The Public Syllabus

Democracy and Racial Justice: A Public Syllabus

25  books published in the past 25 years, that every person should read. Don’t worry: I’ve purposely only included texts that are accessible to general audiences; thus you need not be versed in scholarly debates in order to appreciate these books. These texts represent some of the best of “public scholarship” on U.S. democracy and racial justice.



James Baldwin, James Baldwin: Collected Essays (Library of America,1998)
Cathy Cohen, Democracy Remixed: Black Youth and the Future of American Politics (Oxford, 2010)
Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New Press, 2005)
Jodi Dean, Democracy and other Neoliberal Fantasies
(Duke, 2009)
Charles Mills, The Racial Contract (Cornell, 1997)
Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Racism without Racists (Rowman, 2003)
Robert G. Williams,
In the Shadow of Dubois: Afro-Modern Political Thought in America (Harvard, 2009)

Nell Irvin Painter, The History of White People (Oxford, 2010)
Angela Davis, Abolition Democracy: Beyond Prisons, Torture, and Empire (Seven Stories Press, 2005)
Cornel West, Democracy Matters: Winning the War Against Imperialism (Penguin, 2004)
Ira Katznelson, When Affirmative Action Was White (W. W. Norton & Company, 2005)
Michael Omni & Howard Winant, Racial Formation in the United States (Routledge, 2nd ed., 1994)
Robin Kelley, Yo Mama’s Disfunktional! Fighting the Culture Wars in Urban America (Beacon, 2004)

Angela Davis, Are Prisons Obsolete? (Open Media, 2003)
Angela Davis, Abolition Democracy: Beyond Prisons, Torture, and Empire (Seven Stories Press, 2005)
Karen Brodkin, How Jews Became White Folks: And What That Says About Race in America (Rutgers, 1998)
Matthew F. Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants & the Alchemy of Race (1999)
Eric Lott, Love & Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class (Oxford, 2005)
Lani Guiner, The Miner’s Canary: Enlisting Race, Resisting Power, Transforming Democracy (Harvard, 2003)
Lani Guiner, Tyranny of the Majority: Fundamental Fairness in Representative Democracy (Free P., 1995)
Derrick Bell, Faces At The Bottom Of The Well: The Permanence Of Racism (Basic Books, 1993)
Tim Wise, Speaking Treason Fluently: Anti-Racist Reflections From an Angry White Male (S.S. Press, 2008)
Ruthie Gilmore, Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, & Opposition in Globalizing California (Calif., 2007)
Amartya Sen, The Idea of Justice (Harvard, 1st edition, 2009)

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