Race, Identity, and Social Policy: Significant Works by Black Authors
By Jenn Rossiter and Sydney Sheloff
February marks Black History Month, a time when we acknowledge the many achievements and contributions of Black Canadians and their communities throughout history in our province and the country as a whole.
The Edmonton Social Planning Council (ESPC) is acutely aware of the evidence that shows that Black people in Canada, Alberta, and Edmonton face high rates of discrimination and racism. Alongside the efforts from many wonderful non-profits in the city, ESPC advocates for equitable social policies that affect under-served populations, including Black, Indigenous, and other racialized communities. Through this work, ESPC aims to support meaningful change and to champion the work that others are doing.
In contribution to Black History Month, the following is a list of notable Black authors who have informed some of ESPC’s efforts in research and education—a few among many. We hope you take time to explore the valuable works produced by these authors.
A Toronto-based journalist and author, Cole resigned from the Toronto Star after being asked to choose between objective journalism and personal Black rights advocacy. His first novel, The Skin We’re In, explores racism in Toronto and how activists have resisted and fought for change in a variety of sectors.
Cole, D. (2020). The skin we’re in: A year of Black resistance and power. Doubleday Canada.
Patricia Hill Collins
Collins asserts that our position in the world informs our knowledge: Black women live in a very different world from women who are not Black, and thus have a very unique body of wisdom. People who experience oppression learn about it in acute ways and are in key positions to understand and critique it. Collins points to alternative forms of knowledge; Black people were often barred from institutions, and so would share their knowledge through music, poetry, and art.
Collins, P. H. (2000). Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment. Routledge.
Collins, P. H. (2004). Learning from the outsider within: The sociological significance of black feminist thought. Social Problems, 33(6), s14–s32. https://doi.org/10.2307/800672
Cooper is a Jamaican-born Canadian multidisciplinary scholar and author at Dalhousie University. Her research focuses on the often hidden history of slavery in Canada.
Cooper, A. (2006). The hanging of Angélique: The untold story of Canadian slavery and the burning of Old Montreal. Harper Perennial.
Crenshaw is an American lawyer, civil rights advocate, philosopher, and leading scholar of critical race theory. She developed the theory of intersectionality, arguing that the experience of a Black woman cannot be understood by discrete analysis of being Black and being a woman, but must consider how all interactions are informed by composite identities within one person (social and political).
Crenshaw, K. (1989). Demarginalizing the intersection of race a sex: A Black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory and antiracist politics. University of Chicago Legal Forum, 1989(1),139–167.
Crenshaw, K. (2017). Race liberalism and the deradicalization of racial reform. Harvard Law Review, 130(9), 2298–2319.
Davis is an academic and political activist. She is well known for her work on prison abolition and was involved with the Black Power Movement and an all-Black branch of the communist party. Davis spent time in prison due to her activism, which affected her work on interrogating the criminal justice system. While Davis’ work focuses on the American justice system, her ideas have been heavily influential to Canadian scholars.
Davis, A. (1981). Women, race, and class. Vintage Books.
Davis, A. (2003). Are prisons obsolete? Seven Stories Press.
Fanon was a psychiatrist and political philosopher from Martinique, known for analyzing colonialism and decolonization through a psychoanalytic lens. His work was highly influential to the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, although he was never directly involved in either. His work The Wretched of the Earth provides a psychiatric and psychological analysis of the dehumanizing effects of colonization and discusses the broader social, cultural, and political implications of establishing a social movement for the decolonization of a people.
Fanon, F. (1963). The wretched of the earth. Grove Press.
Fanon, F. (1967). Black skin: White masks. Grove Press.
The focus of hooks’ writing was the intersectionality of race, capitalism, and gender alongside their ability to produce and perpetuate systems of oppression and class domination. In Ain’t I a Woman hooks explored the low status of Black women, due to the intersection of race and gender oppression, in American society. She also examined the role of Black women and marginalization in the civil rights and suffragette movements.
hooks, b. (1981). Ain’t I a woman: Black women and feminism. South End Press.
hooks, b. (1992). Black looks: race and representation. South End Press.
Ibram X. Kendi
Kendi is known for his book How to Be an Antiracist, in which he argues the only way to undo racism is to identify and dismantle it and the institutions that reinforce it. He is considered a leading scholar of race and discriminatory policy in America.
Kendi, I. X. (2016). Stamped from the beginning: The definitive history of racist ideas in America. Nation Books.
Kendi, I. X. (2019). How to be an antiracist. One World.
Lorde was an American writer, feminist, and civil rights activist. Lorde articulated theory through poetry and discussed issues of race, class, age & ageism, as well as sex & sexuality. She also confronted racism that was apparent in mainstream “white” feminism.
Lorde, A. (1984). Sister outsider: Essays and speeches. Crossing Press.
Lorde, A. (1995). The black unicorn: Poems. W. W. Norton & Company.
Maynard is a Black Canadian feminist writer, educator, and activist. She traces the still-living legacy of slavery across multiple institutions, shedding light on the state’s role in perpetuating contemporary Black poverty and unemployment, racial profiling, law enforcement violence, incarceration, immigration detention, deportation, exploitative migrant labour practices, disproportionate child removal, and low graduation rates.
Maynard, R. (2017). Policing Black lives: State violence in Canada from slavery to the present. Fernwood Publishing.
Walcott writes on a variety of topics, including Black diaspora cultural studies, gender, and sexuality. In his book Black Like Who? he assesses the role of Black Canadians in defining Canada; in BlackLife, he examines the ways in which the Canadian state ignores violence against Black people.
Walcott, R. (1997). Black like who? Insomniac Press.
Walcott, R. & Abdillahi, I. (2019). BlackLife: Post-BLM and the struggle for freedom. Arbeiter Ring Publishing.