A Book Sheds Light On America’s Problem With White Supremacy

It took Donald Trump two days to condemn the white supremacists who held the recent alt-right rally in Charlottesville that resulted in the death of civil rights activist Heather Heyer.

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The US president’s response? To sympathize that members of this group of white nationalists are “fine people”. But as Seth Myers noted, no one gets accidentally caught up in a white supremacist rally. Even though the march, as captured in photos, looks like a throwback toKu Klux Klan rallies of the 1920s, hate groups are unfortunately not a thing of the past. Since 2014 their number across the country has risen 17% to a total of 917 groups in the US, according to a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center.

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Much is still to be learned about the history of white supremacy in America, and not only by Trump (whom Stephen Colbert called a “racist grandpa” on Wednesday). Five history professors, pundits and human rights organizations have recommended five historical titles that shed light on the history of white supremacy in the country.

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

Written during the civil rights movement in 1963, this work is the voice of one black man living in Harlem. It consists of two long essays, one being “My Dungeon Shook — Letter to My Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of Emancipation” and “Down at the Cross — Letter from a Region of My Mind,” which were first published in Progressive magazine and the New YorkerDiaristic in tone, Baldwin’s book outlines the discrimination and problems the black community faced in the early 1960s, including the hypocrisy of churches. “There are a number of outstanding histories of white supremacy in its multiple manifestations, but nothing I’ve read surpasses the searing final section of this book,” said Kevin Boyle, an American history professor at Northwestern University. “Baldwin isn’t writing about specific supremacist movements but about the deeper meaning of white supremacy in the United States, the terrible tangle of hatred, fear, and denial that is as clear in our moment, as it was when Baldwin was writing half a century ago.”

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