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Stamped From the Beginning

Stamped From the Beginning

The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America

Book - 2016
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Americans like to insist that we are living in a postracial, color-blind society. In fact, racist thought is alive and well; it has simply become more sophisticated and more insidious. And as historian Ibram X. Kendi argues, racist ideas in this country have a long and lingering history, one in which nearly every great American thinker is complicit. 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 lives 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. As Kendi provocatively illustrates, racist thinking did not arise from ignorance or hatred. Racist ideas were created and popularized in an effort to defend deeply entrenched discriminatory policies and to rationalize the nation's racial inequities in everything from wealth to health. While racist ideas are easily produced and easily consumed, they can also be discredited--From publisher's website.
Publisher: New York : Nation Books, [2016]
Copyright Date: ©2016
ISBN: 9781568584638
Call Number: 305.8 K335s 2016
Characteristics: viii, 582 pages ; 25 cm


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Nov 19, 2020

This book is well-written, deeply researched and annotated, and because of these characteristics, terribly depressing. Kendi leads us through the history of racism by selecting five individuals, describing their eras, and discussing those who directly influenced them and those whom they influenced. Terms are carefully defined, with concepts of segregation, assimilation, and antiracism central to the book.
Kendi’s passion shines through the book. The passion is largely righteous anger, evincing itself in sarcasm. This jumped out at me probably because sarcasm is a mechanism that I use too much.
My depression comes from Kendi’s systematic destruction of almost every person he discusses. With the possible exception of Angela Davis, none seems to be pure enough. Eric Dyson and Ta-Nehisi Coates get favorable mentions, but I found myself wondering where we go from here. The book is history and is not designed to be a how-to book for ridding the world of racism. As educational as it was for me, it left me very discouraged as to the path forward.
P.S. Having heard good things about his “How To Be An Antiracist,” I’ve put it on my For Later list.

Oct 16, 2020

Reading Jill Lepore’s “These Truths: A History of the United States” and Ibram X. Kendi’s “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America” in parallel gave me a much greater appreciation for the history of our country and helped me understand much better what is transpiring in the nation now. Both are excellent examples of how history can shed light on today’s current events. The main take away from both books for me was 1) structural racism and economic inequality that plagues us now are the results not of happenstance, but of deliberate decisions made by the powerbrokers of our past (they could have chosen different paths that would have led to great equality but they did not) and 2) well organized and deliberate citizens groups that have a long vision and make a difference. Make these both MUST READS in 2020.

Gina_Vee Jul 19, 2020

This is a history book we all deserved in school and higher ed and probably did not get. I can't think of a single human being who doesn't need to read this book.

Jan 22, 2018

Fascinating and illuminating history of racist ideas in the U.S., from all quarters. A very convincing argument throughout for his thesis that it is racist policies that bring forth racist ideas to justify them, and that hate and ignorance are an outgrowth of racist ideas--not the other way around. Highly recommend for anyone interested in a clear-eyed look at how racial oppression has functioned in the U.S., and for insight into the ways of working against it that are most likely to have an effect.

Oct 21, 2017

I cannot recommend this book highly enough, and am so grateful to this author for the work represented within its covers. I don't read non-fiction easily, and this book covers very difficult territory in an accessible way. It's very hard to know these things, but essential to the project of healing our nation's bloody and horrific past.

Most useful, for me, was the way the author traced THREE strands of thought - segregationist-racist, assimilationist-racist, and anti-racist - from the middle ages forward. It helped me, as a person raised 'white', to understand how to think about people of color who hold what seem to me to be very racist opinions, or who do what appear to me to be completely unhelpful things. I am not the one to assess or to rebuke/correct these folks, but I do want to understand. This book, by identifying, describing, and contextualizing assimilationist-racism and 'uplift suasion' as strategies embraced by people of every sort, enables me to continue working on becoming ever more anti-racist without being distracted or side-tracked.

Racism continues to waste the humanity, intelligence, talent, and potential of large portions of our nation's population. It does so violently and inexcusably. This book offers real assistance to the project of ending this violent, inexcusable waste.

Jul 26, 2017

Would have easily been a 4 (because of all the research that the author put into it; it's really impressive), if the author hadn't included as much of his own conjecture about past events (often to fill in details to make the scene more vivid; sometimes to say that the critics of a book were more people who hadn't read the book, etc.). At the very end of the book, he talks about how he was trying to make a history book that was more accessible to normal people (i.e. not just historians), and I'm wondering if this is why he did so.

Jan 19, 2017

Excellent up until Angela Davis. Really loved the chapters on Cotton Mather, Jefferson, didn't know a thing about Garrison, and Du Bois, and I didn't know much about Angela Davis, either, but she seemed kind of peripheral to his point. I read only half of her chapter. But the rest of the book is fascinating.

LPL_DirectorBrad Nov 05, 2016

Dr. Kendi's book is a brilliant distillation of racist ideas in America. Impeccably researched and thoroughly readable, Kendi starts at the beginning (even bringing in Aristotle!) and describes the development and evolution of racist ideas from the precolonial era up to current times. This is historical writing and research at its best. Truly deserved of being a National Book Award finalist. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

LPL_ShirleyB Sep 24, 2016


Jun 27, 2016

This was the National Book Award winner - In the 1960’s, the Democrats passed the Civil Rights bills (Blacks allowed in public accommodations and allowed to vote in the southern states). Using white resentment, Nixon/Agnew implemented the Southern Strategy, which turned the South Republican. The strategy also convinced northern whites that the Republicans would keep Blacks out of white schools, out of many factories and businesses, and out of white neighborhoods. This book is described as “the Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America.” These ideas basically brainwashed ignorant whites to believe that Blacks were not actually of the same species as whites, but closer to the species of apes. These ideas were not extinguished by the Founding Fathers as Tea Party Michelle Bachmann suggested but actually promoted by American whites from 1619 until today. Even in late 20th century, Charles Murray wrote “The Bell Curve,” which promoted the idea that Blacks were in last place in American society, not because of 450 years of white exploitation and discrimination, but because of inferior genes. The book is sickening, but hopefully a few Whites will begin to face the truth. It will be interesting to see if a new paperback edition comments on the alt-right white supremacy/anti-Semitic anti-Muslim ideology of the new Trump presidency.


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