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Stamped from the Beginning

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Stamped from the Beginning

The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America

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Ibram X. Kendi offers a landmark history of the complex, ever-evolving face of racism in the United States.

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  • Comprehensive
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Historian Ibram X. Kendi offers an exhaustive, gripping portrayal of the complex, heartbreaking history of racism in the United States. Kendi traces the progress of racism and antiracism in philosophy, politics, science, law and popular culture over five periods in American history – as seen through the lens of a significant thinker of each period. His account emphasizes the cause-and-effect connections between ideas and policies. A National Book Award winner and New York Times bestseller, Kendi’s history has earned its place on the bookshelves of historians, activists and engaged Americans.


Racist ideas result from the desire to discriminate – they don’t cause discrimination.

Many people believe that ignorance and hate led to racist ideas, which in turn led to racial discrimination. But history doesn’t support this order of cause and effect. Economic, political and cultural self-interest drove powerful Americans to create and promote racist ideas. These ideas reduce social resistance to discriminatory policies and practices that serve those elites. Modern-day politicians have, for example, promoted the notion of personal responsibility to conceal the true causes of racial inequities.

Racism in America has run along two tracks: assimilationism and segregationism.

Segregationists often point to biology as the source of Black people’s alleged inferiority. In the 17th century, Christian segregationists believed in polygenesis – that God created white people and nonwhite people in separate acts of creation. Thus, Black people were “stamped from the beginning” with inequality – in former senator Jefferson Davis’s words – and nothing can change this. In the early 20th century, eugenicists formulated intelligence...

About the Author

Ibram X. Kendi is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the humanities at Boston University and the founding director of the BU Center for Antiracist Research. He is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and a CBS News correspondent. In 2020, Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.  

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