A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
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.
Ideas shape reality. Know the ideas you consume and spread. The ideas people communicate may support or undermine their intentions.
Positive Role Models
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 & Scariness
Mention of historical and contemporary events involving violence, including lynching, police brutality, assassinations, rape, and the killing of Emmett Till.
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Products & Purchases
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.
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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.
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.
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