab: The Fight for Racial Justice in Brazil
"In his ambitious, illuminating, and engaging book, Ibram X. Kendi seamlessly assembles sources from Cotton Mather to Angela Davis; the Great Awakening to Black Lives Matter; the Birth of a Nation to Hip Hop culture, to show how not only race but racist ideas are at the center of American thought."
―Paula J. Giddings, EA Woodson Professor, Smith College, and author of Ida: A Sword Among Lions: Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching
"Blending deep research and analysis with a powerfully intimate and personal voice, Kendi...renders this work of intellectual history as compelling as the juiciest biography."―Los Angeles Times
About the Author
Ibram X. Kendi is a New York Times best-selling author and award-winning historian. He is Professor of History and International Relations and the Founding Director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University. A frequent public speaker, Kendi specializes in the history of racism and antiracism. He is the author of Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (Nation, 2016), which won the 2016 National Book Award for Nonfiction. He is also the author of the award-winning book, The Black Campus Movement (Palgrave, 2012). Kendi's writings have appeared in Black Perspectives, Salon, The New York Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education, New York Daily News, Time, The Huffington Post, and The Root. Kendi has received research fellowships, grants, and visiting appointments from a variety of universities, foundations, professional associations, and libraries, including the American Historical Association, Library of Congress, National Academy of Education, Spencer Foundation, Lyndon B. Johnson Library & Museum, Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis, Brown University, Princeton University, Duke University, University of Chicago, and UCLA. Before entering academia, he worked as a journalist. Kendi earned his undergraduate degrees from Florida A&M University, and his graduate degrees from Temple University. Kendi lives in Washington, DC.
Top customer reviews
One thing that is most important in these kinds of arguments, is for everyone to be operating from the same definition. So to the author's credit he states his explanation of racist ideas early. Keep in mind, we are not talking about racism, but racist ideas and how these ideas have affected and infected not only Americans but world citizens. "My definition of a racist idea is a simple one: it is any concept that regards one racial group as inferior or superior to another racial group in any way. I define anti-Black racist ideas—the subject of this book—as any idea suggesting that Black people, or any group of Black people, are inferior in any way to another racial group."
With that in mind,author Ibram Kendi compiles a comprehensive history of racist ideas, using historical "tour guides " to traffic readers through a landscape beginning in mid 1600 to present day. Kendi here makes a powerful statement with this book about how these racist ideas have led to continuing racist discrimination.
"I held racist notions of Black inferiority before researching and writing this book. Racist ideas are ideas. Anyone can produce them or consume them, as Stamped from the Beginning’s interracial cast of producers and consumers show...Fooled by racist ideas, I did not fully realize that the only thing wrong with Black people is that we think something is wrong with Black people.I did not fully realize that the only thing extraordinary about White people is that they think something is extraordinary about White people."
That's a potent admission for someone writing the "definitive" history of racist ideas. But I think it is important to this wonderful work by Kendi. As he goes about exposing these ideas, readers may be surprised to find themselves subscribing to ideas that, by Kendi's definition are clearly racist. As we move through the five eras, with our guides, you will be fascinated as these ideas and the consequences of them are brought to light. Thoughts that you have given little attention to, and have become part of your consciousness will hopefully be liberated.
Something that black people generally do when they hear some terrible news item, one of the initial thoughts is hoping the perpetrators are not Black. Does that hope spring from our buying into the racist idea that Black people are pathological? And we will be judged by the actions of the perpetrators and therefore be seen as defective? Is this a racist idea?
"Already, the American mind was accomplishing that indispensable intellectual activity of someone consumed with racist ideas: individualizing White negativity and generalizing Black negativity. Negative behavior by any Black person became proof of what was wrong with Black people, while negative behavior by any White person only proved what was wrong with that person."
All the ways that racist ideas have worked hand in hand with discrimination are unearthed here. And it may come as a surprise to some that prominent Black leaders of their day held tightly to racist ideas, like uplift suasion. The concept that "was based on the idea that White people could be persuaded away from their racist ideas if they saw Black people improving their behavior, uplifting themselves from their low station in American society. The burden of race relations was placed squarely on the shoulders of Black Americans. Positive Black behavior, abolitionist strategists held, undermined racist ideas, and negative Black behavior confirmed them."
Sounds a lot like today's concept of respectability politics, if we would just pull our pants up, stop listening to that damn music, not be so loud, etc. etc. If we would just present ourselves in a more respectable manner, we could then usher in that post-racial epoch that some say is already here.
The journey through the racist idea history has to include the players and events of the time periods covered and Kendi does a good job of incorporating that history and integrating the ideas that girded those times. The book clocks in at 500 pages, but it is well worth your time and investment.