This curated list of books is provided by our Anti-Racism Team.
“The Purpose Gap” by Patrick Reyes
“The Purpose Gap” offers advice, including creating safe spaces for failure, nurturing networks that support young people of color, and providing professional guidance for how to implement these strategies in one’s congregation, school or community organization. It also helps churches, schools and nonprofits to counteract the effects of societal neglect and racism on young people of color.
“All God’s Children” by Steven McKenzie
Racism is still a contemporary problem. A century ago, many people used the Bible to defend bigoted beliefs and practices. Now, Steven McKenzie insists that the Bible’s message leads Christians away from the narrowness of bigotry to God’s vision of humanity, free from racial division.
“Becoming an Anti-Racist Church” by Joseph Barndt
Christians addressing racism in American society must begin with a frank assessment of how race figures in the churches themselves, leading activist Joseph Barndt argues. This practical and important volume extends the insights of Barndt’s earlier, more general work to address the race situation in the churches and to equip people there to be agents for change in and beyond their church communities.
A hallmark of Barndt’s analysis is his keen grasp of the deep yet checkered legacy that American church and church bodies inherit on this question. Yet Barndt also lifts up the ways in which their prophetic work has proved a catalyst for progress in American race relations, and he clearly shows why and how churches can inculcate an antiracist commitment into their collective lives.
“Ending Racism in the Church” Edited by Susan Davies, Sister Paul Teresa Hennessee
Boldly speaking to church members everywhere, Ending Racism in the Church raises awareness of how racism influences behavior and spawns hatred. Four case studies describe church or community agencies that strive to end racism, then a diverse group of scholars and activists identify the subtle ways in which racism undermines the gospel’s spirit. A guide is included to help groups discuss issues that separate the church. Ending Racism in the Church is an invaluable aid to church members of all backgrounds.
“The Color of Compromise” by Jemar Tisby
The Color of Compromise is both enlightening and compelling, telling a history we either ignore or just don’t know. Equal parts painful and inspirational, it details how the American church has helped create and maintain racist ideas and practices. You will be guided in thinking through concrete solutions for improved race relations and a racially inclusive church.
- Takes you on a historical, sociological, and religious journey: from America’s early colonial days through slavery and the Civil War
- Covers the tragedy of Jim Crow laws, the victories of the Civil Rights era, and the strides of today’s Black Lives Matter movement
- Reveals the cultural and institutional tables we have to flip in order to bring about meaningful integration
- Charts a path forward to replace established patterns and systems of complicity with bold, courageous, immediate action
- Is a perfect book for pastors and other faith leaders, students, non-students, book clubs, small group studies, history lovers, and all lifelong learners.
“How to Fight Racism” by Jemar Tisby
How to Fight Racism is a handbook for pursuing racial justice with hands-on suggestions bolstered by real-world examples of change. Tisby offers an array of actionable items to confront racism in our relationships and in everyday life through a simple framework–the A.R.C. Of Racial Justice–that helps readers consistently interrogate their own actions and maintain a consistent posture of anti-racist action. This book is for anyone who believes it is time to stop compromising with racism and courageously confront it.Tisby roots the ultimate solution to racism in the Christian faith as we embrace the implications of what Jesus taught his followers. Beginning in the church, he provides an opportunity to be part of the solution and suggests that the application of these principles can offer us hope that will transform our nation and the world. Tisby encourages us to reject passivity and become active participants in the struggle for human dignity across racial and ethnic lines. Readers of the book will come away with a clear model for how to think about race in productive ways and a compelling call to dismantle a social hierarchy long stratified by skin color.
“I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness” by Austin Channing Brown
Austin Channing Brown’s first encounter with a racialized America came at age seven, when she discovered her parents named her Austin to deceive future employers into thinking she was a white man. Growing up in majority-white schools and churches, Austin writes, “I had to learn what it means to love blackness,” a journey that led to a lifetime spent navigating America’s racial divide as a writer, speaker, and expert helping organizations practice genuine inclusion.
In a time when nearly every institution (schools, churches, universities, businesses) claims to value diversity in its mission statement, Austin writes in breathtaking detail about her journey to self-worth and the pitfalls that kill our attempts at racial justice. Her stories bear witness to the complexity of America’s social fabric—from Black Cleveland neighborhoods to private schools in the middle-class suburbs, from prison walls to the boardrooms at majority-white organizations.
For readers who have engaged with America’s legacy on race through the writing of Ta-Nehisi Coates and Michael Eric Dyson, I’m Still Here is an illuminating look at how white, middle-class, Evangelicalism has participated in an era of rising racial hostility, inviting the reader to confront apathy, recognize God’s ongoing work in the world, and discover how blackness—if we let it—can save us all.
*“The Church Enslaved: A Spirituality for Racial Reconciliation” by Tony Campolo, Michael BattleTwo of the most vocal activists on racial issues in the church seek nothing less than a conversion of American Christianity. They directly challenge the churches to resume leadership in overcoming and redressing America’s legacy of racial segregation. Campolo and Battle expose the realities of racial division in the churches and then lift up a vision of a church without racism. To achieve reconciliation within and among the denominations, they argue, both the black and the white church need to acknowledge and overcome substantial problems in their traditions. The authors provide a blueprint for how racially reconciled churches can encourage activism in the cities, church involvement in politics, and responsible use of the Bible, ultimately helping to transform American society itself.
“Resurrecting Church” by John Cleghorn
Resurrecting Church interweaves three strands. First, it is the remarkable turnaround story of Caldwell Presbyterian Church, which was on the edge of extinction when author John Cleghorn filled the role of pastor. Second, Cleghorn tells the story of his own growth and liberation from the myopia of privilege. Cleghorn traded his position as senior vice president of the nation’s largest bank for ministry and the dusty and dated church office at Caldwell Presbyterian. The third strand includes the stories of several diverse congregations researched by the author. These congregations are examples of faith communities that have taken risks, deepening empathy and seeking justice. Through these stories, the book updates the “”same old”” conversation about church vitality in timely and surprising ways.
Cleghorn raises these important questions: Can churches survive, even be resurrected, at the intersections of race, sexuality, class, and faith background? Can congregations be liberated by rebuilding around those on the margins who have been wounded by church? As more US cities become majority-minority, the “”mainline”” church remains stubbornly white and homogeneous. Church leaders and thinkers are seeking ways to build more racial diversity and radical welcome. This book provides hope and practical examples of how this can happen.
Cleghorn declares, “”God is doing what Jeremiah calls ‘a new thing'”” in congregations where multiple types of diversity intersect, erecting spiritual hospitals for the wounded and marginalized. For the church, these intersections provide both a current lens of self-examination and avenues to growth in faith. With stories, people profiles, and insights from their leaders and members, this book breaks new ground with practical learning and lessons drawn from original research and the lived experience of intersectional churches across the US.
“How the Word is Passed” by Clint Smith
Beginning in his hometown of New Orleans, Clint Smith leads the reader on an unforgettable tour of monuments and landmarks—those that are honest about the past and those that are not—that offer an intergenerational story of how slavery has been central in shaping our nation’s collective history, and ourselves.
It is the story of the Monticello Plantation in Virginia, the estate where Thomas Jefferson wrote letters espousing the urgent need for liberty while enslaving more than four hundred people. It is the story of the Whitney Plantation, one of the only former plantations devoted to preserving the experience of the enslaved people whose lives and work sustained it. It is the story of Angola, a former plantation–turned–maximum-security prison in Louisiana that is filled with Black men who work across the 18,000-acre land for virtually no pay. And it is the story of Blandford Cemetery, the final resting place of tens of thousands of Confederate soldiers.
A deeply researched and transporting exploration of the legacy of slavery and its imprint on centuries of American history, How the Word Is Passed illustrates how some of our country’s most essential stories are hidden in plain view—whether in places we might drive by on our way to work, holidays such as Juneteenth, or entire neighborhoods like downtown Manhattan, where the brutal history of the trade in enslaved men, women, and children has been deeply imprinted.
Informed by scholarship and brought to life by the story of people living today, Smith’s debut work of nonfiction is a landmark of reflection and insight that offers a new understanding of the hopeful role that memory and history can play in making sense of our country and how it has come to be.
“So You Want to Talk about Race” by Ijeoma Oluo
In this New York Times bestseller, Ijeoma Oluo offers a hard-hitting but user-friendly examination of race in America. Ijeoma Oluo guides readers of all races through subjects ranging from intersectionality and affirmative action to “model minorities” in an attempt to make the seemingly impossible possible: honest conversations about race and racism, and how they infect almost every aspect of American life.