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Stamped from the Beginning

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by Ibram X. Kendi

Synopsis

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist, the National Book Award-winning masterwork revealing how racist ideas were created, spread, and became 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.

Praise for Stamped from the Beginning:

“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 marvelousambitious, and clear-sighted book.” – George Saunders, Financial Times, Best Books of 2017

Ambitious, well-researched, and worth the time of anyone who wants to understand racism.” —Seattle Times

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

  • Winner of the 2016 National Book Award for Nonfiction
  • New York Times Bestseller
  • Washington Post Bestseller
  • On President Obama’s Black History Month Recommended Reading List
  • Finalist for the 2016 National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction
  • Named one of the Best Books of the Year by the Boston GlobeWashington PostChicago Review of BooksThe RootBuzzfeedBustle, and Entropy

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About this book

736 Pages
16 - 18 Hours to read
200k Total words

Description

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist, the National Book Award-winning masterwork revealing how racist ideas were created, spread, and became 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.

Praise for Stamped from the Beginning:

“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 marvelousambitious, and clear-sighted book.” – George Saunders, Financial Times, Best Books of 2017

Ambitious, well-researched, and worth the time of anyone who wants to understand racism.” —Seattle Times

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

  • Winner of the 2016 National Book Award for Nonfiction
  • New York Times Bestseller
  • Washington Post Bestseller
  • On President Obama’s Black History Month Recommended Reading List
  • Finalist for the 2016 National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction
  • Named one of the Best Books of the Year by the Boston GlobeWashington PostChicago Review of BooksThe RootBuzzfeedBustle, and Entropy

  • PublicAffairs; April 2016
  • ISBN: 9781568584645
  • Title: Stamped from the Beginning
  • Author: Ibram X. Kendi
  • Imprint: Bold Type Books
  • Language: English

In The Press

“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


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 BU’s Center for Antiracist Research. He is an Ideas Columnist at The Atlantic and a correspondent with CBS News. He is the author of four books including Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, which won National Book Award for Nonfiction, and the New York Times bestsellers How to Be an Antiracist, STAMPED: Racism, Antiracism, and You, co-authored with Jason Reynolds, and Antiracist Baby.

Additional information

FORMAT

Hardcover, Paperback

10 reviews for Stamped from the Beginning

  1. MrsG

    I bought this book for a class that I’m taking in the fall, and I started reading it this weekend. I just completed part one, and while reading it I had to put this book down and weep multiple times. They say we don’t see the world as it is… we see it as we are. We wake up every morning and open our eyes to a world that has been created for us. We breathe in ideas, thoughts, philosophies, opinions that created the world we live in. We believe what we have been told to believe. We think what we’ve been told to think. And until we trace the roots of our human history and the ideas they created it, we will never understand the world we live in or the world inside our own minds. Thank you, Ibram X. Kendi, for helping me to begin to trace some of the roots of the philosophies that rule our lives today. It is only in knowledge and understanding that we can undo the damage that’s been done. I am undone… This book is incredible, brutal, devastating, truthful… necessary. Read it… weep . . . and then change yourself and your world.

  2. Anthony Pignataro

    This is one of the greatest history books I’ve ever read. I was highlighting passages on pretty much every page, mostly because so much of what’s here was new to me. Hey, I’m an upper middle class white guy who’s trying to examine my own privileges, understand more of why there’s so much racism in this country and learn how I can do better. This book, which was undoubtedly extremely difficult to write, is an amazing resource, one I’ll be referring back to probably for the rest of my life. We all owe Ibram X. Kendi a tremendous debt.

  3. Brent Young

    It is so simple to just claim racism for every disparity. If you look for racism everywhere, you will find racism everywhere. The author even has to re-define racism so as to support his theories. And most of the points he makes are very one sided and only half the story. Just one example, the crack cocaine penalties being more severe was pushed by the Congressional Black Caucus. Charles Rangle stood behind the president has he signed that bill. It was Clinton who refuse to change the standard after it was deemed racist. All of these facts are left out. The author just wants to blame the Republican president for being a racist.

  4. Dojcin

    Kendi pathologically cherry-picks his data. When discussing race and health, he laments that blacks are more likely than whites to HAVE Alzheimer’s disease, openly implying that this demonstrates clear anti- Black racism in the medical field. Of course, he neglects to mention that Whites are more likely to DIE from Alzheimer, according to the Center for Disease Control.In the same vein, Kendi notes that blacks are more likely than whites to die of prostate cancer and breast cancer, but he does not include the fact that blacks are less likely than whites to die of esophageal cancer, lung cancer, skin cancer, ovarian cancer, bladder cancer, brain cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and leukemia.By selectively citing data that show blacks suffering more than whites, Kendi turns what should be a unifying, race-neutral battle ground––namely, humanity’s fight against deadly diseases––into another proxy battle in the War on Racism.The entire book is filled with this kind of imaginary stuff. Unfortunately, It would require 5 whole books to debunk all the errors in this publication. – This book was nothing but a rushed political propaganda published in an election year (2016). Unfortunately it did not work and it will work even less in 2020 as Trump has unprecedented black support for a republican candidate.

  5. A. H. Wagner

    About halfway through reading this book, I realized I was highlighting almost every single page and had to start color-coding my highlights so as to make a little more sense of why certain passages struck me—a visual testimony of how illuminating Stamped from the Beginning is. With a primary focus on racism toward African-Americans and people identified as Black, this book is a thoroughly researched, sweepingly comprehensive survey of racism from its first traceable roots in ancient Greece when Aristotle said Africans had “burnt faces” to the start of the African slave trade in 15th century Europe, to the first recorded slave ship arriving in colonial America in 1619, all the way through the Civil War, the Jim Crow laws, the 1960s Civil Rights movement, and up to the present day. In order to help readers navigate this extensive timeline, author Ibram X. Kendi divides the book into five parts, featuring one historical figure as a sort of tour guide or anchor for each part.Very few individuals or institutions mentioned in this book come off as completely free of racist thinking; even many abolitionists and civil rights activists are revealed to have held racist ideas that contradicted their cause. This made me realize the extent to which racism has ensnared the United States in its pernicious roots. In Stamped from the Beginning, Kendi presents two main ideas about racism that helped me understand its influence and progress over the centuries. First, he explains that “Hate and ignorance have not driven the history of racist ideas in America. Racist policies have driven the history of racist ideas in America.” The author admits, “I was taught the popular folktale of racism: that ignorant and hateful people had produced racist ideas, and that these racist people had instituted racist policies. But when I learned the motives behind the production of many of America’s most influentially racist ideas, it became quite obvious that this folktale, though sensible, was not based on a firm footing of historical evidence.” As Kendi explains further, “Racially discriminatory policies have usually sprung from economic, political, and cultural self-interests, self-interests that are constantly changing.” Now that I understand self-interest—not hate or ignorance—has been the driving factor behind racist policies, I can better understand why racism hasn’t died out with the Emancipation Proclamation or desegregation or any of the Civil Rights Acts passed in this country. Tragically, racism persists and continues to evolve according to the current self-interests of people and institutions in power. It’s why, after slavery was abolished, segregation and the Jim Crow laws rushed in to replace it, and long after segregation has been outlawed, African-Americans continue to be oppressed by disproportionate mass incarceration as well as disadvantaged by fewer, inferior housing and employment opportunities.Second, Kendi points out that racism is not simply a debate between those who support racist ideas and those who oppose racist ideas. Throughout history, three–not two–viewpoints on racism have persisted: “A group we can call segregationists has blamed Black people themselves for the racial disparities. A group we can call antiracists has pointed to racial discrimination. A group we can call assimilationists has tried to argue for both, saying that Black people and racial discrimination were to blame for racial disparities.” As much as I would like to believe I am firmly in the antiracist camp, reading this book made me realize I have held a lot of racist ideas from an assimilationist viewpoint that I need to correct. Kendi gives many examples of well-meaning civil rights activists, including some African-Americans, who upheld assimilationist ideas. Some persisted with these ideas their entire lives, others realized their error and later self-corrected to an antiracist viewpoint, and still others upheld both antiracist and assimilationist ideas, often not realizing the contradiction. Thus, a tragic pattern that has repeated itself throughout American history is the persistence of many assimilationists in seeking to abolish racist policies and ideas with the same flawed strategies that never work.Indeed, the African-American author admits, “Even though I am an African studies historian and have been tutored all my life in egalitarian spaces, I held racist notions of Black inferiority before researching and writing this book.” I think it’s crucially important that Kendi tells readers about his mistaken notions of race—not to make readers feel better about their own ignorance, but to demonstrate how deeply racist ideas have taken root in American culture. Hopefully this admission on the author’s part will ease readers out of their defensive mode and open their minds to the disturbing truth that racism is a lot more pervasive among us Americans than we would like to believe.If you want to understand exactly how racism took root in the United States and why it has persisted through the present day, if you are prepared for a very sobering, very painful, and often highly disturbing look at the many flaws, hypocrisies, and atrocities in the American notions of democracy, exceptionalism, and “liberty and justice for all,” then Stamped from the Beginning is a must-read. Ultimately, what the author conveys with copious examples is that “Black Americans’ history of oppression has made Black opportunities—not Black people—inferior.” An absolutely necessary emendation to the traditionally accepted canon of American history.

  6. Taylor

    I feel this book has received higher review ratings than it probably deserves. Yet, it’s still an overall good read and it discusses an important societal issue of U.S. history. This review will include both positive and negative feedback of this book.The author, Ibram Kendi, has done a great job at making this book accessible to readers. It’s not overly infused with academic jargon. The chapters are also quite short, which makes it easier to read. The substance of the book is pretty informative too. Kendi’s frequent usage of quotes really exposes the racist attitudes and ideas that were (and still are) present in American society.Although this book contains an abundance historical quotes, many of them lack sufficient explanation and context. As a student of history, I appreciate deeper, rounded discussions of historical figures. I felt that Kendi mostly includes short bits of statements from historical figures, then hastily shows how those statements equal racism in the person being discussed. I guess Kendi’s style is OK. It just doesn’t quite feel dedicated to historians craft. Another, less important critique is about the book title’s usage of the term “Definitive.” I’m surprised that this work was labeled as definitive. To be definitive, it would need to include racial histories of ALL ethnic/racial groups throughout both the American colonial and U.S. eras. Alternatively, this book’s title may have been more appropriate as “The Definitive History of Racist Ideas Towards Peoples of sub-Sarahan African Descent in America.”Overall, I’m glad I purchased and read this book. It boldly explains certain sides of history that much of our society has missed. I did not grow up in a “racist” household. Yet, this book helped me reflect on my own attitudes, which have been influenced by racist ideas to some degree. I hope others (especially other Americans) can read this book with an open heart and mind.

  7. Harold Rossow

    Hasty, superficial and–unsurprisingly–biased. Badly written and hardly researched. There’s a reason most ofthe blurbs are from third and fourth-rate sources.

  8. Sean Vermillion

    I saw Kendi speak about his new book. He appeared to be scholarly when it comes to making his arguments. However, I was shocked and disappointed to find in his book accusations that the 1968 film, Planet of the Apes, and the 1976 film,Rocky, are a racist reflection of white America. He argues that 1968, the year Planet came out, Lyndon Johnson’s State of the Union address called for law and order against the riots and protests, there were fears that a “violent black revolution could be on the horizon (p. 400). That may have been well and true. However, on the following page (p. 401), Kendi projects his own biased assumptions about the film by arguing that it was somehow a reflection of the white collective subconsciousness’s view of black people as apes. However, it doesn’t appear that he’s ever seen the film or took the time to learn the film’s message. He wrote, “When White astronauts land on a planet after a 2,000 year journey, apes enslave them” (Kendi, 2016, p. 401). Well, for starters the astronauts weren’t all white. One was black! When actor Charlton Heston realizes he is on Earth upon discovering the Statue of Liberty partly buried on a sandy beach, he says the now famous line, “You blew it up, you basterds!” He says this because HUMAN civilization ended after a nuclear war, which was also a fear at that time. Kendi also made no reference to his interpretation of the film. He only commented, “Planet if the Apes took the place of Tarzan in racist popular culture.” On page 422, Kendi wrote about Rocky, “Rocky’s opponent, Apollo Creed, with his amazing avalanche of punches, symbolized the rising black middle class, and the real life heavyweight champion of the world in 1976, the pride of Black Power masculinity, Muhammad Ali. Rocky Balboa-as played by Sylvester Stallone-came to symbolize the pride of White supremacy’s refusal to be knocked out of the avalanche of civil rights and Black Power protests and policies.” Rocky is merely an American underdog story that Stallone wrote, based off of the 1975 heavyweight boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Chuck Wepner. A match that the white boxer nearly beat the World Champion. Like Planet of the Apes, the film was used by Kendi as well as his reference as a sort of rorschach test to project their own biases about the films being racist. If Kendi chooses to interpret both films in his spare time as reflections of collective white unconscious racism, that’s fine and dandy. However, when I find these speculations in a book being touted as an achievement of black scholarship, I have to question what other liberties Kendi took with the truth in his book.

  9. Read-A-Lot

    The author posits that there are really 3 sides to the debate of racial disparities existing and persisting. The three sides are segregationists, assimilationists and antiracists. His definition of racism,i.e., the adoption of racist ideas is a simple one, and as such you will see some famous people that will surprise you to be labeled as racist at points in their career. W.E.B. DuBois is certainly a name most readers would never associate with being a “racist” during his long illustrious career.One thing that is most important in these kinds of arguments, is for everyone to be operating from the same definition. So to the author’s credit he states his explanation of racist ideas early. Keep in mind, we are not talking about racism, but racist ideas and how these ideas have affected and infected not only Americans but world citizens. “My definition of a racist idea is a simple one: it is any concept that regards one racial group as inferior or superior to another racial group in any way. I define anti-Black racist ideas—the subject of this book—as any idea suggesting that Black people, or any group of Black people, are inferior in any way to another racial group.”With that in mind,author Ibram Kendi compiles a comprehensive history of racist ideas, using historical “tour guides ” to traffic readers through a landscape beginning in mid 1600 to present day. Kendi here makes a powerful statement with this book about how these racist ideas have led to continuing racist discrimination.”I held racist notions of Black inferiority before researching and writing this book. Racist ideas are ideas. Anyone can produce them or consume them, as Stamped from the Beginning’s interracial cast of producers and consumers show…Fooled by racist ideas, I did not fully realize that the only thing wrong with Black people is that we think something is wrong with Black people.I did not fully realize that the only thing extraordinary about White people is that they think something is extraordinary about White people.”That’s a potent admission for someone writing the “definitive” history of racist ideas. But I think it is important to this wonderful work by Kendi. As he goes about exposing these ideas, readers may be surprised to find themselves subscribing to ideas that, by Kendi’s definition are clearly racist. As we move through the five eras, with our guides, you will be fascinated as these ideas and the consequences of them are brought to light. Thoughts that you have given little attention to, and have become part of your consciousness will hopefully be liberated.Something that black people generally do when they hear some terrible news item, one of the initial thoughts is hoping the perpetrators are not Black. Does that hope spring from our buying into the racist idea that Black people are pathological? And we will be judged by the actions of the perpetrators and therefore be seen as defective? Is this a racist idea?”Already, the American mind was accomplishing that indispensable intellectual activity of someone consumed with racist ideas: individualizing White negativity and generalizing Black negativity. Negative behavior by any Black person became proof of what was wrong with Black people, while negative behavior by any White person only proved what was wrong with that person.”All the ways that racist ideas have worked hand in hand with discrimination are unearthed here. And it may come as a surprise to some that prominent Black leaders of their day held tightly to racist ideas, like uplift suasion. The concept that “was based on the idea that White people could be persuaded away from their racist ideas if they saw Black people improving their behavior, uplifting themselves from their low station in American society. The burden of race relations was placed squarely on the shoulders of Black Americans. Positive Black behavior, abolitionist strategists held, undermined racist ideas, and negative Black behavior confirmed them.”Sounds a lot like today’s concept of respectability politics, if we would just pull our pants up, stop listening to that damn music, not be so loud, etc. etc. If we would just present ourselves in a more respectable manner, we could then usher in that post-racial epoch that some say is already here.The journey through the racist idea history has to include the players and events of the time periods covered and Kendi does a good job of incorporating that history and integrating the ideas that girded those times. The book clocks in at 500 pages, but it is well worth your time and investment.

  10. Kaitlyn Martin

    This was the worst supposedly scholarly book I ever read. Kendi’ biases were evident the entire book. Also the ideas that were presented should be examined more thoroughly.

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