Ibram X. Kendi

Author of
  • Stamped From the Beginning
    Nation Books (03/16)

Stamped from the Beginning is the 2016 National Book Award Winner for Nonfiction!

Ibram X. Kendi is an historian of racist and antiracist ideas.

He is the author of the award-winning book, The Black Campus Movement: Black Students and the Racial Reconstitution of Higher Education, 1965-1972. The book is the first national study of the remarkable and inspiring antiracist Black student struggle in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Ibram X. Kendi is a visiting assistant professor of Africana Studies at Brown University and a National Academy of Education/Spencer Post-doctoral Fellow. He is on leave from the University at Albany – SUNY, where he is an assistant professor of Africana Studies.

Kendi has published twelve essays in books and leading journals, and contributes regularly to Diverse: Issues in Higher Education. He has resided as fellow at the Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis and at the Library of Congress as the American Historical Association’s 2010-2011 J. Franklin Jameson Fellow in American History, the AHA’s most esteemed fellowship for non-tenured historians.

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Stamped From the Beginning

The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America

Young black men are 21 times more likely to be killed by police than their white counterparts. The unemployment rate for African Americans has been double that of whites for more than half a century. And yet Americans cling desperately to the myth that we are living in a post-racial society, that the election of the first black president spelled doom for racist policies and racist beliefs. In fact, racist thought is alive and well in America; it has simply become more sophisticated and more insidious. And as award-winning history Ibram X. Kendi argues in Stamped From the Beginning, if we have any hope of grappling with this stark reality, we must first understand how racist ideas were developed, disseminated, and enshrined in American society.

In this deeply researched, provocative narrative, Kendi offered a comprehensive history of anti-Black racist ideas – their origins in fifteenth-century Portugal, their arrival in England in the mid-sixteenth century, and their blossoming in the United States, where they became the founding principles of our nation’s institutions and guarantors of its power. Contrary to popular conceptions, these ideas did not arise from ignorance or hatred. Instead, they were devised and honed by some of the most brilliant minds of each era, men like John Locke and Thomas Jefferson. In an effort to justify and rationalize deeply entrenched discriminatory policies and disparities, assimilationists and segregationists alike created, debated, popularized, and defended racist ideas in the modern era, dictating the discussion on race for four hundred years.

Kendi narrates this history through the lives of five major characters in American history: early America’s most prolific and influential intellectual, Puritan minister Cotton Mather; the third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson; fiery abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison; brilliant scholar and thinker W.E.B. Du Bois; and legendary anti-prison activist Angela Davis. Their rich and surprising stories offer a window into the debates between assimilationists and segregationists and between racists and antiracists that have marked Black Americans for centuries.

As Kendi shows, racist ideas are easily produced and easily consumed, but they are also easily discredited. In shedding much-needed light on the long, dark history of racist ideas, Kendi offers us the tools we need to expose them – and in the process, gives us reason to hope.

Praise for Stamped From the Beginning

Ibram Kendi is an important new voice in African American intellectual and social history. This book, an intellectual history of racist ideas, promises to break important new ground for scholarly and general audiences interested in the construction of racism in America.

Peniel Joseph, Founding Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy, Tufts University

Richly sourced and engaging, Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning is a highly accessible yet provocative study that seeks to complicate our understanding of racist ideas and the forces that produce them.

Dr. Yohuru Williams, Professor of History and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Fairfield University

Both a penetrating treatise and a wonderfully accessible work of intellectual history, Stamped from the Beginning reveals the heritage of ideas behind the modern dialectic of race-denial and race-obsession. By historicizing our entrenched logic of racial difference, Kendi shows why "I don't see color" and other professions of post-racialism remain inexorable alibis for white supremacy. As this meticulous study suggests, we escape such contradictions only by becoming staunch anti-racists and actively confronting the intellectual and material legacies of our common racialist genealogy. Stamped from the Beginning has done the cause of anti-racism a great service.

Russell Rickford, author of We Are an African People: Independent Education, Black Power, and the Radical Imagination

Stamped from the Beginning is a history of how racist ideas are built, and how they are built to last. Understanding this history is essential if we want to have any hope of progress. This book will forever change the way we think about race.

Touré, author of Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness

An accomplished history of racist thought and practice...A tour de force...Racism is the enduring scar on the American consciousness. In this ambitious, magisterial book, Kendi reveals just how deep that scar cuts and why it endures, its barely subcutaneous pain still able to flare.

Kirkus, Starred Review

This heavily researched yet easily readable volume explores the roots and effects of racism in America. Kendi...offers this history though chronologically arranged sections based on the lives of five figures from American history... Kendi posits that there is a three-way argument happening between segregationists, who blame black people for racial disparities; antiracists, who blame discrimination; and assimilationists, who think everyone is at fault. The narrative smoothly weaves throughout history, culminating in the declaration that as much as we'd like it to be, America today is nowhere near the "post racial" country that the media declared following the election of Barack Obama in 2008. The hope here is that by studying and remembering the lessons of history, we may be able to move forward to an equitable society.

Rebecca Vnuk, Booklist

It’s a good moment for books that take a long view on race. After a brief descent into a post-racial fantasy, 21st-century America has realized that it remains quite racial after all... Kendi, a historian at the University of Florida, proposes a standard. “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.”

Carlos Lozada, The Washington Post

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