Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi is an expansive re-telling of the formative moments and people throughout the last 500 years that have either upheld or fought against racism in the United States.
"It is essential to resist the depiction of history as the work of heroic individuals in order for people today to recognize their potential agency as a part of an ever-expanding community of struggle." - Angela Davis
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi was written in 2020 as an in depth summary of the history of racism in the United States. It is a young adult version of the award winning book, Stamped from the Beginning by Kendi. The book spans over 500 years from 1415 to 2020, and focuses on providing a "people's history" by presenting narratives of different people throughout history who have either promoted or fought against racism.
This section introduces the reader to whom Reynolds and Kendi call the "World's First Racist", Gomes Eanes de Zurara, a Portuguese writer who chronicled Portugal's colonization and enslavement of African people. He claimed that enslavement was justified because Africans were inferior to white Europeans. This idea of racialized hierarchy was used to justify racism and the evil practice of slavery for centuries to come. The authors also write about early Puritan ministers John Cotton, Richard Mather, and their descendant Cotton Mather from Boston, Massachusetts. He explains how their control over the church exacted a control over the laws and the everyday lives of the Puritans. They also helped further Zurara's false narrative that white people were superior to Indigenous and Black people. The authors point out how important and powerful the role of the "chronicler" is in shaping people's ideas surrounding racism and justifying the horrors of slavery.
Section 2 moves on to the Enlightenment period, which is seen as a great leap in intellectual thinking. The authors point out that while Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, who were great enlightenment thinkers of their time, advocated for liberty from tyranny, they also held onto racist ideas that perpetuated the institution of slavery for a hundred years after the Declaration of Independence declared "All Men are Created Equal". The authors demonstrate how racism and white supremacy are actually "stamped" into the founding documents of the United States.
Section 3 focuses on the fight to abolish slavery from the Haitian Rebellion that successfully overthrew enslavers and granted Haitians independence to enslaved people like Nat Turner rising up to violently emancipate themselves. Famous and courageous abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Beecher Stowe are discussed as well as the complex history of Abraham Lincoln, the "Great Emancipator" who is credited with ending slavery but also held racist views.
This section discusses reconstruction and the fight for newly freed African Americans to overcome white supremacist violence and segregation to gain full and equal rights. It focuses on the nuanced stories of great intellectuals and activists like Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X., and Martin Luther King, Jr. The authors point out that many prominent civil rights leaders adapted their stances over their lifetimes. They explain the differences between segregationists, assimilationists, and anti-racists. As Reynolds and Kendi say, "Segregationists are haters. Like real haters. People who hate you for not being like them. Assimilationists are people who like you, but only with quotation marks. Like…’like’ you. Meaning, they ‘like’ you because you’re like them. And then there are antiracists. They love you because you’re like you.”
The final section traces the events of the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s, which resulted in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. The authors discuss the influences of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. and their differing and evolving viewpoints. They also point out the complicated histories of Presidents Johnson, Regan, Bush, and Clinton with regards to race. They highlight Barack Obama's ascendancy as the first Black president and how despite that progress, there have been many setbacks. The authors point out the activist work of Angela Davis, the Black Power movement, and Davis' fight against sexism, heterosexism, and capitalism as well as racism. They believe that the youth will lead the way to end inequality and fight for a brighter future. As Reynolds concludes, "All of you [young people] deserve to know that you are in fact the antidote to anti-Blackness, xenophobia, homophobia, classism, sexism, and the other cancers that you have not caused but surely have the potential to cure."