Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (Paperback)
The National Book Award winning history of how racist ideas were created, spread, and deeply rooted in American society.
Some Americans insist that we're living in a post-racial society. But racist thought is not just alive and well in America -- it is more sophisticated and more insidious than ever. And as award-winning historian Ibram X. Kendi argues, racist ideas 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. He uses the life stories of five major American intellectuals to drive this history: Puritan minister Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. Du Bois, and legendary activist Angela Davis.
As Kendi shows, racist ideas did not arise from ignorance or hatred. They were created to justify and rationalize deeply entrenched discriminatory policies and the nation's racial inequities.
In shedding light on this history, Stamped from the Beginning offers us the tools we need to expose racist thinking. In the process, he gives us reason to hope.
About the Author
Ibram X. Kendi is a #1 New York Times-bestselling author, the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University, and the founding director of the BU Center for Antiracist Research. He is an Ideas Columnist at the Atlantic and a correspondent with CBS News. He is the author of five books, including Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, which won the National Book Award for Nonfiction; the New York Times bestsellers How to Be an Antiracist and Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, coauthored with Jason Reynolds; and Antiracist Baby.
"We often describe a wonderful book as 'mind-blowing' or 'life-changing' but I've found this rarely to actually be the case. I found both descriptions accurate for Ibram X. Kendi's Stamped from the Beginning... I will never look at racial discrimination again after reading this marvellous, ambitious, and clear-sighted book."
—George Saunders, Financial Times, Best Books of 2017
"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, contradiction 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
"Ambitious, well-researched and worth the time of anyone who wants to understand racism."
"Kendi upends many commonly held beliefs about how racism works, exploring the ideas and thinkers behind our most intractable social and cultural problem."—Boston Globe
"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
"The National Book Awards show the way toward the America we want, not the one we're getting."—New York Magazine
"Kendi has done something that's damn near impossible: write a book about racism that breaks new ground, while being written in a way that's accessible to the nonacademic. If you've ever been interested in how racist ideas spread throughout the United States, this is the book to read."—The Root
"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
"Ambitious...Kendi bases his exhaustive study in one central thought: Racist ideas...have historically sprung from racist policies, and self-preservation of the ruling class. The policy leads to the ideology, not vice versa."—Dallas Morning News
"This book should be on every young leader's bookshelf. It's not pretty, but the truth often isn't."—Forbes Online
"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
"I honestly wish every American would read this book, especially people who haven't been exposed to the history of blatant, transparent racism in our public policy."
—Chicago Review of Books, Best Books of 2016
"Perhaps the most significant book of 2016, this National Book Award winner is a lucid, highly readable look at the origins of racist ideas in the United States."
—The Daily Kos
"This heavily researched yet easily readable volume explores the roots and the effects of racism in America. 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
"A work as prodigious as the subtitle implies.... Had Kendi only provided history, Stamped from the Beginning would be a meaningful contribution to the literature, but it is so much more. It a call for all Americans to look inward."—Albany Times Union
"In his relentless odyssey through the making of America's particular brand of prejudice...Kendi challenges our assumptions about racism by exposing the development of racist ideas-and their connection to racist actions and policies throughout our history."—Stephenie Livingston, University of Florida
"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
"Both a penetrating treatise and a wonderfully accessible work of intellectual history, Stamped from the Beginning reveals the heritage of ideas behind the modern dialectic of race-denial and race-obsession. By historicizing our entrenched logic of racial difference, Kendi shows why "I don't see color" and other professions of post-racialism remain inexorable alibis for white supremacy. Stamped from the Beginning has done the cause of anti-racism a great service."
—Russell Rickford, Associate Professor, Cornell University, and author of We Are an African People: Independent Education, Black Power, and the Radical Imagination
"Ibram Kendi is an important new voice in African American intellectual and social history. This book, an intellectual history of racist ideas, promises to break important new ground for scholarly and general audiences interested in the construction of racism in America."—Peniel E. Joseph, author of Stokely: A Life and Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour
"Richly sourced and engaging, Ibram X. Kendi's Stamped from the Beginning is a highly accessible yet provocative study that seeks to complicate our understanding of racist ideas and the forces that produce them."—Yohuru Williams, Professor of History and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Fairfield University
"Stamped from the Beginning delivers a timely and bold corrective to the history of racist and anti-racist ideas that explodes our understanding of the root of anti-black violence as we know it today. Kendi's deft analysis of key thinkers from Cotton Mather to Angela Davis illustrates how racial thought, specifically debates about racial difference, take shape across space and time and influence racial policies and the persistence of racial discrimination. This book is a must read for those interested in working to unearth the foundational ideas and practices that hinder true racial progress."—Keisha-Khan Y. Perry, Associate Professor, Brown University, and author of Black Women against the Land Grab: The Fight for Racial Justice in Brazil
"In his ambitious, illuminating, and engaging book, Ibram X. Kendi seamlessly assembles sources from Cotton Mather to Angela Davis; the Great Awakening to Black Lives Matter; the Birth of a Nation to Hip Hop culture, to show how not only race but racist ideas are at the center of American thought."
—Paula J. Giddings, EA Woodson Professor, Smith College, and author of Ida: A Sword Among Lions: Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching
"Blending deep research and analysis with a powerfully intimate and personal voice, Kendi...renders this work of intellectual history as compelling as the juiciest biography."—Los Angeles Times
"Kendi's unusually original and groundbreaking analysis is the product of an almost clinical modus operandi. First, he formulates a clear and simple definition of what constitutes a racist idea ("any concept that regards one racial group as inferior or superior to another racial group in any way"). He then unflinchingly applies that definition to the work of individual historical figures and to the ideas on race, slavery, segregation and integration that prevailed at various stages in US history. Like a laboratory scientist, he then interprets the results."—The Guardian
"One thing is sure. Stamped from the Beginning will be read by future generations. It has the potential to become a classic, must-read chronicle in the vast historiography on antiblack racist thought in the United States."—Public Books