As we continue to honour Black History Month, we’ve compiled a reading list of books that explore Black organizing in Canada, Black intellectual life, and movements resisting anti-Black racism and policing. Whether you’d like to listen to an audiobook with original recordings from the 1968 Congress of Black Writers or read a moving memoir written by a migrant farmworker in Canada, this reading list offers one small way to engage with the subversive histories of Black activism and radical thought, in Canada and beyond.
In 1968, the giants of Black radical politics descended on Montreal to discuss the unique challenges and struggles facing their brothers and sisters. Against a backdrop of widespread racism in the West, and colonialism and imperialism in the “Third World,” this group of activists, writers, and political figures gathered to discuss the history and struggles of people of African descent and the meaning of Black Power. For the first time since 1968, David Austin brings alive the speeches and debates of the most important international gathering of Black radicals of the era.
Moving Against the System can now be listened to as an audiobook, which consists of the original recordings of the speeches and debates from the 1968 Congress of Black Writers.
In this singular firsthand account, a former migrant worker reveals a disturbing system of exploitation at the heart of Canada’s farm labour system. When Gabriel Allahdua applied to the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program in Canada, he thought he would be leaving his home in St. Lucia to work in a country with a sterling human rights reputation and commitment to multiculturalism. Instead, breakneck quotas and a culture of fear dominated his four years in a mega-greenhouse in Ontario. Now, as a leading activist in the migrant justice movement in Canada, Gabriel is fighting back against the Canadian government to demand rights and respect for temporary foreign labourers.
Harvesting Freedom will be published on March 7 and is available now for pre-order.
Plantation Memories is a compilation of episodes of everyday racism written in the form of short psychoanalytical stories. From the question “Where do you come from?” to Hair Politics to the N-word, the book is a strong, eloquent, and elaborate piece that deconstructs the normality of everyday racism and exposes the violence of being placed as the Other. Known for her subversive practice of giving body, voice, and image to her own texts, Grada Kilomba has adapted her book into a staged reading and video installation. Plantation Memories is an important contribution to the global cultural discourse.
Thinking While Black
Translating the Politics and Popular Culture of a Rebel Generation
Drawing on an eclectic mix of archival research, politics, film theory, and pop culture, Daniel McNeil examines two of the most celebrated and controversial Black thinkers working today: Armond White and Paul Gilroy. Thinking While Black takes us on a transatlantic journey through the radical movements that rocked against racism in 1970s Detroit and Birmingham, the rhythms of everyday life in 1980s London and New York, and the hype and hostility generated by Oscar-winning films like 12 Years a Slave.
Over the years, Between the Lines has published several books by public intellectual and world-renowned Black feminist, bell hooks. A complete reading list of her BTL books critiquing the “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy” can be found here.
Breaking Bread is a conversation between bell hooks and radical Black philosopher Cornel West. In this captivating dialogue, hooks and West grapple with the dilemmas, contradictions, and joys of Black intellectual life.
Understanding Jim Crow
Using Racist Memorabilia to Teach Tolerance and Promote Social Justice
This book introduces readers to the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia, a collection of more than ten thousand contemptible collectibles that are used to engage visitors in intense and intelligent discussions about race, race relations, and racism. The items are offensive. They were meant to be offensive. The items in the Jim Crow Museum served to dehumanize blacks and legitimized patterns of prejudice, discrimination, and segregation. Using racist objects as teaching tools seems counterintuitive—and, quite frankly, needlessly risky. The museum and this book exist to help overcome our collective trepidation and reluctance to talk about race.
Fully illustrated, and with context provided by the museum’s founder and director David Pilgrim, Understanding Jim Crow is both a grisly tour through America’s past and an auspicious starting point for racial understanding and healing. You can learn more about the book and the museum in this CBC interview.
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the publication of David Austin’s Fear of a Black Nation: Race, Sex, and Security in Sixties Montreal. Ten years since its original release, Fear of a Black Nation continues to provide an invaluable historical perspective on Canadian policing and surveillance of Black activism and a compelling political analysis of social movements that is more relevant now than ever.
This spring, Between the Lines will be publishing an expanded second edition of the book, in which author David Austin draws a political timeline spanning sixty years, linking contemporary debates about Black liberation to its historical antecedents. Austin offers a transnational study of Black activism in 1960s Montreal against the backdrop of Quebecois, Canadian, and Caribbean nationalism, as well as Black power movements in the United States.
The second edition of Fear of a Black Nation will be published this spring and is now available for pre-order.
This edited collection brings together writing from a range of activists and scholars, whose words are rooted in experience and solidarity with those putting their lives on the line to fight for police abolition in Canada. Together, they imagine a different world—one in which police power is eroded and dissolved forever, one in which it is possible to respond to distress and harm with assistance and care.
Disarm, Defund, Dismantle traces the movements resisting anti-Black racism at the hands of police brutality and surveillance. As book contributor Robyn Maynard writes, “tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets - are still taking to the streets - across Canadian cities and towns, condemning Black expendability and demanding transformation, confronting the police and refusing the disposability of Black life.”
Radical activist, thinker, and comrade of Walter Rodney, Andaiye was one of the Caribbean’s most important political voices. For the first time, her writings are published here in one collection. Through essays, letters, and journal entries, Andaiye’s thinking on the intersections of gender, race, class, and power are powerfully articulated, Caribbean histories emerge, and stories from a life lived at the barricades are revealed. We learn about the early years of the Working People’s Alliance, the meaning and impact of the murder of Walter Rodney and the fall of the Grenada Revolution. Throughout, we bear witness to Andaiye’s acute understanding of politics rooted in communities and the daily lives of so-called ordinary people.