Reading List: Debating Justice, Politics, and Culture in Black America, From the Civil Rights Movement to Black Lives Matter

What follows is a reading list based upon my writing-based history course that I taught in the Fall of 2015. While teaching the course, I relied heavily on primary sources and short secondary sources due to the stringent page limit (45 pages per week).

Here I have gently revised the syllabus. I include a few more readings that enhance the list. The topics are listed in the order that were assigned. I added two topics – one on the Black Panthers and Donald Trump. I have also included a Spotify playlist of music that inspired the class.

PDF Version: Black Lives Matter Reading List.

White Supremacy and Racial Identity

  • Ta-Nehisi Coates, Excerpts from “The Case for Reparations,” The Atlantic (2014) (Read parts I-IV).
  • W.E.B. Du Bois, “Of Our Spiritual Strivings,” in Souls of Black Folk (1903).
  • Frances Beale, “Double Jeopardy: To Be Black and Female” (1969).
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates, “Letter to My Son” (2015).

Civil Rights Movement: Direct Action

Civil Rights Movement and Memory: From Rosa Parks to Selma

Racial Violence, Police Brutality, and Urban Uprisings

  • Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “The Tangle of Pathology,” in The Negro Family: The Case for National Action (1965): 29-43.
  • James Baldwin, “A Report from Occupied Territory,” The Nation (1966).
  • Philip A. MacComb, “Who is Behind the Race Riots?,” National Review, September 20, 1966.
  • Kerner Commission, Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (1967): 1-29.

What We Want is Black Power: Debating the Direction of Black Protest

  • Malcolm X, “Message to the Grassroots” (1963).
  • Stokely Carmichael, “What We Want,” New York Times Magazine (September 1966).
  • Richard Nixon, “Bridges to Human Dignity,” Human Events, May 25, 1968.
  • Fran Sanders, “Dear Black Man,” in The Black Woman: An Anthology, ed. Toni Cade (1970).

The Black Panthers

  • Watch: The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (2016).
  • Watch: Beyoncé, “Formation,” Super Bowl Performance (2016).
  • Donna Murch, Living for the City: Migration, Education, and the Rise of the Black Panther Party in Oakland, California (2010).
  • Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, “Ten Point Program: What We Want, What We Believe” (1966).

Black Worker Rebellion in Detroit

  • Read Selections of Dan Georgakas and Marvin Surkin, Detroit, I Do Mind Dying and Thomas Sugrue’s The Origins of the Urban Crisis.
  • James Boggs, “The Challenge of Automation” (1963).
  • Michael Hamlin, “Some Accomplishments of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers,” in A Black Revolutionary’s Life in Labor: Black Workers Power in Detroit (2015).

Challenging the Second Wave: Intersectionality and Black Feminism

  • Becky Thompson, “Multiracial Feminism: Recasting the Chronology of Second Wave Feminism,” Feminist Studies, 28: 2 (Summer 2002): 336-360.1
  • Brittney Cooper, “Intersectionality,” The Oxford Handbook of Feminist Theory (2016).
  • Combahee River Collective, “The Combahee River Collective Statement” (1977).
  • Audre Lorde, “Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference” (1984).


The Hip Hop Generation

  • Read selections of Jeff Chang, Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation (2005).
  • Tricia Rose, “Bad Sistas: Black Women Rappers and Sexual Politics in Rap Music,” in Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America (1993).
  • John McWhorter, “How Hip Hop Holds Blacks Back,” City Journal (Summer 2003).
  • Sacha Jenkins, “The Eternal Illmatic” (2015).

Crime and the Carceral State

  • Elizabeth K. Hinton, “A War within Our Own Boundaries: Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society and the Rise of the Carceral State,” Journal of American History, 102: 1 (June 2015).
  • Heather Ann Thompson, “Inner-City Violence in the Age of Mass Incarceration,” The Atlantic, October 30, 2014.
  • Tricia Rose, “Public Tales Wag the Dog: Telling Stories about Structural Racism in the Post-Civil Rights Era,” Du Bois Review, 10: 2 (2013): 447-469.
  • Lynn Norment, “Charles Rangel: Front-Line General in War on Drugs,” Ebony (March 1989): 128-134.
  • Donna Murch, “Who’s to Blame for Mass Incarceration?,” Boston Magazine, October 16, 2015.
  • Michael J. Fortner, “Historical Method and the Noble Lie,” Boston Magazine, October, 23, 2015.

Black Sexual Politics

  • Barbara Smith, “Soul on Hold” (1985).
  • Cheryl Clarke, “Lesbianism: An Act of Resistance” from This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (1981).
  • Janet Mock, “I Was Born a Boy,” Marie Claire, May 18, 2011.

Black Politics in the 21st Century

21st-Century Black Feminist Politics

Campus Protest: From #BBUM to #Mizzou

Narrating the Movement: Ferguson and #BlackLivesMatter

Race, Trump, and the 2016 Election2


  1. I had students get into groups and reverse outline Thompson’s article. The activity was successful on two fronts – students learned how scholars articulated and proved their arguments with evidence. They also learned a history of feminism that challenged some of the stereotypes often perpetuated in public discourse. Return to text.
  2. I chose Staples’s and Eley’s articles from Blain’s and Connolly’s “Trump Syllabus, 2.0.” Return to text.