Stamped From the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi

I wanted to cover this book last week for Juneteenth but it is a behemoth of information. So, I’ll share it today.

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.

As I said, this book is a behemoth of information and not a quick and easy read. Each page offers insight in to the American past we are not taught in history classes and Kendi does do a great job of demonstrating how this past has and continues to influence our present. (BONUS: There are lots of suggestions for your TBR!)

Stamped from the Beginning chronicles notable figures whose names are all familiar but whose mainstream stories lack honesty. When I reached the back cover, I was more enraged than anything else. For once, I have held in my hands a book of history that was (a) entirely transparent in its sources and (b) thought-provoking.

So much of the non-fiction I have read has not made me consider my own ideas or assumptions about life and society – this one does. Not just by providing an analysis of history but by proving, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that history is crucial to understanding how we got where we are today. And where we go from here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: IBRAM X. KENDI

IBRAM X. KENDI is one of America’s foremost historians and leading antiracist voices. He is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and the Founding Director of The Antiracist Research & Policy Center at American University in Washington, DC. A professor of history and international relations, Kendi is a contributor at The Atlantic and CBS News. Beginning July 1, 2020, Kendi will become Professor of History and the Founding Director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research. He will also become the 2020-2021 Frances B. Cashin Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for the Advanced Study at Harvard University.

He is the author of THE BLACK CAMPUS MOVEMENT, which won the W.E.B. Du Bois Book Prize, and STAMPED FROM THE BEGINNING: THE DEFINITIVE HISTORY OF RACIST IDEAS IN AMERICA, which won the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2016. At 34 years old, Kendi was the youngest ever winner of the NBA for Nonfiction. He grew up dreaming about playing in the NBA (National Basketball Association), and ironically he ended up joining the other NBA.

His third book, HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACISTwas a #1 New York Times Bestseller and made several Best Books of 2019 lists. His much anticipated fourth book with Jason Reynolds, STAMPED: RACISM, ANTIRACISM, AND YOU, debuted at # 1 on the New York Times Bestseller List.

Kendi has published fourteen academic essays in books and academic journals, including The Journal of African American History, Journal of Social History, Journal of Black Studies, Journal of African American Studies, and The Sixties: A Journal of History, Politics and Culture. He has published op-eds in numerous periodicals, including The New York Times, The Guardian, Washington Post, London Review, Time, Salon, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, Paris Review, Black Perspectives, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. He commented on a series of international, national, and local media outlets, such as CNN, MSNBC, NPR, Al Jazeerah, PBS, BBC, Democracy Now, and Sirius XM. A sought after public speaker, Kendi has delivered hundreds of addresses over years at colleges and universities, bookstores, festivals, conferences, libraries, churches, and other institutions in the United States and abroad.

Kendi strives to be a hardcore antiracist and softcore vegan. He enjoys joking it up with friends and family, partaking in African American culture, weight-lifting, reading provocative books, discussing the issues of the day with open-minded people, and hoping and pressing for the day the New York Knicks will win an NBA championship and for the day this nation and world will be ruled by the best of humanity.

In 2013, he changed his middle name from Henry to Xolani (meaning “Peace” in Zulu) and surname from Rogers to Kendi when he wed Sadiqa Kendi, a pediatric emergency physician from Albany, Georgia. They chose their new name together and unveiled “Kendi,” meaning “loved one” in Meru, to their family and friends at their wedding. Their wedding photos, including Sadiqa’s beautiful gold dress, were featured in Essence Magazine.

Kendi was born in 1982 to parents who came of age during the Black power movement in New York City. They were student activists and Christians inspired by Black liberation theology. While Kendi was in high school, his family moved from Jamaica, Queens, to Manassas, Virginia. He traveled further south and attended Florida A&M University, where he majored in journalism. He initially aspired for a career in sports journalism, freelancing for several Florida newspapers, and interning at USA Today Sports Weekly, as well as in the sports sections of the Mobile Register and Atlanta Journal-Constitution. By the end of his tenure at FAMU, he had become alienated from sports journalism and increasingly interested in engaging in racial justice work. He picked up a second major in African American Studies and graduated in 2004.

After working for a time as a journalist at The Virginian Pilot, Kendi pursued his graduate studies. At 27 years old, he earned his doctoral degree in African American Studies from Temple University in 2010. The year before, Kendi began his career as an assistant professor of African American history at SUNY Oneonta in upstate New York, before moving down the road to SUNY Albany, and then to the University of Florida, and to AU. In 2017, he became a full professor, the highest professorial rank, at 34 years old.

Kendi has been visiting professor at Brown University, a 2013 National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow, and postdoctoral fellow at the Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis. He has also resided at The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress as the American Historical Association’s 2010-2011 J. Franklin Jameson Fellow in American History. In the summer of 2011, he lived in Chicago as a short-term fellow in African American Studies through the Black Metropolis Research Consortium. He has received research fellowships, grants, and visiting appointments from a variety of other universities, foundations, professional associations, and libraries, including the Lyndon B. Johnson Library & Museum, University of Chicago, Wayne State University, Emory University, Duke University, Princeton University, UCLA, Washington University, Wake Forest University, and the historical societies of Kentucky and Southern California. In 2019, The Root 100 listed him as the 15th most influential African American between the ages of 25 and 45 and the most influential college professor. Kendi was awarded the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship in 2019.

On June 16, 2020, Kendi’s first board book, ANTIRACIST BABY, is set for publication.


Photo and synopsis from The Lit Bar

Bio from ibramxkendi.com

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