Racial Justice and The Humanities

The movement for racial justice and Black liberation in the United States dates back to the very formation of this country. We recognize that we are not in a new moment, but in a different phase of a movement with a long history. We also recognize that reading and learning do not take the place of action, but instead are meant to happen alongside action as we all become better informed, transformed, and catalyzed into collective action against racism and injustice.

Many of the works we highlight below have been integral to our programming for years, while others represent new voices and new learning on our part. And that last point is a critical one: any effort to deepen a commitment to justice, compassion, growth, and appreciation for our individual and collective histories requires us to keep learning.

We hope that you will engage continuously and often with the works listed here, and we invite you to share with us resources that you discover on your own at info@ilhumanities.org.

We also encourage you to access the materials below by supporting your local public library and/or Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)-owned bookstores.


“Uptown’s Black Lives Matter” street mural was a collaboration between 18 local Chicago artists. Photo Courtesy of Carson Cloud. The photo originally appeared in an article on Block Club Chicago by Joe Ward. Some of the artists involved include: @thejoemiller, @heartandbonesigns, @wealllivehere, @jcrivera, @drewinchicago, @rachellouise42, @72and10, @amysworkshop, @davidnajibkasirpaintings, @afrokilla, @danielOwilson, and @followshala.

Select Odyssey Project and Sojourner Scholars Course Readings

In the Odyssey Project and Sojourner Scholars, students participate in interdisciplinary humanities seminars that cover critical thinking and writing, literature, history, philosophy, and art history. These readings are a selection of the readings and works by Black authors, artists, and scholars that have been taught in the Odyssey Project and Sojourner Scholars over the past six years. Thank you especially to our instructors (past and present) whose work is reflected here, especially Christophe Ringer, Daryl Heller, Darrell Moore, Janette Gayle, Audrey Petty, and Jacqueline Andrews.

Illinois Humanities Staff Recommendations

These 65 works by Black authors, artists, and humanities scholars have been recommended by our staff. Each staff member was asked to recommend five books or works that they found important personally and/or professionally and would like to share with the public. This list is by no means exhaustive nor does it represent breadth or depth, but rather reflects the interests of our staff.

*indicate selections staff have read or are currently reading together for the IH Staff Book Group
Titles in BOLD are about Illinois or by a local author

Humanities Organizations and Activities

There is important public humanities activity happening throughout Illinois, so we encourage you to take the time to learn from and support our local arts, culture, and humanities communities.