Book details

Stamped from the Beginning

The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America

By Ibram X Kendi

About the Book

WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD IN NONFICTION

Americans like to insist that we are living in a postracial, color-blind society. In fact, racist thought is alive and well; it has simply become more sophisticated and more insidious. And as award-winning historian Ibram X. Kendi argues in Stamped from the Beginning, racist ideas in this country have a long and lingering history, one in which nearly every great American thinker is complicit.

In this deeply researched and fast-moving narrative, Kendi chronicles the entire story of anti–Black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. Stamped from the Beginning uses the lives of five major American intellectuals to offer a window into the contentious debates between assimilationists and segregationists and between racists and antiracists. From Puritan minister Cotton Mather to Thomas Jefferson, from fiery abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison to brilliant scholar W. E. B. Du Bois to legendary anti–prison activist Angela Davis, Kendi shows how and why some of our leading proslavery and pro–civil rights thinkers have challenged or helped cement racist ideas in America.

As Kendi provocatively illustrates, racist thinking did not arise from ignorance or hatred. Racist ideas were created and popularized in an effort to defend deeply entrenched discriminatory policies and to rationalize the nation’s racial inequities in everything from wealth to health. While racist ideas are easily produced and easily consumed, they can also be discredited. In shedding much–needed light on the murky history of racist ideas, Stamped from the Beginning offers us the tools we need to expose them—and in the process, gives us reason to hope.

About the Author

Ibram X. Kendi is an assistant professor of African American history at the University of Florida. He authored the award-winning book, The Black Campus Movement: Black Students and the Racial Reconstitution of Higher Education, 1965–1972. He has received research fellowships, grants, and visiting appointments from a variety of universities, foundations, professional associations, and libraries, including the American Historical Association, Library of Congress, National Academy of Education, Spencer Foundation, Lyndon B. Johnson Library & Museum, Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis, Brown University, Princeton University, Duke University, University of Chicago, and UCLA. Before entering academia, he worked as a journalist. His writings appeared in The Virginian-Pilot, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Philadelphia Weekly, and the Orlando Sentinel, among other publications. As a professor, he has contributed pieces to a number of publications, including Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and The Root.com. He lives in Florida.

Reviews

WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD IN NONFICTION

“[An] engrossing and relentless intellectual history of prejudice in America…The greatest service Kendi [provides] is the ruthless prosecution of American ideas about race for their tensions, contradictions and unintended consequences.” —Washington Post

“A deep (and often disturbing) chronicling of how anti-black thinking has entrenched itself in the fabric of American society.” —The Atlantic

“A staggering intellectual history of racism in America that is both rigorous and …readable.” —New Republic

“An intricate look at the history of race in the U.S., arguing that many well-meaning American progressives inadvertently operate on belief systems tinged with a racist heritage.” —TIME

“An altogether remarkable thesis on history, but, in ways that are both moving and immediately painful, it also reverberates with the post-election autopsy we're all conducting right now… Stamped from the Beginning is a riveting (and often rivetingly written) work, well deserving of the National Book Award.” —The Stranger

"Kendi is able to decisively quell the arguments that racism is a bygone byproduct of ignorance...Kendi’s writing style is plainspoken, detail-oriented, and straightforward...In the midst of leaving Jefferson and his fellows open to judgment, Kendi leaves plenty of room for self-questioning, and for drawing connections between the racist apologetics of the past and those of the present. The process makes for a compelling, thoroughly enlightening, unsettling, and necessary read."—Vox

“Self-proclaimed as a definitive history of racist ideas in the US, this exhaustive, encyclopedic opus lives up to that claim. Kendi's mighty tome is breathtaking in its scope…. Both worthwhile and extraordinary…. Essential.” —CHOICE

“An accomplished history of racist thought and practice in the United States from the Puritans to the present… In this tour de force, Kendi explores the history of racist ideas—and their connection with racist practices—across American history…. Racism is the enduring scar on the American consciousness. In this ambitious, magisterial book, Kendi reveals just how deep that scar cuts and why it endures, its barely subcutaneous pain still able to flare.” —Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

“Heavily researched yet easily readable… The narrative smoothly weaves throughout history, culminating in the declaration that as much as we’d like it to be, America today is nowhere near the ‘postracial’ country that the media declared following the election of Barack Obama in 2008. The hope here is that by studying and remembering the lessons of history, we may be able to move forward to an equitable society.” —Booklist

"Kendi's provocative egalitarian argument combines prodigious reading and research with keen insights into the manipulative power of racist ideologies that suppress the recognition of diversity. This is a must for serious readers of American history, politics, or social thought." —Library Journal

Stamped from the Beginning is a history of how racist ideas are built, and how they are built to last. Understanding this history is essential if we want to have any hope of progress. This book will forever change the way we think about race.” —Touré, MSNBC contributor and author of Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness

Table of Contents

Prologue
Part One: Cotton Mather
Part Two: Thomas Jefferson
Part Three: WIlliam Lloyd Garrison
Part Four: W.E.B. Du Bois
Part Five: Angela Davis
Conclusion