Baker, Lee D.
From Savage to Negro: Anthropology and the Construction of Race, 1896-1954.
Berkeley: University of California, 1998.
Focusing primarily on the first half of the 20
century, Baker explores the shifting discourse of race during this era. Baker examines how, with leadership from W.E.B. Du Bois and Franz Boas, “ideas of racial inferiority were supplanted by notions of racial equality in law, science, and public opinion.”
The Fire Next Time.
Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1963.
In the midst of the civil rights movement, Baldwin’s
The Fire Next Time
, offers profound insight into his experience--and through it a lens into the Black American experience--through two letters. The first letter, addressed to his nephew, is particularly accessible and relevant to high school youth, and especially for black boys can serve as an entry point to politicization.
The Retreat of Scientific Racism: Changing Concepts of Race in Britain and the United States Between the World Wars.
Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1992.
The idea of race as a natural and biological concept was replaced with the notion of race as cultural and political in the late 1930s, in large part, as a reaction to the racism of Nazi Germany.
The Retreat of Scientific Racism
tells the story of the British and American anthropologists and biologists who were instrumental in making this shift, as well as the ways in which this change in discourse affected the politics of racism.
Racism Without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States
. Lanham: Rowan and Littlefield, 2006.
Weaving in history, this sociological text uses anecdotes and analysis to dissect contemporary ideas of color-blindness and other rhetoric that attempts to protect white privilege and white supremacy. In his own words, Bonilla-Silva “acknowledges that race, as other social categories such as class and gender, is constructed but insists that is has a
reality.” While these three arenas influenced one another, the argument of this book lies in the influential role anthropology played in changing concepts of race in America.
The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, “Slavery and the Law in Virginia,” http://www.history.org/history/teaching/slavelaw.cfm
This website gives population figures and laws passed in Virginia during the colonial era.
Americans: A Collision of Histories
. New York: Hill and Wang, 1996.
As his subtitle suggests, Countryman writes of the collision of different cultures and their disparate treatments that have created what we now know as America and Americans. The book opens with: “Three separate histories collided in the Western Hemisphere half a millennium ago, and the American history began.” This reference is to the Native American, African, and European histories, all three of which, of course, contain a variety of cultures and histories within them, many of which are explored in this text.
Davis, F. James.
Who is Black?: One Nation’s Definition
. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University, 1991.
This book examines the rules, which varied across the US, but which came to define ideas of race, in particular blackness. Focusing on the one-drop rule and laws around miscegenation, Davis explores the indistinct and oftentimes conflicting social and legal definitions surrounding race--across states in the US and among different countries--as defined by ancestry and lineage, blood and other biological myths, census data, as well as courts and legal documents.
Milwood, NY: Kraus-Thomson,  1976.
provides a black-centered history of the critical twenty-year period, 1860-1880 after Emancipation, called Reconstruction. Much of the book focuses on work and labor, as well as on democracy, property, and education. While writing this historical text, no doubt to offer a counter-narrative to the prevailing history about this era, DuBois also offers a critique and caution of what he calls: “The Propaganda of History.”
Dusk of Dawn: An Essay Toward the Autobiography of a Race Concept
. Oxford: Oxford University,  2007.
Dusk of Dawn
DuBois uses his own lived experience as the basis of an exploration of what he calls “a race concept.” Using themes of place, education, science and empire, and war, DuBois delineates the experiences and ideas that form the idea of race in the United States. As he states in his introduction: “I have written then what is meant to be not so much my autobiography as the autobiography of a concept of race, elucidated, magnified and doubtless distorted in the thoughts and ded which were mine.”
The Souls of Black Folk.
Chicago: A. C. McClurg, 1903.
In his defining work, DuBois’
The Souls of Black Folk
he describes the “spiritual world” and experience of black identity in America, beginning with the role emancipation has played in their lives. From there, DuBois moves into black leadership and resistance to racism, followed by concept of a Veil that divides the worlds of blacks and whites in the US. He concludes, as he describes in his Forethought by stepping “within the Veil, raising it that you may view faintly its deeper recesses,--the meaning of its religion, the passion of its human sorrow, and the struggle of its greater souls.”
*Gates Jr., Henry Louis, editor.
The Classic Slave Narratives
. New York: Penguin Books, 1987.
This book contains slave narratives by four different authors, including Mary Prince, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, and Olaudah Equiano. In the last of these named narratives, Equiano, of the Igbo people in what is now known as Nigeria, tells the story of being captured and kidnapped at the age of 11, and brought to Virginia where he was enslaved. Separated from his sister who was also kidnapped, surviving the middle passage, living for several years under enslavement, and eventually buying his freedom, living to write about it, and devoting his life to abolition, his life and narrative is incredibly compelling.
Race on Trial: Law and Justice in American History
. New York: Oxford, 2002.
This book includes a series of essays that look at the history of race in the US through legal cases beginning with the Amistad through the O.J. Simpson trial. Among the topics examined include slavery, citizenship, marriage, segregation, education, employment, residence, and crime. These cases support a developing understanding of the ways in which race and racism is created and perpetuated, as well as challenged, within US law.
Gossett, Thomas F..
Race: The History of an Idea in America
. New York: Schocken Books, 1965.
Gossett begins his book with a chapter on “Early Race Theories,” beginning with colonists views of the Native Americans they encountered in the land the English settled and claimed as their own, as well as the black slaves they “imported,” to fuel their economy. From this origin of the US--and origin of race and racism as we know it today--Gossett traces a history, examining the developments and changes in studies of anthropology, language and literature, immigration laws, war, and science to create, and eventually begin to revolt against ideas of race and racism in the US.
Harris, Cheryl. “Whiteness as Property.” In Kimberle Crenshaw, N. Gotanda, G. Peller, and K. Thomas (eds.),
Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings That Formed the Movement
, pp. 276-291. New York: The New Press, 1995.
As its subtitle suggests, the essays in this collection form the basis of Critical Race Theory, a critical foundation for this curriculum on the social construction of race and its ongoing impacts on people of color. The essay, “Whiteness as Property,” by legal scholar Cheryl Harris, examines ways in which property is inextricably linked to the construction of race and racial domination in the US.
*Hern, Matt and the Purple Thistle Centre.
Stay Solid! A Radical Handbook for Youth.
Edinburgh: AK Press, 2013.
This book, which includes chapters on race, indigenous struggles, immigration and migration, and many more topics, is told through the a variety of essays representing the unique perspectives of its many contributors. The writings in this book are very accessible to young people, and in fact written with them in mind. This book serves as an important example of young (and older) predominantly people of color constructing meaning of their own racial identity in the context of society.
Higginbotham, A. Leon.
In the Matter of Color: Race and the American Legal Process, The Colonial Period.
Oxford: Oxford University, 1978.
In the Matter of Color
draws upon the US Legal process and the American Colonial era to to examine both black and English experiences and perspectives. Comparing and contrasting six different colonies, Higginbotham explores the laws and codes that upheld racism and white supremacy, as well as opposition to slavery. He concludes his book with the Revolution, entitling his final chapter: “The Declaration of Independence: A Self-Evident Truth or A Self-Evident Lie?”
Jacobson, Matthew Frye.
Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrant and the Alchemy of Race
. Cambridge: Harvard, 1998.
Examining race through an often overlooked lens, Jacobson uses the concept of whiteness to trace an ever changing history of who is granted and denied this label. This history of racial formation draws on a variety of sources, ranging from literary to legal, and explores themes of assimilation, national identity, and inconsistent racialization to reveal the fabrication and fluidity of race in the US.
“The Social Construction of Race.”
. 2015, accessed June 26, 2015. https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/06/racecraft-racism-social-origins-reparations/
This article offers a concise history behind the social construction of race. The language is very accessible.
McKusker, John J. (editor).
Historical Statistics of the United States
This site offers colonial population demographics by colony, race, and year.
Shades of Citizenship: Race and the Census in Modern Politics.
Stanford: Stanford University, 2000.
Nobles book focuses on the construction of race through the lens of the US Census and concepts of citizenship. She not only examines, the changing categories of the US Census since its inception in 1790 through the book’s year of publication in 2000, but also analyzes the rhetoric surrounding and the uses of this data. The text also devotes a chapter to comparing US census data to that of Brazil, noticing the contrast and how it relates to national identity.
Omi, Michael and Howard Winant.
Racial Formation in the United States from the 1960s to the 1990s.
New York: Routledge, 1994.
This text examines the various changing paradigms of race in the US. The authors provide a theory of the racial formation process, as well as an intersectional overview of race through the lenses of ethnicity, class, and nationality. Finally, they do the important work of examining race both through its impact in US social structure, as well as in everyday representations.
We the People and Others: Duality and America’s Treatment of Its Racial Minorities.
New York: Tavistock, 1983.
Written in three books, the first of them examines the historical and structural framework of racism upon which the United States is founded. The second extends this history with a focus on black encounters with what he calls “America’s Duality,” from slavery to civil rights. Finally, the third book examines the United States’ treatment of other racialized groups, including Asians and Latinos.
*Roediger, David, editor.
Black on White: Black Writer on What it Means to Be White.
New York: Schocken Books, 1998.
This book offers the perspectives of dozens of black writers and intellectuals on the identity, experience, and concept of whiteness. Entries range in date from as early as the 1830s to as recent as the 1990s, and vary in style and perspective, but all offer critical perspectives that are too often absent from the conversation on whiteness. As Roediger states in his introduction: “African Americans have been among the nation’s keenest students of white consciousness and white behavior.”
How Race Survived US History: From Settlement and Slavery to the Obama Phenomenon.
New York: Verso, 2008.
This book follows the creation and recreation of the concept of race in the US from the 1600s through today. Roediger examines the ways in which race is inextricably linked to key aspects of US history, democracy, economy, and more.
Singleton, Glenn, and Curtis Linton.
Courageous Conversations about Race
. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press, 2006.
This book is written with the audience of educators in mind. It not only offers a brief and accessible history of the social construction of race in America, as well as an examination of race and racisms ongoing impacts on people, but it also provides helpful instruction and opportunities for reflection for teachers and administrators working in the field of education.
Takaki, Ronald. “Republicanism.” In
Iron Cages: Race and Culture in Nineteenth-Century America.
New York: Knopf, 1979.
looks at the history of racism experienced by a variety of non-white groups in America within the context of the development of capitalism in the nineteenth-century. In “Republicanism”, Takaki examines the rhetoric of exceptionalism and alterity in the founding of a national identity and ideology, one contingent upon the exclusion and exploitation of Native Americans and Blacks.
A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America.
New York: Back Bay Books, 1993.
Similar to Howard Zinn’s more popular
A People’s History
A Young People’s History,
A Different Mirror
retells a history of the US, uplifting often untold stories and non-Anglo voices. Beginning with the colonization of the New World, the book bring us to the present with an examination of both immigration debates and islamophobic rhetoric.
American Colonies: The Settling of North America
. New York: Penguin, 2001.
This text is separated into three parts covering Europeans’ first encounters with the many Natives in what is now North America, the various colonies established, and the empires that were these European colonies’ offspring. This book complicates the typical Anglo-centric narrative, not only offering a variety of perspectives from different Native tribes, but also documenting their encounters with various European colonizers, not only on the Atlantic coast of what is now the US, but throughout the entire country.
United State Congress. “Rule of Naturalization”. 1790. http://www.indiana.edu/~kdhist/H105-documents-web/week08/naturalization1790.html
This primary source document, written by the United States Congress in 1790, outlines the definition of citizenship, for the first time in federal legal documents, defining a citizen as among other things, “white.”
A Young People’s History of the United States.
New York: Seven Stories Press, 2007.
Adapted from Zinn’s longer and more complex text,
A People’s History
, this version modified by Rebecca Stefoff is accessible to youth. Like the original text, it offers an alternative to hegemonic historical accounts of early US history, with perspectives of Native American, black Americans, women, and more.
Indicates texts that are suggested for students, as well as teachers.