2016 National Book Award Winner, Nonfiction
Ibram X. Kendi
Masha Gessen, Chair of the judges' panel for the 2016 National Book Awards for Nonfiction, presents Ibram X. Kendi with the honor.
Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America
National Book Foundation: Who did you write this book for?
Ibram X. Kendi: I wrote Stamped from the Beginning for the lives they said don’t matter. From Trayvon Martin to Sandra Bland, all those names, all those lost lives were on my mind as I wrote every word.
In trying to understand why these lives don’t seem to matter, we talk a lot about ignorance and hate. But history tells us something else: that racist ideas were created to defend deeply entrenched and enticing discriminatory policies. And so I wrote Stamped for the generations of Americans who have been convinced by racist ideas into believing there is something wrong with Black people—and not with these policies and racial inequities. I wrote Stamped to give Americans the understanding of history they need to fight for an equitable America where we hold as an ideal that all racial groups are equal.
Stamped from the Beginning turns our ideas of the term “racism” upside-down. Ibram X. Kendi writes as a thoughtful cultural historian, aware that he is challenging deeply held, often progressive assumptions. Using a masterful voyage through the history of U.S. political rhetoric, beginning with Cotton Mather and ending with hip-hop, he argues that even the most fervent anti-racists have been infected with that resilient virus. With his learning, he dares us to find a cure.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Some Americans cling desperately to the myth that we are living in a post-racial society, that the election of the first Black president spelled the doom of racism. In fact, racist thought is alive and well in America--more sophisticated and more insidious than ever. And as award-winning historian Ibram X. Kendi argues in Stamped from the Beginning, if we have any hope of grappling with this stark reality, we must first understand how racist ideas were developed, disseminated, and enshrined in American society.
In this deeply researched and fast-moving narrative, Ibram X. Kendi chronicles the entire story of anti-Black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. Stamped from the Beginning uses the life stories of five major American intellectuals to offer a window into the contentious debates between assimilationists and segregationists and between racists and antiracists. From Puritan minister Cotton Mather to Thomas Jefferson, from fiery abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison to brilliant scholar W.E.B. Du Bois to legendary anti-prison activist Angela Davis, Kendi shows how and why some of our leading proslavery and pro-civil rights thinkers have challenged or helped cement racist ideas in America.
Contrary to popular conceptions, racist ideas did not arise from ignorance or hatred. Instead, they were devised and honed by some of the most brilliant minds of each era. These intellectuals used their brilliance to justify and rationalize deeply entrenched discriminatory policies and the nation's racial disparities in everything from wealth to health. And while racist ideas are easily produced and easily consumed, they can also be discredited. In shedding much-needed light on the murky history of racist ideas, Stamped from the Beginning offers us the tools we need to expose them--and in the process, gives us reason to hope.
About the Author
Ibram X. Kendi is currently an assistant professor of African American History at the University of Florida. An intellectual and social movement Africana studies historian, Kendi studies racist and antiracist ideas and movements. He has published essays in books and academic journals, including The Journal of African American History, Journal of Social History, and The Sixties: A Journal of History, Politics and Culture. Kendi is the author of the award-winning book, The Black Campus Movement: Black Students and the Racial Reconstitution of Higher Education, 1965-1972, which was published in March 2012 as part of Palgrave Macmillan’s Contemporary Black History Series. He is currently finishing Black Apple: A Narrative History of Malcolm X and Black Power in New York, 1954-1974. He is also working on another history of racism—the sequel to Stamped from the Beginning.
- TWITTER: @DrIbram
- FACEBOOK: facebook.com/ibram.rogers
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