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Research Guides

Recommended Reads for Equity: African American Experience Reading List

Why Reading Lists?

These reading lists are meant to help you look at books within the Recommended Reads for Equity collection that have a shared topic or theme.

African American Experience 

These books are those of the collection that touch on aspects of the African American Experience, such as civil rights, racism, voter suppression, liberation and more. There is a range of different genres represented. If you believe that a book present on this list should not be, please let us know. 


Recommended by: Courtney Jackson, Student UW Seattle, Department of Global Health

"This book contextualizes the continued civil rights effort within the framework of those who struggled and preserved before. In an era where politicians and citizens are quick to criticize today's movement in comparison to a more comfortable, static, and white-washed version of MLK and Rosa Parks, Theoharis adds context and color to history – allowing today's activists to see their work as a continued and natural extension of that which came before.

Additionally, Theoharis approaches civil rights from an atypical perspective, that of the “polite racism” that defined the North throughout the civil rights era – and which is still evident today, specifically in the northwest. She calls out silence as being as deadly as direct violence in that “such silences are comfortable. It is easier to castigate protesters as “thugs” unwilling to work through the proper processes than for media outlets to hold accountable neighbors and public officials who didn’t listen when they had. It is easier to cast the people who rose up as the problem, rather than focus on the readers who stayed silent for years amidst police injustice and injustice.

This book is easily accessible, highly relevant, and extremely humbling. In a world where things don’t make sense - I think it’s time for us look back at history."


Recommended by: Anonymous
"The book uses abundant research, including examples from Seattle, to show that housing segregation in the United States is the result of decades of deliberate actions by local, state, and federal agencies. Richard Rothstein effectively rebuts the common perception that our segregated communities are simply the result of private decisions by millions of people."

Recommended by: Mary Whisner, Staff UW Seattle, Law Library

"Important work about the federal, state, and local government actions that created the residential segregation we see today. Eye opening."



Recommended by: Kim Johnson-Bogart, Staff UW Seattle, Advancement CFR and English

"examines structural racism in education systems; cuts deep into the fabric of inequity and made me think about uncomfortable truths of our society, of schooling, what happens to our children; I find it necessary for thinking about equity and inclusion to first better understand inequity and exclusion. My daughter, a faculty member at Tufts, is the author."


Recommended by: Nicole Gustavsen, UW Staff, UWB/Cascadia College Library

"Explores the culinary history of Southern food through the author's genealogical research of his ancestors, who were brought from Africa as slaves and whose African culinary traditions profoundly influenced what is thought of today as a very "American" (and often a "white") style of cooking."



Recommended by: Sumyat Thu, Student UW Seattle, English

"Accessible interviews with a legend who provides so much insights into recent events such as Black Lives Matter and BDS movement for Palestine."


Recommended by: Anonymous

"A smart history of how race and class have effected marginalized peoples as they mobilize to vote and how institutional forces have come down in order to stop them. Especially poignant as the mid-term elections start up, understanding how gerrymandering, voter ID, and restrictions on voter registration are damaging to our democracy today and throughout history is important as we continue to strive for equality and representation."


Recommended by: Kara Schoonmaker, Staff, Jackson School of International Studies

"This plainspoken breakdown of the economic reasons that African American people have a more difficult time entering and remaining in the middle class than people of other ethnicities -- especially Caucasian people -- is a substantive repudiation of harmful, well-worn stereotypes about African Americans. It should be brought up in any conversation about America as a meritocracy."



Recommended by: Caitlan Maxwell, Staff UW Bothell


Recommended by: Kayode (Kye) Stephens-Terry, Staff UW Seattle, Transportation Services/Sales and Administration

"As a student of color interested in entering the world of corporate America, this was an excellent first-hand account of the author's experience. I found the first-hand account extremely helpful as it was informative but not overly preachy. Also, the author is well accomplished and an excellent role model."



Recommended by: Kira Newman, Staff UW Seattle, Housing & Food Services

"Dyson is an incredible writer, and much of his work focuses on race and hip-hop, although this book is a collection of his works. This book helped me understand the impact of racism in tangible, accessible ways, and he uses sarcasm to make bold statements about the state of race in America."


Recommended by: Gabriella Dahlin, Student UW Seattle, UW Libraries and iSchool

"This book is written by an incredible local activist. Her book is framed in an approachable way, and is welcoming for folks who are new, but open, to talking about race. I personally found it helpful for framing my own conversations with other people who might not be as deeply interested involved in social justice. It's honest and direct and really, really great."


Recommended by: Judith Wood, Staff UW Seattle, Continuum College

"Oluo is a brilliant and incisive observer, analyst, and writer around issues pertaining to race, equity, and intersectionality. She is local and would make for a lively author event."


Recommended by: Kate Orville, Staff UW Seattle, Center on Human Development and Disability- Clinical Training Unit

"The author's purpose with this book was to enable people to talk about race and to have the tools to be able to do so. The author starts each chapter with a personal story illustrating the topic she's going to talk about, then talks about why it's important, data and studies behind it and how and why it is important. As a person who's white and wants to more directly engage in learning about racial discrimination and what I can do about it, this book helped me feel better prepared to have conversations about race. I do not want to ask friends of color to give me the 101 version of things I should take the time to learn on my own first."


Recommended by: Anonymous

"As the title would suggest, a perfect introduction to diversity and inclusion that should be read by everyone. It is not written just for people who are still denying that racism exists in America today, but for people who know it does but don't necessarily know all the ways it manifests itself."


Recommended by Chloe Horning, Staff UW Bothell, UWB Library


Recommended by: Amy Hagopian, Faculty UW Seattle, Health Services- School of Public Health


Recommended by: David Fluharty, Faculty UW Seattle, School of Marine and Environmental Affairs

"I recommend this book to anyone who has not taken a course in Black History in America. Coates relates the long and mostly ignored history of race in American history and connects it to the present through the lens of his own development as a compelling writer and what the Obama Presidency means."



Recommended by: Kira Newman, Staff UW Seattle, Housing & Food Services

"This is one of the first books I read about diversity, equity and inclusion, and it really hits home about not only race and racism, but gets to some of the deeper components of how it impacts community--and more specifically, the ways that self-segregation (as the title suggests) are often a form of survival. Tatum's writing packs a punch, and makes you really think about how you show up in community, and once you read it, you can't un-see the points she makes in your day to day life."



Recommended by: Amy Scott-Zerr, Alumna UW Seattle, English, History and International Studies


Recommended by: Anonymous, Staff UW Seattle, School of Nursing

Recommended by: K Wheeler, Student UW Seattle

"This is an amazing book about racial diversity, equity, and police brutality."


‚ÄčRecommended by: Holly Williams, Staff UW Seattle, Bioengineering

Recommended by: Brianna Jones, Student UW Seattle, Social Work

Graphic Novels

Recommended by: Melissa, Staff UW Bothell, Library


Recommended by: Soojin Oh Park, Faculty UW Seattle, College of Education

Recommended by: Dan Berger, Faculty UW Bothell, IAS

Recommended by: Kate Orville, Staff UW Seattle, Center on Human Development and Disability


Recommended by: Anonymous

Recommended by: Mary Whisner, Staff UW Seattle, Law Library

Think something is missing? Recommend a Book!