As young people grapple with understanding and finding ways to dismantle the systemic racism entrenched in American society—so clearly and brutally exposed in the recent murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd—educators are in a powerful position to guide them toward resources that illustrate and give context to these inequities. This Curriculum Connection, originally published in March 2020, supports you in that mission. Stamped not only illuminates how racist practices have played out in American history, it also offers a new generation of readers tools with which to identify and call out racism in their daily lives.
From New York Times bestselling author and National Ambassador for Young People's Literature Jason Reynolds and award-winning scholar and New York Times bestselling author Ibram X. Kendi comes Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You (Little, Brown 2020). This YA "remix" of Kendi's National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning (Bold Type Books 2016) has a younger readership in mind in its accessibility and energy as Reynolds lays out the history of racism and racist ideas in America and their enduring political, social, and cultural manifestations.
To help you make the most of this YA release in the library and classroom, we're sharing some great new resources that will pair well with Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You from teacher librarian Julia Torres—check out her curriculum ideas and recommended nonfiction and fiction book pairings below, and the accompanying section-by-section guide and lesson plans in the Lesson Plans & Activities menu to the left.
Book Pairings & Curriculum Ideas from Language Arts Teacher and Librarian, Julia Torres
"Dear Reader - To know the past is to know the present. To know the present is to know yourself."
So begins Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, the remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram Kendi. In this book—which the authors boldly and unapologetically proclaim is not a history book—Jason Reynolds (the recipient of a Newberry Honor, a Printz Honor, multiple Coretta Scott King Honors, a Kirkus Prize, two Walter Dean Myers Awards, and an NAACP Image Award, among other honors) skillfully recounts a counter-narrative of the history we think we know and defines what it means (historically and today) to be a segregationist, assimilationist, or antiracist through thought, words, and actions.
Librarians, literacy educators, and the readers they support will find the work equal parts complex and straightforward, shattering and stirring. In Stamped, Reynolds and Kendi have an artfully crafted and meticulously researched documentation of historical, social, and ideological movements that lead up to our modern definition of structural, interpersonal, and intrapersonal racism. The book is a call to action for a deep examination of the ways anti-blackness exists in every facet of American life; it affirms that in order to become antiracist, we have to discover the roots and dig through the soil where those seeds were planted. To support student understanding of the complex histories of race and racism in America that Stamped lays out, consider pairing this book with other classic and contemporary readings on the topic.
For many of us growing up in the United States, or anywhere with a history of colonization, race and racism are understood to be part of a static reality, rather than learned about and studied as social constructs. Stamped takes a look at history in five sections, exploring racism and racist thought from its very beginnings to the present day.
Students learning about explorers and colonization can look to this book to learn about the world's first racist—a storyteller, who wrote the world's first defense of African slave trading—as well as Italian (Lucilio Vanini) and English (John Locke) philosophers who contributed to the formation of modern ideas about race. Supplement Section 1 with excerpts or a full reading of Complete Writings by Phillis Wheatley (Penguin Classics 2001) to help students identify the thinking and beliefs about human intelligence, white supremacy, and race that were used to justify colonization and enslavement.
Educators and learners studying primary source documents from the American Revolution, Thomas Jefferson, and the founding of the American government will also gain an understanding of racist underpinnings through a term Reynolds calls "uplift suasion." This is the idea that if Black people can make ourselves small, unthreatening, the same, we will eventually be determined safe in order to make White people comfortable with our existence. This "cornerstone of assimilationist thought" is a spoke in the wheel of racism that keeps it moving forward. Though history teaches us that slavery came to a halt through the Emancipation Proclamation, the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Anti-Slavery Office 1849) and Narrative of Sojourner Truth (1878) teach us about the struggle to leave slavery behind, and the great American contradiction which has been to simultaneously exploit Black bodies for monetary gain and deny our personhood all while attempting to convince us that our acceptance from without and within depends on our alignment to Whiteness.
"Uplift suasion" immediately following the Emancipation Proclamation looked like the pomp and pride Marcus Garvey paraded; it looked like industry and diligence from Booker T. Washington's Up from Slavery (The Outlook Co. 1901); and, it looked like the contradiction W. E. B. Du Bois aptly identified as a "double-consciousness" in The Souls of Black Folk (A. C. McClurg & Co. 1903). It looked like Ida B. Wells-Barnett shifting the way people saw and experienced Blackness in America, and the history of violence on the Black body, through Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All its Phases (The New York Age Print 1892).
Stamped artfully weaves back and forth between history, politics, and the development of antiracist thought in relation to the collective consciousness through these sociopolitical movements. When we study Blackness in school, it is most commonly through a brief (and sanitized) glance at slavery and a deep dive into the supposed gains achieved during the civil rights era. In Stamped, we move through and beyond the civil rights movement through the stories of Rodney King, O.J. Simpson, and many others, as Reynolds draws clear connections between racist thoughts and actions, and such racist policy and practices as police brutality, the War on Drugs, mass incarceration, and voter suppression.
The book's final section moves from an examination of the indelible marks Angela Davis and James Baldwin made on our modern understanding of race and racism to the impact of Barack Obama's election to the presidency, which allowed many of us to erroneously believe we were much further along in the development of antiracist consciousness.
In addition to the books mentioned above, Stamped is an essential and natural pairing for such books as Dear Martin (Penguin Random House 2017), The Hate U Give (HarperCollins 2017), Brown Girl Dreaming (Penguin Group 2014), and All American Boys (Simon & Schuster 2015) that are just beginning to make their way into the canon of essential works taught in schools, along with such titles as The Bluest Eye (Holt McDougal 1970), I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Random House 1969), The Autobiography of Malcolm X (Grove Press 1965), Invisible Man (Random House 1952), Native Son (Harper 1940) and Their Eyes Were Watching God (J. B. Lippincott & Co. 1937).
In the end, Stamped challenges our notions of what it means to be racist. It reimagines what it will take for this country to become antiracist through a thorough and skillfully crafted counter-narrative to the history so many of us think we know.
Torres, Julia. "Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You Educator Guide." School Library Connection, March 2020, schoollibraryconnection.com/Content/LiteratureLesson/2243261?topicCenterId=0.
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