The concept of Racism was brought in by Whites, which led to a movement of racial prejudice that majorly focused on the color of the skin. It was particularly imposed on “Blacks” or the Africans who were brought forcibly to America for slavery. The Whites after beginning their exploration around the world and began to colonize several countries is how the concept of Racism developed when they noticed a drastic difference in the color of skin between them and the natives. This difference brought prejudice and hence led to domination. The natives or the colonized began to perceive themselves as inferiors and the Whites as superiors, and this domination took turns that led to the dehumanization of colored people.
The evils of Racism still prevails in every corner of the world, however, it is not a major issue like centuries before since people have become sensible and learned to accept the fact that we all are made of “flesh and blood” no matter how dark or light our skin tones are, we are all humans. These nightmarish periods of Racism have given rise to some of the best books in the world that portray the painful history, personal account of slaves, consequences of living in a white dominating society, and many more issues that deeply touch readers. Racism can only be eradicated when everyone will have the knowledge of what impact it leaves on the victims. Hence, in this article, you will be introduced to 10 must-read books on Racism that will leave an everlasting impression and make you a part of the personal journeys of people or fictional characters who fell prey to the evils of Racism.
Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye is one of the most powerful books on Racism ever written. The novel is centered around the character of Pecola, an 11-year-old girl who is black and ugly and struggles every day to survive in the white dominating society. Her only wish is to have “blue eyes” like the pretty doll she has, or like the picture of Shirley Temple she sees on the cup, she drinks milk on. Pecola wishes more than anything to have blue eyes only because she thinks having them will take away her ugliness, and none of her classmates will bully her again.
Morrison through the character of this little black girl portrays how evils of Racism can take away the desired childhood from the victims like Pecola, and how racism not only affects and destroys a child but also eradicate black families, who constantly struggle and fail to become a part of the white dominating country. The Bluest Eye has the most shocking events that are not only heart-breaking but also paint the true picture of how life can be when you are black and ugly.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker is another heart-touching story revolving around the evils of Racism, and a women’s quest to freedom and becoming economically independent. Celie is a poor black woman, married to an abusive husband who had been hiding the letters that her sister Nettie had been sending all these years, to keep her away from uniting with her sister. It is only when Celie bonds with one of her neighbors Shug while making quilts, she learns about love, pleasure, and Freedom.
The novel features inhuman treatment imposed on Blacks, an uncompromising bond between two women made of lust and love, and Celie’s ultimate step towards freedom by holding the hands of Shug.
As the name suggests, this novel features the “interesting narratives” of Olaudah Equiano, or a.k.a Gustavus Vassa who tells the tales of his youth spent in the land of Africa, and how he was kidnapped and brought into America for slavery. The best way to explore the theme of Racism is to read the accounts of those who were slaves themselves, as these narratives are unfiltered and honest, and it is this same thing we find in this novel.
This autobiographical novel depicts the journey of Olaudah from an African village to America where he was forced into slavery. Equiano spent most of his life as a slave on British Navy vessels, it is where he met Henry Pascal, the man who Christianised him and gave him the name Gustavus Vassa. The narratives follow how he was bought and sold multiple times by different masters, how he had worked different roles for them, which resulted in his fluent vocabulary and his ability to write English, which later proved to be dangerous for him. This novel portrays a real-life journey of a young black boy into a free man working and writing to save his fellow men from the clutches of slavery. Equiano’s narratives will leave a deep impact upon readers.
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is another amazing tale based on the African tribe of Igbo, where Okonkwo the leader of the tribal community accidentally kills a clansman, which results in his banishment from the community. A tribal man’s journey to survive in the civilized world is no less than prison, leaving behind his place of origin, his family, his people proves to be a tough journey for Okonkwo.
After seven long years of exile and his return to the native land, will Okonkwo be forgiven and accepted back into the Igbo community? But things have drastically changed in these years, Africa has been colonized by the Whites (Britishers), and the evils of Racism have begun to dominate the land.
Narrated from the perspective of a little girl living in the era of the Great Depression in Maycomb County, Scout Finch (as addressed by her brother and father) lives with her brother Jem and her father Atticus who is a lawyer. The lives of Scout and Jem begin to change when their father Atticus takes up a case to save a black man named Tom Robinson, who has been wrongly accused of raping a white woman.
Though the novel explores the serious themes of racism and the whites teasing even the children for their father’s humane decision, the narrative is very spontaneous and told with innocence. The novel follows several humorous events of the siblings exploring the neighborhood, their fear associated with the house of Boo Radley, and many more events as such. The novel paints a true picture of the 1930s when racism was still a dominating issue.
This novel is a must-read non-fiction on Racism that records real events. While working for the American Civil Liberties Union, Michelle Alexander witnessed the racial bias that still prevails in the Criminal Justice System against second-class citizens, mainly the blacks. This unethical bias reminds Alexander of the Jim Crow Laws that prevailed in South America during the 19th and early 20th centuries, that meted out inhuman treatment to African Americans. Alexander notices that this racial bias marginalizes colored races still in the 21st century, and hopes to present the true picture to the world.
Alexander begins with the history of racism that strongly dominated America, and how millions of people were painfully affected by its evils. She explores the Jim Crow Laws and the consequences they brought to the people to the present day scenario where racism still plays a role in judgment, there remains a difference, a sense of hatred and inequality. From Civil Rights, racial segregation, to witnessing the evils of the past still in relevance, Alexander takes readers on a shocking journey that unveils the truth of modern American Society.
The best book on Racism ever written, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is the most successful book ever written in the history of American Literature and has a record of selling an uncountable number of copies throughout the world. Mark Twain’s masterpiece is a coming-of-age novel meaning, that features the overgrowth of the main adolescent protagonist Huck Finn, through his almost unbelievable adventure down the river Mississippi on a raft.
Huck meets the negro slave Jim after escaping to Jackson Island, and together they embark on an unimaginable, perilous journey towards the land of the free where slavery is abolished, in search of freedom. Throughout his journey, Huck witnesses the evils of Racism that prevails on every bank of the river, it is only the river that is free from any prejudice and gives the two escapists the freedom they desire. Will they be able to find free land? Will Huck be able to free the negro slave Jim and help him meet his family? It is a question that is left for the readers to discover by reading the novel. Twain’s novel is for readers of all age groups.
Robin Diangelo’sWhite Fragility is about her experience of growing up as a white woman in America in the late twentieth century and her perspectives and experiences with racism. This modern bestselling novel explores the themes of race and racial inequality as perceived by the author herself.
The novel allows readers to understand what “racism” stands for in 21st century America, which then she connects with the defensive moves that white people make when they are challenged racially. She relates the “white fragility” to fear, anger, and guilt, which play a major role in the lives of the whites. This novel by Diangelo is a must-read for all, especially the youths, that will help eradicate the racial inequality that still prevails in the modern world.
Another world-famous slave narrative on our list is by Frederick Douglass, which takes the reader through an autobiographical journey, where Douglass went from being a slave to become a famous orator. Douglass, born into a life of bondage secretly taught himself to read and write, since education was forbidden to blacks and punishable by death, it is his gripping narrative that let readers become a part of his unimaginable journey.
The novel is a timeless classic that is written with honesty and serves as one of the best books to explore the painful history of racism and slavery, from the account of a man who was a slave himself.
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad is set in the land of Africa where whites have set their colony, and the narrator takes the reader on a journey to discover how whites in the name of colonization have exploited the land of Africa and their natives. The story is portrayed as in the protagonist Marlowe tells his experience in the land of Africa to his friends on-board a boat on the Thames. Marlowe when decides to take a job as a steamboat driver in Congo, he discovers the bureaucracy and the violence of the colonial endeavor. His journey to the land of “darkness” unfolds many shocking events and truths, that are truly captivating to read.
Discover through the eyes of Marlowe his quest to meet the powerful colonizer Kurtz, the exploitation of the land of Africa, and the bound lives of the natives through this amazing classic.