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Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America

4.63  ·  Rating details ·  8,377 ratings  ·  1,582 reviews
Americans like to insist that they are living in a post-racial, color-blind society. In fact, racist thought is alive and well; it has simply become more sophisticated and more insidious. And as award-winning historian Ibram X. Kendi argues in Stamped from the Beginning, racist ideas in America have a long and lingering history, one in which nearly every great American thi ...more
Hardcover, 592 pages
Published April 12th 2016 by Bold Type Books (first published March 8th 2016)
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Unnikrishnan It is a slow burning rage which gets built up with the author's quiet and well-researched prose. Not the kind of rage which explodes and putters out q…moreIt is a slow burning rage which gets built up with the author's quiet and well-researched prose. Not the kind of rage which explodes and putters out quick. This is the kind of rage which will inform Americans on finally effecting the changes in policy which have oppressed African Americans for hundreds of years. This book does not gift you a helpless and speechless rage in the face of the racists and white supremacists, it is the kind of informed rage which will give you the tools to break down all the facile arguments built by racists, of the supposed superiority of whites and the supposed inferiority of blacks. This is the kind of rage which burns up all the silly reasons for American interventionism abroad, when many of its own citizens are denied the freedom for which Americans die in far-away lands. Your war-zone for freedom is not syria or afghanistan but it is right there in your streets and courts.(less)
Darice Davis Your question is such a part of the problem this country faces that this books addresses. It (racism) is so much a part of American culture at its cor…moreYour question is such a part of the problem this country faces that this books addresses. It (racism) is so much a part of American culture at its core that the knee jerk response to even the attempt to mention the subject is often to deny and turn a blind eye and ear to the public policies, language and institutions that exclude and stigmatize groups of people. Dr. Kendi in Stamped ... gives the history and connects the history to present day. A detailed example found in the current day U.S. mass incarceration/prison system (see The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander).
If your genealogist friends need further scientific data and exploration on the subject of racism, it can be found in Skin Deep, a new work which addresses the scientific biases that many use to justify exclusionary conduct and policies.(less)

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Chelsea Humphrey
A must read.

Edited to add that most libraries are offering the audiobook of this title for free via Hoopla. If you're having trouble getting your hands on a physical copy, or are financially strapped right now, this is a great alternative! Also, Spotify has the entire Stamped audiobook for free at the moment!

The insights and understanding shared with us in this dazzling work of erudition and scholarship entirely make up for its enormous length. One wonders how it can be that such a book has not been written to date, the need for such a work obvious from the moment Kendi begins to trace the evolution of America’s history of racist ideas, from the pre-revolutionary settlers and the sermons of Cotton Mather right through Thomas Jefferson, William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. DuBois, and Angela Davis. By the ...more
Paul Bryant
Jul 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What’s this – 5 stars yet still marked as “to read”? Please explain yourself!

I was talking today with a friend of mine who just joined Goodreads and he raised the question of books which are too difficult to review. These are usually non-fiction books which are so crammed with ideas that to review them properly you would need 5 closely typed pages, and it must be admitted, most GR users will be dozing off by the end of page one, even your dearest GR friends. (I did suggest that he include a gif
Jun 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites, 2020
Speedily sketches the history of anti-Black ideas in America, from the time of their origins in 15th-century Europe up to Obama's first inauguration. Kendi takes on so much here⁠—six centuries' worth of racist beliefs + policies, the whole of U.S. history, the life stories of five famous intellectuals⁠—and he does so in a way that's not infuriatingly general, glib, or reductive, but insightful and accessible. Well worth checking out as the concept of anti-racism bursts into the mainstream.
J.L.   Sutton
Oct 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shattering the myth that we are living in a post-racial society, Kendi traces racist ideas from the beginnings of chattel slavery in Africa through its history in the United States.

“The principal function of racist ideas in American history has been the suppression of resistance to racial discrimination and its resulting racial disparities. The beneficiaries of slavery, segregation, and mass incarceration have produced racist ideas of Black people being best suited for or deserving of the conf
Raeleen Lemay
Jun 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book was amazing but DENSE. I desperately need to get my hands on a copy (I listened to the audiobook) because I’d love to reread this and tab it and make notes, because there was tons of info I’d like to revisit. I find history books tough because I can never remember every detail I learn as I read, but being able to flip through and refresh my memory would be really helpful. This is a very important read though that highlights racism all the way back to its roots, and every ugly detail al ...more
Jun 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017-favorites
I've only been reading recreationally since 2015, but in that short time frame, this is the best nonfiction book I've ever read! No questions asked! It changed my life and how I view the world. I read this in January of 2017, so a reread needs to happen in the coming years, but this is the real deal... A game-changing, mind-altering masterpiece.
Mar 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Jun 14, 2020 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
This will be my next audiobook! Currently available on Hoopla and has come highly recommended.
What do you think about when you hear climate theory?

I guess climate change, global warming and maybe Montesquieu, but you should also think about the history of racism. Here is where "Stamped "comes into play, which teaches you the development of racism. From it‘s origins, before"racism" even was a word, to the manifestation in American politics and society today. It‘s a great journey through time, written in an engaging way and helps you to understand where racists ideas come from.

I particul
Jan 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
*2016 National Book Award for Non-Fiction*

Ibrahm Kendi's work is evident of a great deal of scholarly research. I felt that I had to commit myself to giving it at least the same treatment. Scientist that I am, I found myself leafing through his references, pulling out more morsels of truth. It wasn't enough to pour over the pages of this well written tome. Twenty two pages of outline notes later, I feel as if I still could revisit this work as there is still more intellectual meat to be cons
Jun 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Looking back through centuries of history, Ibram X. Kendi gradually takes us through the layers and layers of lies used to define and denigrate people from Africa. The self-serving and nasty attitudes masquerading as good Christianity of each new "learned" person, built upon the lies of earlier men (going back to the Middle Ages and to Ancient Greece), served to reinforce and harden bigoted ideas. And these were used to justify the kidnapping, separation of families, rape, torture, enslavement a ...more
Oct 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Every American should read this book. A true tour de force, an absolute scorched-earth history and reassessment of racism in the United States. I read a lot of American history and I read a lot, talk about a lot, try to learn a lot about the role of racism in American history and the present, and I was absolutely floored by what this book showed me that I did not know and had not considered. Moreover I was impressed with the author's interweaving of issues such as sexism and heterosexism. Very e ...more
This book goes wide (not deep) on a very important topic, and should be required reading for everyone. That phrase gets thrown around a lot when talking about "important books", but I'm seriously for serious here. Kendi has written THE comprehensive book about the history of racism in America, tracing it all the way from its roots in the 16th century through modern day, and he covers it from top to bottom, hitting on every major point you can probably think of along the way. It's an invaluable r ...more
Fadwa (Word Wonders)
This book took me the better part of a month to read because of dense and detailed it is, but that also made it thorough so I did not mind it. I actually liked just how much detail the author went into, laying out the evolution (or not) of racism in the US through the centuries, pretty much from the origins of transatlantic slavery to the Obama era. The fucked up part that he really did a good job at highlighting is the fact that it's always the same arguments that have been regurgitated, tweake ...more
Feb 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: five-stars
Ibram Kendi's Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America is a monumental book. It covers over 300 years of racist beliefs about Black people from 1635 to the present day. Kendi tells this history in a smart way by dividing it up into five parts. Each part has a central figure who has expressed through their lifetimes racist, assimilationist and antiracist views (Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. DuBois, and Angela Davis). The five ...more
Apr 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The popular and glorious version of history saying that abolitionists and civil rights activists have steadily educated and persuaded away American racist ideas and policies sounds great. But it has never been the complete story, or even the main story. Politicians passed the civil and voting rights measures in the 1860s and the 1960s primarily out of political and economic self-interest—not an educational or moral awakening. And these laws did not spell the doom of racist policies. The racis
Feb 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Udeni by: Christy
"Stamped from the Beginning" is an ambitious and (necessarily) lengthy history of racist ideas towards black Amercians. Despite its length (over 500 pages), it is a compelling read, brimming over with surprising facts, laser-sharp analysis, and a clear argument.

Kendi argues that racist policies are promoted through racist ideas by powerful men who wish to maintain control of their wealth. Discrimination is not caused by ignorance and hate. Racial discrimination leads to racist ideas, which lead
Feb 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Probably closer to 3.5 stars, but this is worth rounding up
Joseph Stieb
In some ways tremendous, and in others deeply frustrating, this is an impressive but flawed history of racist ideas in the US. The book is at its strongest when it is a work of history, documenting the evolution of these ideas and their consequences since well before the European settlement of North America. It is at its weakest as a polemical piece of advocacy, where I think it will do little more than preach to the converted. Although I listened to it, I will definitely draw on large parts of ...more
I read this because I am teaching The Fire Next Time.

It's one of those books that I find hard to review. I think everyone in America should read it, and if I had a magic wand or the power of the Force, I would make everyone read it. But writing that sounds flippant despite it being true.

What Kendi (with the aid of his wife he thanks quite a bit) does is trace the development of Racist ideas in America. He does this in part by challenging the standard definations of some words and terms. This is
Susan O
So far this is the best book I've read all year. It is very important and I recommend it to everyone. Kendi expanded my ideas of what racism is and how pervasive and insidious it is. Although Kendi's history is based on five major historical figures, his emphasis is on racist thought, wherever it appears. And the places and people who exhibit that thought might surprise you. The ideas and principles are also applicable to other groups/characteristics as well such as immigrants and various religi ...more
Jan 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fic, antiracism
This book is phenomenal. It was certainly a challenge for me to read - not only because I am not very familiar with the history covered in the first 3/5 of this book - but because this book unflinchingly covers five-plus centuries of ugly and insidious racist ideas. Racism is not new, but it is not enjoyable seeing how entrenched it is in every aspect of our society, and seeing how racism is replicated in different historical settings. The book reminded me of Audre Lorde's quote: "There are no n ...more
Daniel Chaikin
Sep 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This this is a history of racism and racist ideas, even if it's maybe more a manifesto more than a history. Kendi's motivation was the rampant racist American law enforcement we see today, not to mention all the other aspects of our current (well, pre-Trump, but was there then too) racism.

The book reads like a kind of black people's history of the United States, beginning with the Portuguese first encounters with black Africans and then tracing the path of the various European justifications fo
Jason Adams
Nov 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
I found "Stamped From The Beginning" to be a problematic book. The author, Ibram X. Kendi, takes pains to mention in the afterword, that he is writing to a mass audience. This appears to have ed to a narrative approach to racist ideas through the centuries. While this is definitely accessible, I think the attempt to strip away scholarly rigor and include pop culture touchstones also weakens the books contentions. On the one hand, the book never does a good job of creating a model that defines ra ...more
Literary Chic
Mar 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
A very enlightening and probably controversial book.

The author presented many arguments and a thorough history of America’s racism. The work was very well done. My only argument was there were a few facts set forth for which the author did not give proofs or footnotes. While he did an excellent job presenting his work and I tend to agree with the majority of what he said, a proofed statistic would have made his argument stronger in places.

If you are a reader who believes we live in a post racial
Sep 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was an INCREDIBLY helpful intellectual history of racist ideas in the US. I found this so helpful in locating various ideas and people in the firmament of racial, political, religious, and social history. Honestly, this might qualify as one of the rare books I would recommend us about anyone read. Heartbreaking, yes, but also clarifying, and it is inspiring me to go back to the source texts referenced throughout
John Bohnert
Sep 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book shows just how racist America is and has been throughout its history.
Erik Graff
Aug 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: US citizens
Recommended to Erik by: Michael Miley
Shelves: history
This is not 'the definitive history of racist ideas in America' promised by the subtitle. That would take much more than its 585 pages. It is, however, an overview of racist thinking along two lines that author Kendi identifies as 'segregationist' and 'assimilationist', following both tendencies from 1619, when slaves were first introduced to the colonies, through the Obama administration. This is done in terms of five periods associated with Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, Wm. Lloyd Garrison, ...more
Roger DeBlanck
Dec 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning (2016) is a landmark work that serves the vital purpose of exposing the depth and extent of racist ideas throughout the course of America’s existence. In carrying out this riveting study, Kendi defines the three contentious belief systems relative to the ongoing history of racist ideas. The segregationists believe Blacks possess a biological inferiority. The antiracists understand that Blacks are equal and the same as any group of people. And the assim ...more
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26 likes · 19 comments
“The principal function of racist ideas in American history has been the suppression of resistance to racial discrimination and its resulting racial disparities. The beneficiaries of slavery, segregation, and mass incarceration have produced racist ideas of Black people being best suited for or deserving of the confines of slavery, segregation, or the jail cell. Consumers of these racist ideas have been led to believe there is something wrong with Black people, and not the policies that have enslaved, oppressed, and confined so many Black people.” 28 likes
“Time and again, racist ideas have not been cooked up from the boiling pot of ignorance and hate. Time and again, powerful and brilliant men and women have produced racist ideas in order to justify the racist policies of their era, in order to redirect the blame for their era’s racial disparities away from those policies and onto Black people.” 22 likes
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