Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

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Stamped Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi's Stamped. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

Jason Reynolds was born in Washington, D.C. and raised in a nearby suburb. He was passionate about poetry and rap at a young age, but he didn’t read a single novel until he discovered Richard Wright’s Black Boy at the age of 17. Then, he started working his way through classic Black American novels. At the University of Maryland, he studied English literature, worked at a bookstore focused on Black literature, and started performing spoken word. He began publishing his poetry after graduation but mainly supported himself by working retail. He had his first big break in 2015 with All American Boys, a young adult novel he co-authored with Brendan Kiely. Ever since, he has published numerous acclaimed young adult novels, most of which focus on Black teenagers growing up in the U.S. in the 21st century. Ibram X. Kendi was born and raised in Queens, New York. After finishing high school in Virginia, he studied African American studies and magazine production at Florida A&M University. In 2010, he earned a PhD in African American Studies at Temple University, where he wrote a dissertation on Black student activism in the 1960s. He has taught at various universities around the United States, including the State University of New York (Oneonta and Albany), Brown University, the University of Florida, and American University. As of 2021, he is a history professor at Boston University, where he also directs the Center for Antiracist Research and founded the racial justice newspaper The Emancipator. He won the National Book Award for Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, and his How to Be an Antiracist was a number-one New York Times Best Seller in 2020.
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Historical Context of Stamped

Stamped deals with a wide range of historical events in the U.S. from the 1400s to the early 2000s, including the centuries-long debate over slavery, the fight against Jim Crow (legalized racial segregation), and the War on Drugs. Still, the authors always remind the reader that Stamped is really a book about the present. By understanding the past, Kendi and Reynolds think, young people can better understand the challenges they face during their lifetimes. Therefore, Stamped is intended for young people growing up in the 2020s, a period of renewed public interest in racism and violence against Black people. Many Americans viewed Barack Obama’s presidency from 2008–2016 as a sign that the U.S. had defeated racism and become a “color blind” society. But Kendi and Reynolds insist that this is wrong—there are still vast racial disparities in every aspect of American life. In the U.S., white people live longer, have more wealth, and are less likely than Black people to be incarcerated or killed by the police. These disparities show that racism is alive and well in the U.S.—but antiracist activists also continue to fight it. Most importantly, Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi launched the #BlackLivesMatter movement in 2013 as a response to a series of highly publicized police killings of Black people. In response to the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, millions of Americans marched in a series of #BlackLivesMatter protests.

Other Books Related to Stamped

Stamped is based on Ibram X. Kendi’s much longer and more in-depth history book about racist ideas, Stamped from the Beginning. Kendi’s other works include The Black Campus Movement and How to Be an Antiracist. Jason Reynolds has published multiple books of poetry, including For Every One, and novels like All American Boys, Long Way Down, and the Track series. Like Stamped from the Beginning, Stamped is organized around the stories of five important figures in the history of racist and antiracist ideas in the United States. The first is Puritan minister Cotton Mather, who presented his racist ideas in works like The Negro Christianized. The second is Thomas Jefferson, who explained his complicated views on slavery in Notes on the State of Virginia. The third figure is abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, who published the Liberator newspaper. The fourth is sociologist and activist W. E. B. Du Bois, who’s best known for The Souls of Black Folk and Black Reconstruction in America. Angela Davis, the fifth and final main figure that Stamped focuses on, has written numerous books on antiracism, feminism, and the legal system, including Women, Race and Class  and Are Prisons Obsolete?. Other influential books mentioned in Stamped include Phillis Wheatley’s Poems on Various Subjects, Frederick Douglass’s autobiographies, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and Alice Walker’s novel The Color Purple.
Key Facts about Stamped
  • Full Title: STAMPED: Racism, Antiracism, and You
  • When Written: 2019–2020
  • Where Written: Washington, D.C.
  • When Published: March 2020
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Nonfiction, Black American History, Young Adult Literature
  • Setting: The U.S., 1600-present
  • Climax: In the Afterword, Reynolds and Kendi tell the reader that it’s up to them whether to be a racist or antiracist.
  • Antagonist: Segregationism, Assimilationism
  • Point of View: First Person

Extra Credit for Stamped

Breaking New Ground. When Ibram X. Kendi first asked Jason Reynolds to adapt Stamped from the Beginning for young readers, Reynolds said no. He thought that he wasn’t scholarly enough to write about history, because he usually writes fiction. But Kendi eventually persuaded him to give the project a try.

A History Book Makes History. In 2020, Stamped was the second-most-commonly banned and challenged book in American schools. In a public comment, Kendi pointed out that the effort to suppress the book was ironic, since the book is largely about the way racists have tried to suppress antiracist ideas throughout history.