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

4.57  ·  Rating details ·  3,824 ratings  ·  770 reviews
Some Americans cling desperately to the myth that we are living in a post-racial society, that the election of the first Black president spelled the doom of racism. In fact, racist thought is alive and well in America--more sophisticated and more insidious than ever. And as award-winning historian Ibram X. Kendi argues in Stamped from the Beginning, if we have any hope of ...more
Kindle Edition, 594 pages
Published April 12th 2016 by Nation 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…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)

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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  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
*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 consum
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 racist
I've only be reading recreationally since 2015, but in that short time frame, this is the best 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 y'all... Run don't walk to read this game-changing, mind-altering masterpiece.
Feb 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Feb 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
Probably closer to 3.5 stars, but this is worth rounding up
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
Literary Chic
Mar 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
John Bohnert
Sep 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book shows just how racist America is and has been throughout its history.
Jan 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook-owned, audio
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
Roger DeBlanck
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
Debbie Notkin
Apr 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most important history books I have ever read. Kendi's take on the history of racism is original, thorough, convincing and (to quote the friend who lent the book to me) clarifying.

The basic principle of the book is that racism is neither a manifestation of ignorance nor a manifestation of hatred, though Kendi would not argue that both of those play a part in racism. Instead, he argues that racism is a product of racist ideas, which are conceived and disseminated so that peopl
Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2017
This book, you all. Please read it. Settle in with it and be challenged. Prepare for the long game with this one - almost 600 pages and not one of them unnecessary in laying out the history of racism in America. I am going to say that this book is hands down the hardest book that I have read. It actually took me 4 separate times of borrowing it from the library to finish it -- partly because there is SO MUCH INFORMATION, most of which was new to me. Even when it was not new, the context and the ...more
Chris Blocker
May 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is perhaps the most powerful and well-built book I've come across on the subject of xenophobia/racism. Not only is Ibram X. Kendi well versed on the subject, but he presents it in a very unbiased and honest manner. Tracing the history back to the first enslavement of Africans by the Portuguese in the 1400s, Kendi works through nearly 600 years with significant care and detail. He separates the historical figures from the legends and analyzes each by the same criteria: segregationist, assimi ...more
Dec 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a thorough review of racist attitudes in the United States from the time of the Puritan settlers to the administration of President Obama. The book is organized around 5 historical persons who somehow exemplify the racial attitudes of an era. For me, these figures did not help to organize my thoughts around the subject. Entire chapters in a section might only mention that person in passing while the attitudes or policies discussed were simply one more approach to the question, not that o ...more
Peter Mcloughlin
History of ideas. Namely, the ideas surrounding race and racism in colonial America to the present. These ideas developed around economic needs of exploitation. Racist ideas developed as a handmaiden to political economy and have served as a justification for convenient economic relations for wealthy slaveowners, factory bosses, politicians and interest groups. There is always a debate on which drives history ideas or material conditions. In the case of racist ideas take second fiddle to economi ...more
Feb 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very expansive history of racism and anti-racism. As society progresses on race, so too do racist ideas. Kendi breaks down racist ideas into segregationist, assimililationist and anti-racist. This book is well worth the read.
David Rush
Whew, that was quite a book.

“A Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America”, a history of ideas and necessarily a history of people as they lived for or fought against those ideas.

Kendi's title comes from a speech given to Congress in 1860 by Jefferson Davis where he justifies slavery because that is the way it has always been. But he may also be a nod to the idea that racist ideas were stamped from the beginning of our country.

It is divided into 5 sections using iconic Americans as springbo
Jul 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What an endeavor (and I’m not just referring to the research and writing that went into this tome)! This is by far the most comprehensive guide through 500 years of racist thought, ideas and policy concerning the lives of blacks in America. The author has divided the book into periods, using one prominent historical figure as a guide and reference point for each period, uncovering their personal thoughts and feelings about blacks and race in general, exposing not only their own biases and shortc ...more
Alexis Sims
Sep 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jason Adams
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
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Goodreads Librari...: Page count correction - Stamped From the Beginning 3 14 Dec 21, 2018 06:16AM  
Book club Discussion Question ideas? 4 42 Oct 14, 2017 12:56PM  
Were black people really "Stamped from the Beginning?" 2 21 Aug 15, 2017 12:40PM  

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“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.” 16 likes
“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.” 13 likes
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