76 pages 2 hours read

Ibram X. Kendi, Jason Reynolds

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You

Nonfiction | Book | Middle Grade | Published in 2020

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Summary and Study Guide


Jason Reynolds’s Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You (2020) is a nonfiction book by the American authors Jason Reynolds and Dr. Ibram X. Kendi. It is a self-described “remix” of Kendi’s 2016 National Book Award winner Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. An award-winning writer of young adult fiction and poetry, Reynolds frames America’s history of racist ideas for an audience of middle school and high school readers. Reynolds’s remix is bookended by an introduction written by Kendi and an Afterword that transitions the reader out of the historical narrative and, hopefully, into antiracist action. This study guide refers to the 2020 hardcover edition published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

The book establishes several patterns through which to organize and understand historical racism in the United States. The authors divide “racist” and “not racist” into three categories: “segregationist” racism, the commitment to the separation and hierarchy of races; “assimilationist” racism, the push to integrate Black people into white society and abandon Blackness; and “antiracism,” the school of thought that believes in full racial equality.

Like Stamped from the Beginning, Stamped is divided into sections that cover distinct historical time periods, each anchored by a central historical figure who is representative of racist or antiracist developments in their lifetimes. Though the first section covers the broadest range of history and geography—African slave trading across the globe from 1415 to 1728—its main emphasis is the establishment of racist systems in the lands that became the United States. The leading racist intellectual of Colonial America was the Puritan minister Cotton Mather. The next segment ruminates on the contradictions in the racial ideology of Thomas Jefferson throughout his political career. In the third section, the authors discuss the antislavery ideology of editor William Lloyd Garrison and the politics of Abraham Lincoln. The fourth section centers on the long intellectual career of W. E. B. Du Bois, who shifted from assimilationism to antiracist activism in the 20th century. The last section focuses on Dr. Angela Davis, the Black feminist who embodies antiracist empowerment and resistance.

At the outset, Reynolds stresses that Stamped is not a history book, assuring a young adult audience that the book is more than a collection of distant names, dates, and events that no longer matter. He emphasizes the immediate relationship between the history of racist ideas and the present moment.

Reynolds utilizes humor and slang to transform intellectual and political history into an action-packed—and at times horrific—story for young adults. As the book discusses historical struggles and empowerment, racism and antiracism, and violence and resistance, it invites readers to become the next generation of empowered and educated antiracists that can resist ongoing affronts to Black freedom and equality. Though race is at the center of the analysis, he stresses the importance of including women and LGBTQ+ people into conversations about race and privilege, as the destruction of systems of inequality will involve addressing complex power structures that have historically held up white, wealthy, Christian, cisgender men at the highest levels of influence and power.