The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America
Winner of the National Book Award; a gripping, comprehensive and game-changing reappraisal of the causes and extent of anti-Black racism
Stamped from the Beginning is a redefining history of anti-Black racist ideas that dramatically changes our understanding of the causes and extent of racist thinking itself.
** Winner of the US National Book Award**
Its deeply researched and fast-moving narrative chronicles the journey of racist ideas from fifteenth-century Europe to present-day America through the lives of five major intellectuals – Puritan minister Cotton Mather, President Thomas Jefferson, fiery abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, brilliant scholar W.E.B. Du Bois, and legendary anti-prison activist Angela Davis – showing how these ideas were developed, disseminated and eventually enshrined in American society.
Contrary to popular conception, it reveals that racist ideas did not arise from ignorance or hatred. Instead, they were devised and honed by some of the most brilliant minds of each era, including anti-slavery and pro-civil rights advocates, who used their gifts and intelligence wittingly or otherwise to rationalize and justify existing racial disparities in everything from wealth to health. Seen in this piercing new light, racist ideas are shown to be the result, not the cause, of inequalities that stretch back over centuries, brought about ultimately through economic, political and cultural self-interest.
Stamped from the Beginning offers compelling new answers to some of the most troubling questions of our time. In forcing us to reconsider our most basic assumptions about racism and also about ourselves, it leads us to a true understanding on which to build a real foundation for change.
“A staggering intellectual history”
“Unusually original and groundbreaking ... Ibram X Kendi's brilliant book ... has disturbed some readers because of the author's fearless reappraisal of the words, actions and philosophies of some of the more revered heroes of American abolitionism and civil rights -- including African American heroes ... Kendi remains awake to nuance and complexity [yet] this is not a historian fearful of upsetting orthodoxies or questioning fixed reputations. He goes where the evidence takes him, which is not to where we or we might want it to go ... a compelling if discomfiting thesis ... persuasive and powerful”
David Olusoga, Observer
“Absorbing… This is a powerful, thought-provoking book that features a dizzying array of characters, deftly navigates complex intellectual terrain and draws on a wealth of evidence”
Simon Hall, Literary Review
“A deep (and often disturbing) chronicling of how anti-black thinking has entrenched itself in the fabric of American society”
“Upends many commonly held beliefs about how racism works”
“Engrossing ... ruthless”
“You should read it for its arguments about what racism is, even if in the end you are not obliged to agree with all of them. Nor should you dodge it on the basis that you knew all this already -- like me, you almost certainly didn't ... It is remarkable how economic interest spawned a semi-millennium's worth of cod theorising, pseudo-science and vulgar abuse masquerading as fact”
David Aaronovitch, The Times
“Stamped from the Beginning provides a lucid, accessible survey of how “the people” were racialised over 500 years… Kendi confidently re-evaluates the writings of many celebrated abolitionists and African-American heroes and concludes that racism often underpinned their strategies… Kendi’s most important insight might help rethink anti-racist activism… Stamped from the Beginning is an unyielding narrative of racist ideas, violence and harm”
Sadiah Qureshi, New Statesman
“I can’t say whether Ibram X Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning will offend most white people (though I’m willing to bet it will offend some), but he damn sure names white supremacy for what it is… His research is exhaustive and his conclusions will surprise many”
Mark Anthony Neal, Guardian