Become a Member

We are a public forum committed to collective reasoning and the imagination of a more just world. Join today to help us keep the discussion of ideas free and open to everyone, and enjoy member benefits like our quarterly books.

Search Website
Reading List March 07, 2016

Radical Political Action

A primer in the history and practice of radical black politics.

Editors’ Note: In the Black Study, Black Struggle forum, Robin D. G. Kelley advocates for a rebirth of grassroots political education. A forum contributor, Derecka Purnell, informed us that some groups of student-activists are already doing exactly that. At Harvard Law School, a group called Reclaim Harvard Law has occupied one of the school’s lounges and is holding weekly political education sessions there. Purnell shared with us her list of the texts that have been circulating in the group. It shows an investment in liberation not only from racial oppression, but from all forms of oppression, including sexual and financial. The list is informed by a commitment to “intersectionality,” Kimberlé Crenshaw’s insight that various forms of oppression are entangled and amplify one another, and thus must be fought in concert. We present this list, in the form it was presented to us, as the current pulse of the movement and a testament to its members’ brilliance. [Purnell wishes to acknowledge also the work of Rekia Mohammed-Jibrin, who worked with the Dream Defenders’ Womxn Faction to compile a portion of this list.]

 


 

Critical Reading (to Have and to Hold):

Abu-Jamal, Mumia. We Want Freedom: A Life in the Black Panther Party. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2004.

Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New York: The New Press, 2010.

Baldwin, James. The Fire Next Time. New York: Dial Press, 1963.

Bell, Derrick. Race, Racism and American Law. Boston: Little, Brown, 1973.

———. “Who’s Afraid of Critical Race Theory?” University of Illinois Law Review, 1995, 893–910. [Online.]

Biko, Steve. I Write What I Like.San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1986.

Clark, Kenneth B. Dark Ghetto: Dilemmas of Social Power. New York: Harper and Row, 1965.

The Black Radical Tradition Reader, compiled by the Communist Research Cluster and Viewpoint Magazine, c. 2015. [A collection of public-domain writings, from Du Bois and Fanon to members of the Black Panther Party, that underpin the black radical tradition. Online.]

The Combahee River Collective. “A Black Feminist Statement.” In The Second Wave: A Reader in Feminist Theory, edited by Linda Nicholson, 63–70. New York: Routledge, 1997.

Crenshaw, Kimberlé, Neil Gotanda, Gary Peller, and Kendall Thomas, eds. Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings that Formed the Movement. New York: The New Press, 1995.

Davis, Angela Y. Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2016.

———. Women, Race and Class. New York: Vintage, 1981.

Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. Translated by Charles Lam Markmann. New York: Grove Press, 1967.

———. The Wretched of the Earth. Translated by Constance Farrington, with a preface by Jean-Paul Sartre. New York: Grove Press, 1963.

Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Translated by Myra Bergman Ramos. New York: Herder and Herder, 1970.

Gilmore, Ruth Wilson. “In the Shadow of the Shadow State.” In The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-profit Industrial Complex, ed. INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2007.

Harney, Stefano and Fred Moten. The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study. New York: Minor Compositions, 2013. [Online.]

Harvey, David. A Brief History of Neoliberalism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

James, Joy, ed. Imprisoned Intellectuals: America’s Political Prisoners Write on Life, Liberation, and Rebellion. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2003.

James, Selma. Sex, Race and Class: The Perspective of Winning: A Selection of Writings 1952­–2011. Oakland: PM Press, 2012.

Kelley, Robin D. G. Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination. Boston: Beacon Press, 2002.

———. Race Rebels: Culture, Politics, and the Black Working Class. New York: The Free Press, 1996.

King, Martin Luther, Jr. “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963. [Online.]

Lorde, Audre. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. Trumansburg, NY: Crossing Press, 1984

McDuffie, Erik S. Sojourning for Freedom: Black Women, American Communism, and the Making of Black Left Feminism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011.

Mies, Maria. Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale: Women in the International Division of Labour. London: Zed Books, 1986.

 

Women, Race, Colonialism, and Violence:

Federici, Silvia. Caliban and the Witch. New York: Autonomedia, 2004.

Wynter, Sylvia. “1492: A New World View,” In Race, Discourse, and the Origin of the Americas: A New World View, edited by Vera Lawrence Hyatt and Rex Nettleford, 5–57. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995.

———. “Afterword: Beyond Miranda’s Meanings: Un/silencing the ‘Demonic Ground’ of Caliban’s ‘Woman.’” In Out of the Kumbla: Caribbean Women and Literature, edited by Carol Boyce Davies and Elaine Savory Fido, 355–72. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1990.

———. “Is ‘Development’ a Purely Empirical Concept or also Teleological?: A Perspective from ‘We the Underdeveloped.’” In Prospects for Recovery and Sustainable Development in Africa, edited by Aguibou Y. Yansane, 299–316. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996.

———. “No Human Involved: An Open Letter to My Colleagues.” Voices of the African Diaspora 8 (1992): 13–6.

———. “On How We Mistook the Map for the Territory, and Re-Imprisoned Ourselves in Our Unbearable Wrongness of Being, of Désêtre: Black Studies Toward the Human Project.” In Not Only the Master’s Tools: African-American Studies in Theory and Practice, edited by Lewis R. Gordon and Jane Anna Gordon, 107–72. Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2006.

 

Left Feminism and Violence by the State:

Baldwin, James. “A Talk to Teachers.” In The Price of the Ticket: Collected Nonfiction 1948–1985, 325–332. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985.

Baldwin, James and Audre Lorde. “Revolutionary Hope: A Conversation Between James Baldwin and Audre Lorde.” Essence (December 1984). [Online.]

Davies, Carole Boyce. Left of Karl Marx: The Political Life of Black Communist Claudia Jones. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Davis, Angela Y. Abolition Democracy: Beyond Prison, Torture and Empire. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2005.

———. “Racialized Punishment and Prison Abolition.” In The Angela Y. Davis Reader, edited by Joy James, 96–110. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, Inc., 1998.

Gilmore, Ruth Wilson. “Forgotten Places and the Seeds of Grassroots Planning.” In Engaging Contradictions: Theory, Politics, and Methods of Activist Scholarship, edited by Charles R. Hale, 31–61. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.

———. Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007.

———. “Race, Prisons and War: Scenes from the Gilmore History of US Violence.” Socialist Register 45 (2009): 73–87.

James, Joy. Resisting State Violence: Radicalism, Gender, and Race in U.S. Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, l996.

Jones, Claudia. Claudia Jones: Beyond Containment. Edited by Carole Boyce Davies. Banbury, Oxfordshire, UK: Ayebia Clarke Publishing Limited, 2011.

Nyasha, Kiilu. “‘Iola,’ Princess of the Press: The Story of Feminist Anti-Lynching Crusader, Ida B.Wells-Barnett,” August 25, 2014. [Online.]

Sexton, Jared. “Racial Profiling and the Societies of Control.” In Warfare in the American Homeland: Policing and Prison in a Penal Democracy, edited by Joy James, 197–218. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Wells, Ida B. Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases. New York: The New York Age Print, 1892. [Online.]

 

Intersectionality, Gender, and Anti-blackness:

Collins, Patricia Hill. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1990.

Crenshaw, Kimberlé. “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color.” Stanford Law Review 43 (1991): 1241–99.

INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, ed. The Color of Violence: The Incite! Anthology. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2006.

Jibrin, Rekia and Sara Salem. “Revisiting Intersectionality: Reflections on Theory and Praxis.” Trans-Scripts 5 (2015): 7–24.

Mohanty, Chandra Talpade. “Transnational Feminist Crossings: On Neoliberalism and Radical Critique.” Signs 38, no. 4 (2013): 967–91.

Spillers, Hortense. “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book.” Diacritics 17, no. 2 (1987): 64–81.

Sudbury, Julia, ed. Global Lockdown: Race, Gender, and the Prison-Industrial Complex. New York: Routledge, 2005.

 

(De)Criminalizing Gender:

Bumiller, Kristin. In an Abusive State: How Neoliberalism Appropriated the Feminist Movement Against Sexual Violence. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008.

Chen, Ching-In, Jai Dulani, and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, eds. The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities. Brooklyn: South End Press, 2011.

Mogul, Joey L., Andrea J. Ritchie, and Kay Whitlock. Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States. Boston: Beacon Press, 2012.

Raider Nation Collective. “The Ambivalent Silences of the Left: Lovelle Mixon, Police and the Politics of Race and Rape,” San Francisco Bay View, April 21, 2009. [Online.]

Ritchie, Beth E. Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence, and America’s Prison Nation. New York: New York University Press, 2012.

Stanley, Eric A., and Nat Smith, eds. Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex. Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2011.

 

Decolonializing Gender:

Bouteldja, Houria. “Feminist or not? Thinking about the possibility of a ‘decolonial feminism’ with James Baldwin and Audre Lorde.” Lecture presented at the University of California, Berkeley, April 14, 2014. Translated by Geneviève Rail. [Online.]

Lugones, Maria. “The Coloniality of Gender.” Volume 2, Dossier 2: On the De-Colonial (II): Gender and Decoloniality, April 1, 2008. [Online.]

———. “Heterosexualism and the Colonial/Modern Gender System.” Hypatia 22 (2007): 186–209.

Mignolo, Walter. “Preface,” Volume 2, Dossier 2: On the De-Colonial (II): Gender and Decoloniality, April 1, 2008. [Online.]

Puar, Jasbir. “Rethinking Homonationalism.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 45 (2013): 336–9.

 

Other useful resources:

Ashcroft, Bill, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin. Key Concepts in Post-Colonial Studies. New York: Routledge, 1998.

Biondi, Martha. The Black Revolution on Campus. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012.

The Black Power Mixtape 1967–1975, directed by Gören Olsson, 2011. Distributed by MPI Home Video.

Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin, directed by Nancy Kates and Bennett Singer, 2003. [Watch online.]

Coates, Ta-Nehisi. Between the World and Me. New York: Spiegel and Grau, 2015.

Concerning Violence, written and directed by Gören Olsson, 2014. Distributed by Films Boutique.

Evans, Mary, and Carolyn H. Williams, eds. Gender: The Key Concepts. New York: Routledge, 2013.

Glaude, Eddie S., Jr. Democracy In Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul. New York: Crown Publishers, 2016.

Lamar, Kendrick. To Pimp a Butterfly. Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope, musical album. Released 2015.

Omar, written and directed by Hany Abu-Assad, 2014. Distributed by Adopt Films.

Payne, Charles M. I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle, 2nd ed. with a new preface. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007.

Robinson, Randall. The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks. New York: Dutton, 2000.

Scott-Heron, Gil. “Black History/The World.” On Moving Target, Arista, released 1982.

———. “Johannesburg.” On From South Africa to South Carolina, TVT Records, released 1975.

———. “On Coming from a Broken Home.” On I’m New Here, XL Recordings, musical album, released 2010.

———. “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” On Small Talk at 125th and Lenox, Flying Dutchman, musical album, released 1970.

Straight Outta Compton, directed by F. Gary Gray, 2015. Distributed by Universal Pictures.

Taylor, Keeanga-Yamahtta. From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2016.

Washington, Harriet A. Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present.New York: Doubleday, 2006.

Woodson, Jacqueline. Brown Girl Dreaming. New York: Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014.

Our weekly themed Reading Lists compile the best of Boston Review’s archive. Previews are delivered to members every Sunday. Become a member to receive them ahead of the crowd.

Boston Review is nonprofit and reader funded.

Contributions from readers enable us to provide a public space, free and open, for the discussion of ideas. Join this effort – become a supporting reader today.

Sign Up for Our
Newsletter

Vital reading on politics, literature, and more in your inbox. Sign up for our Weekly Newsletter, Monthly Roundup, and event notifications.

While we have you...

…we need your help. Confronting the many challenges of COVID-19—from the medical to the economic, the social to the political—demands all the moral and deliberative clarity we can muster. In Thinking in a Pandemic, we’ve organized the latest arguments from doctors and epidemiologists, philosophers and economists, legal scholars and historians, activists and citizens, as they think not just through this moment but beyond it. While much remains uncertain, Boston Review’s responsibility to public reason is sure. That’s why you’ll never see a paywall or ads. It also means that we rely on you, our readers, for support. If you like what you read here, pledge your contribution to keep it free for everyone by making a tax-deductible donation.

Donate Today

Similar Content

Apps like Tinder and OkCupid should make an ethical commitment to freeing their services from a gender binary. It would help all users, queer and straight alike.

M. Andler

As the neoliberal order unravels, the international economic system can and must make room for cooperative forms of state-driven development.

Nic Johnson Robert Manduca

We must reject the legal liberalism that attempts to cordon off constitutional questions from democratic politics.

Joseph Fishkin William E. Forbath