cover image Stamped from the Beginning: A Graphic History of Racist Ideas in America

Stamped from the Beginning: A Graphic History of Racist Ideas in America

Ibram X. Kendi and Joel Christian Gill. Ten Speed Graphic, $29.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-984859-43-3

Gill (Fights) imbues this graphic novel adaptation with emotional gravity that bolsters National Book Award winner Kendi’s incisive analysis. Per Kendi, America’s history of racial discrimination is a “three-sided battle” between segregationists, assimilationists, and anti-racists. With a distinct cartoony style, Gill portrays the cyclical nature of this showdown through the oeuvres and activism of renowned figures like Angela Davis, W.E.B. Du Bois, William Lloyd Garrison, and Cotton Mather. The text unpacks racism’s complex evolution alongside attempts at racial progress, from Puritanical perceptions of white superiority and Black enslavement to cultural advancement rhetoric (“uplift suasion” and “media suasion”) starting from abolitionists who still enforced racist assimilationist ideas to Du Bois’s dual support of the Talented Tenth and the Harlem Renaissance and ending in modern-day “blackfishing” and postracialism. Racist speech drips from blackened dialogue bubbles, while sly anachronisms—bewitched white children in Salem shout, “Wu-Tang is fo’ the children!” and Star Wars–inspired “force ghosts” of famous thinkers cheer from the sidelines—the punchy art adds levity that propels the painful but vivid narrative. It’s necessary reading. Agents: (for Kendi) Ayesha Pande, Ayesha Pande Literary; (for Gill) Anjali Singh, Ayesha Pande Literary. (June)