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Books by ASU authors that illuminate the African American experience

By

Penny Walker

As awareness of racial injustice has broadened this spring and summer, reading lists have been shared to help increase people's understanding of our nation's past and present — including one in Arizona State President Michael Crow's statement on Juneteenth

English Professor Keith Miller was excited to see Crow's post linking to the Chicago Public Library's Black Lives Matter book list, but he noticed one thing: There were no ASU authors on the list. 

He reached out to Kenja Hassan, director of cultural relations in ASU's Office of Government and Community Engagement, to see if such a list might be created — with the goal of increasing awareness within the ASU community of what other faculty are working on.

"During my first years as a professor at ASU, few of us taught courses in African American history and culture. Even though we were scattered in different units, we knew each other and met occasionally," Miller said, pointing out that ASU later initiated its African and African American Studies program in the 1990s. "Since then, ASU has, fortunately, hired numerous additional professors who teach courses in African and African American culture, art, music, literature, rhetoric and history. Many of them have published significant scholarship in these fields. Kenja Hassan works diligently to keep people in touch.

"But, unlike before, not everyone knows everyone else, especially those who teach on different ASU campuses. So I thought it would be useful to compile a complete list of scholarly books, if possible, so that each of us could gain a more complete idea of what everyone else is doing." 

Working with Suzanne Wilson of Media Relations and Strategic Communications, Hassan put out a call to faculty for titles, confirming whether the books would help readers "understand some aspect of the current anguish African Americans are experiencing," Hassan said. The authors come from a variety of units across ASU, and the titles include both fiction and nonfiction.

Many of the books on the list also have a gender focus, and it's important not to ignore that intersectionality, Hassan said.

"Being a Black female during slavery and Jim Crow meant a particularly cruel level of abuse without recourse," she said. "Women were expected to produce more slaves from both Black and white men, raise them and often take care of the slave owners' white children, too. Today, disparities in hiring, promotion and pay highlight the relatively lower value placed on Black women in the world of work. Black girls are more harshly disciplined in schools; outspoken Black women are often viewed as threatening rather than assertive."   

In addition to the reading list below, Hassan suggests these learning resources:

Even if ongoing Black Lives Matter protests don't draw as much media coverage as earlier in the spring, Hassan said it's important for people to keep doing the work of learning about racism and having the conversations.  

"Ignoring systemic racism is like ignoring cancer once you have a diagnosis. You may not feel it at the moment, but if unaddressed it will eventually lead to your demise," Hassan said. "Our nation is the most diverse in the world of its size. We must be exemplary in all ways in order to prove to the world that people can collaborate and live peaceably in one nation despite cultural, language and religious differences. In order for us to do that successfully, we must face and uproot our systemic inequalities."

The ASU book list is a place to start — or continue — that work.

Books by ASU authors on the African American experience and race relations

Books

College of Integrative Sciences and Arts

Department of English, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation

Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

School of Music, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts 

School of Social Transformation, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences 

T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences 

Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions 

W. P. Carey School of Business / Global Sport Institute

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Book chapters/foreword

Barrett, the Honors College

Hugh Downs School of Human Communication

W. P. Carey School of Business / Global Sport Institute

 Top photo from Pixabay