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A History Book that Isn't: Finding a Way to Teach Racism to a New Generation

Historians in the News
tags: history education, racism, books



After his award-winning book came out in 2016, Ibram X. Kendi heard from people everywhere, telling him it opened their eyes to a new way of looking at history.

"They were coming up to me and saying, 'It feels too late now. I wish I had read this in middle school,' " he says. 

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, follows five historical figures — like the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison and the activist Angela Davis — and offers readers unwashed versions of who they were, and the role that racist ideas played in their lives. 

Kendi, an author and historian at American University, says history books in schools today too often don't offer students a deep enough perspective or account of who people were and what they did. 

Which led him to take up the challenge of those people who wished they'd learned these lessons in middle school: Give young people access to this history by collaborating with a writer who could take his facts (the history) and write it for a younger audience.

In his mind there was only one person to do it: the children's book author, Jason Reynolds. When he let Reynolds in on this plan, he got a surprising answer: No.

"History is not my thing. I'm a fiction writer!" Reynolds explains. But Kendi persisted, and eventually Reynolds caved. "I realized [Kendi] believed in me more than I believed in myself," he says.

Read entire article at NPR

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