Stamped from the Beginning

Stamped from the Beginning

by

Ibram X. Kendi

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Stamped from the Beginning Study Guide

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

Brief Biography of Ibram X. Kendi

Dr. Ibram X. Kendi was one of two children born to Larry and Carol Rodgers, “student activists and Christians inspired by Black liberation theology.” While he was a teenager, Kendi’s family moved to Virginia, where he completed high school. Kendi earned his undergraduate degree in journalism at Florida A&M University and his MA and PhD in African American Studies from Temple University—the first department to offer an African American Studies doctorate in the world. After completing his PhD, Kendi held positions at SUNY, Brown, the University of Florida, and American University. In 2020 he began a role as professor of History and founding director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research. Kendi and his wife, Sadiqa, chose their last name and held a renaming ceremony at their wedding in Jamaica in 2013. Kendi means “the loved one” in Meru (while Xolani means “peace” in both Xhosa and Zulu). In 2018 Kendi was diagnosed with cancer, but after undergoing treatment he recovered. In addition to Stamped from the Beginning, Kendi is the author of The Black Campus Movement (2012) and How to Be An Antiracist (2019).
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Historical Context of Stamped from the Beginning

As a work of history spanning the 15th century to the present (and with references going all the way back to the Ancient world), Stamped from the Beginning features an enormous number of historical events. Broadly speaking, the book begins by discussing European imperialism, the colonization of Africa, and the transatlantic slave trade. It then moves on to discuss the institutionalization of chattel slavery in colonial America and how this intersected with the early political and economic development of the nation. It covers the Revolutionary era, the rise of abolitionism, and finally the Civil War, which concluded with the abolition of slavery. The book then discusses Reconstruction and its failures, the institution of Jim Crow segregation, the Harlem Renaissance, and the emergence of the Civil Rights movement. It examines the triumphs and failures of Civil Rights as well as the rise—and repression—of Black Power. Finally, the book concludes with examinations of mass incarceration, the election of President Barack Obama, and the persistence of racism in a nation that often frames itself as being “post-racial.”

Other Books Related to Stamped from the Beginning

As a work of intellectual history, Stamped from the Beginning references several other literary works. Some of the most important of these include Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko: or, the Royal Slave, Phillis Wheatley’s poems, Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia, Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois’ Souls of Black Folk, Malcolm X’s Autobiography of Malcolm X, and Angela Davis’ Women, Race, and Class, among many others. Other contemporary nonfiction books that also examine the history of racism in America include Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, Keegan Yahmatta-Taylor’s From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation, Dorothy Roberts’ Fatal Invention, and Barbara J. and Karen E. Fields’ Racecraft
Key Facts about Stamped from the Beginning
  • Full Title: Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America
  • When Written: Unknown
  • Where Written: Unknown
  • When Published: 2016
  • Literary Period: 21st-century African American Studies
  • Genre: Popular History
  • Setting: America from the colonial period to the present; Europe and Africa during the era of colonization
  • Climax: While the book does not have a  traditional climax, the most pivotal moment it covers is the end of the Civil War and Emancipation Proclamation in 1865, which marks the threshold between the two most obviously distinct eras of African American history.
  • Antagonist:
  • Point of View: Third Person

Extra Credit for Stamped from the Beginning

Priorities. Kendi describes himself as a “hardcore antiracist and softcore vegan.”

All Ages. Kendi also published a version of Stamped from the Beginning for young people entitled STAMPED: Racism, Antiracism, and You.