Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You

Book review by
Barbara Saunders, Common Sense Media
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You Book Poster Image
Conversational history traces U.S. ideas about race.

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

This book works on two levels: First is teaching about history of race in America. Second is offering a lesson in critical thinking, as it presents history of a set of ideas about race, identifies a frame for analysis, and uses that frame to examine well-known stories and the lives and work of historical figures.

Positive Messages

Ideas shape reality. Know the ideas you consume and spread. The ideas people communicate may support or undermine their intentions.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Guides readers to reexamine certain iconic role models, including Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Angela Davis, to better understand the origin, context, and effects of the ideas associated with those people. 

Violence

Mention of historical and contemporary events involving violence, including lynching, police brutality, assassinations, rape, and the killing of Emmett Till.

Sex
Language
Consumerism

One motif of the text is showing how public sentiment about race translated into media. Several popular media properties are mentioned: Birth of a Nation, Tarzan, The Cosby Show, numerous rap artists. Section on the tussle between President Bill Clinton and Sister Souljah.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Section about crack epidemic, racially charged use of term "crack babies," the differences in sentencing for possession of crack cocaine vs. powder cocaine.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi is the middle-grade version of Kendi's National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning, which was written for adults. Told in a casual, conversational, relatable, and sometimes humorous tone, it frames African American history as a history of competing ideas: "Haters" (segregationists) believe Black people are different from and inferior to White people and preach separation of the races. "Cowards" (assimilationists) believe Black people are damaged, whether through external or internal causes, and focus on how they can win the approval of Whites. Antiracists believe there's nothing wrong with Black people, and focus on dismantling systems of racism. Key figures and events in Black history are discussed, including the religious argument that sought to justify slavery, the racial bias in the "war on drugs," and the #BlackLivesMatter movement. It charts historical and contemporary events involving violence, including lynching, police brutality, assassinations, rape, and the killing of Emmett Till. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byTeacherMom09 June 9, 2020

So Good I Couldn't Put it Down!

I read this because I wanted to know.
I read this because I wanted to better understand.
I read this and it was so good, I couldn't put it down and read it... Continue reading
Adult Written byLibrarianMomma January 12, 2021

Stellar Work

Reynolds did a great job condensing a massive book into highly-readable concepts. As a librarian, I love that each historic figure in this text is presented thr... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byThe one and onl... January 27, 2021

This is an amazing book

This book teaches students what schools will not. This book teaches about America's true racist past (and present). I recommend this book!
Teen, 13 years old Written byAntetototityhak... December 9, 2020

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You.

I think it is a phenomenal book, Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds, did an amazing job showing the blasphemy in early racism in America and how it still has bee... Continue reading

What's the story?

STAMPED tells the story of competing ideas about race as they have evolved in the United States from the colonial period to the present. The authors present these ideas in relatable, young person-friendly ways and discuss the conflicts between people who write about them, embody them, and act on them. Three kinds of ideas (and people) are identified: "Haters" (segregationists) believe Black people are different from and inferior to White people and preach separation of the races. "Cowards" (assimilationists) believe Black people are damaged, whether through external or internal causes, and focus on how they can win the approval of Whites. Antiracists believe there's nothing wrong with Black people, and focus on dismantling systems of racism.  

Is it any good?

Jason Reynolds' extraordinary gifts with language make reading this history with commentary feel almost like listening to a freestyle rap artist. It's an ambitious experiment with a few flaws. Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi set out to make Stamped something other than a history book. Rather than a list of dates or an interpretation of the same major historical events, it mixes historical facts with commentary to trace a history of ideas. That makes it a fun departure from books that aim to teach about events, but the idea that it's "not a history book" doesn't quite ring true. Readers should be aware that the authors present a strong, subjective point of view, not a neutral investigation. At times, it seems stories were cherry-picked to support the thesis instead of a thesis being crafted around the most significant historical events. Still, it's an entertaining and important read. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the heroes and role models who are criticized or lauded in Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You. What do you think of the authors' statements about W.E.B. Du Bois, Abraham Lincoln, Angela Davis, and others?

  • Stamped is written in a casual, humorous style. Did that help you to stay interested in the material?

  • The authors repeat numerous times, "This is not a history book." Do you agree? If Stamped isn't a history book, what kind of book would you call it?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love stories exploring racism and social justice

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