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Twenty authors for 2020 vision

Reading recommendations after the death of George Floyd and days of protests

This week, in the wake of George Floyd’s killing and the demonstrations that followed, I’ve received letters asking for reading recommendations. Here are my top 10 picks of books to improve our understanding of racial relations, followed by my top 10 African-American history books. 

  • Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man: 1952 novel deservedly on many “best 20th century American novels” lists.

  • Booker T. Washington’s Up From Slavery: A classic autobiography showing perseverance under pressure. 

  •  John Piper's Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian: An emphasis on sovereign grace, not sovereign race, makes the difference.

  • James McBride’s The Color of Water: A beautifully written African-American man’s tribute to his white mother.

  • Walter Wangerin Jr.’s Father and Son: The story of an Indiana pastor-author and his black adopted son.

  • John Perkins’ Let Justice Roll Down: Memoir by a pioneer in racial reconciliation.

  • Jason Riley’s Please Stop Helping Us: Criticism of the conventional civil rights movement and “how liberals make it harder for blacks to succeed.”

  • Ismael Hernandez’s Not Tragically Colored: How a Communist leader’s son rose above materialistic determinism and victimhood. 

  • Shelby Steele’s Shame: How liberal social policies led to the near-disintegration of the black family and the general decline of public education.

  • Africa Study Bible: Combines the New Living Translation with notes connecting the Bible and Africa. 

History

  • Nicholas Guyatt’s Bind Us Apart: How Enlightenment-influenced Americans invented racial segregation. 

  • Manisha Sinha’s The Slave’s Cause: A history of the abolitionists who fought the peculiar institution.

  • Jemar Tisby’s The Color of Compromise: How churches for centuries perpetuated racism.

  • Joel McDurmon’s The Problem of Slavery in Christian America: Documents the racism of many 19th century churches and corrects “happy slave” romanticizing. 

  • Matthew Harper’s The End of Days: How Christian understanding helped some newly emancipated African Americans leave behind a slave mentality. 

  • Douglas Blackmon’s Slavery by Another Name: Shows the virtual post-Reconstruction re-enslavement of sharecroppers and others.

  • David Oshinsky’s Worse Than Slavery: Zeroes in on Mississippi’s Parchman Farm and Jim Crow justice. 

  • Gene Dattel’s Reckoning With Race: A readable history that starts in the 19th century and shows the Great Migration north during the 20th century and the urban ghettos that resulted. 

  • Jonathan Bean’s Race & Liberty in America: Shows that many African American leaders in the 19th and 20th centuries prized individual rights, Christianity, and free markets.

  • Edward Gilbreath’s Birmingham Revolution: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Epic Challenge to the Church: Legitimately emphasizes King’s refusal to separate theology and worldview applications.