Black Lives Matter: Librarians share books, films that shine light on race, injustice

This year, the world ground to a halt.

The signs plastered on storefront windows as the pandemic took hold gave way to a new sight in June: wooden planks, scrawled declarations that Black Lives Matter, and tributes honoring George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless other victims of anti-Black police killings. People took to the streets. A movement resurged.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world, perhaps irreversibly. But it also has cast new light on old, painful truths. As the crisis has stripped away nearly all sense of certainty, it has exposed the knotted roots of a deeply troubled, racist society.

We see it at every turn: We see it in the way the virus disproportionately affects members of the Black community and other communities of color. And we see it in the way that, even as American life all but shut down, anti-Black violence persists.

At UC Berkeley, members of the Library staff have shared lists of books and films to provide a deeper understanding of race and racism, and to lift and center Black voices. They’re also working to provide greater access to many of the volumes you see here — and more — in digital form, so they can be read by more people within the UC Berkeley community, from anywhere.

These lists are not intended to be definitive or comprehensive. Instead, each one is a starting point — another way to spark thought and inspire meaningful conversations.

Exploring Black lives through film

1. Exploring Black lives through film

In 1619 — more than 400 years ago — the first enslaved Africans, forcibly removed from their homes, landed in the English colonies. To highlight their perseverance, and the resistance and determination of the generations that followed, the Library selected 40 films that amplify Black voices. The list was curated by A. Hamilton, of the Library Communications Office; Gisèle Tanasse, film and media services librarian; and film researcher Cassia Stepak. (Berkeley students, faculty, and staff can access the films on Kanopy using their CalNet IDs. The films are also available to public library users throughout the nation on their local library Kanopy platforms.)

Picks include: Race: The Power of an Illusion (which has a companion website); I Am Not Your Negro; Moonlight.

Black Lives Matter book list

2. Black Lives Matter book list

A mix of fiction, poetry, memoirs, and nonfiction, the books on this list shine a light on the history and politics of race and racism and celebrate Black lives. The multifaceted list was curated by Stacy Reardon, literatures and digital humanities librarian, and is on OverDrive, which provides access to bestselling works you can read or listen to from anywhere. (CalNet ID required to access online books.)

Picks include: So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo; Washington Black by Esi Edugyan; Black Panther, Vol. 1: A Nation Under Our Feet by Ta-Nehisi Coates (illustrations by Brian Stelfreeze).

Books on race and racism

3. Books on race and racism

This selection of books, put together by Michael Sholinbeck, Berkeley’s public health librarian, features a range of works exploring topics relating to race and racism — from a book centering Black women in the struggle for freedom to a guide to more inclusive social justice movements in the 21st century. All are available in digital form. (CalNet ID required to access online books.)

Picks include: Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements by Charlene A. Carruthers; Want to Start a Revolution?: Radical Women in the Black Freedom Struggle by Dayo F. Gore, Jeanne Theoharis, and Komozi Woodard (editors); Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla F. Saad.

Anti-racism reader

4. Anti-racism reader

“This anti-racist syllabus is for people realizing they were never taught how to be anti-racist,” writes Ibram X. Kendi, director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University, in the introduction to his list. The selection of 38 volumes — memoirs, essays, and nonfiction monographs — was published in an article in The Atlantic amid the fallout from Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s blackface controversy in 2019. The list, Kendi states, is not a destination but rather a starting point for making a change — both as individuals and in the world. Corliss Lee, American Cultures librarian, assembled the list of Kendi’s picks, noting which volumes are available as e-books through the Library. (CalNet ID required to access online books.)

Picks include: How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi; Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper; The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.

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