June 11, 2020

7 books for budding activists and community organizers

Have current events inspired you to take action? These books will enhance your practice by providing historical context and how-to.

Here are several books for activists young and old. Photo by Clay Banks/Unsplash

Across the country, people have taken to the streets to fight police brutality and to support the Black Lives Matter movement. These protests show no signs of stopping. From Minneapolis to Washington, D.C., people are advocating for change. Seeing this groundswell of activism has likely inspired people, from young students to senior citizens, to create change in their communities. But if you’re new to activism and community organizing, where do you get started?

No matter what issue you’re passionate about or fighting for, it’s important to get informed and get reading. We’ve gathered seven titles to inspire and ignite you to action.

We the Resistance: Documenting a History of Nonviolent Protest, edited by Michael G. Long

Recommended by City Lights bookstore in San Francisco, they say that this book is perfect for the current moment. “As worldwide protests against racial injustice continue, a historical perspective on social justice activism is crucial for strategizing long term goals. We the Resistance offers a first-person history of nonviolent resistance in the U.S., from pre-Revolutionary America to the Trump years.”

Learning Activism by Aziz Choudry

Recommended by One.org youth ambassador James Hensman, he describes it as a, “good summary of the intellectual sides of being an activist, a man who is well experienced shares his experiences to help a new generation.”

Road Map for Revolutionaries by Elisa Camahort Page

Read it Forward included this book in their list of books for activists, stating it’s a great starting place. Road Map outlines how to take practical action, step by step at not just the local level, but at the state and federal levels, too. This book also covers protecting your privacy online, and staying safe while protesting—both crucial for the current moment.

Memes To Movements: How the World’s Most Viral Media Is Changing Social Protest and Power by An Xiao Mina

Mashable recommends this book for activists, in which the author explores the new wave of activism taking place online—and how it’s affecting movements offline. Goofy images and pun filled hashtags have power as they become a part of our newsfeeds and a part of the cultural conversation. Understanding that power is key for online organizing.

Free All Along: The Robert Penn Warren Civil Rights Interviews

In 1964, Robert Penn Warren interviewed A collection of interviews with well-known civil rights leaders, from James Baldwin to Martin Luther King Jr. Mashable notes that this is the first time these interviews have been published in their full original form. Those new to activism could be inspired by these leaders’ courage and conviction.

How to Be AntiRacist by Ibram X. Kendi

Recommended by Chicago nonprofit Pursue Scholars, and pretty much everyone else, this book is sold out at many locations. If you’d like to read more from Kendi, read his work at The Atlantic. Recent pieces include The American Nightmare and Who Gets To be Afraid in America?

A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara

For parents who want to inspire their young kids, try A is for Activist. Time magazine notes that Nagara initially wrote, illustrated, and self-published this board book for his own kids out of a desire to see a progressive book about the alphabet for younger children. With over 125,000, it has since become a bestseller.

Caitlin Fairchild

Caitlin Fairchild is the Deputy Editor of The Renewal Project
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