Kaepernick Publishing and Haymarket Books are joining forces to crash, in May, a compilation of essays by Black scholars and other thinkers writing in the Black radical tradition, and will do so with financial support from the Marguerite Casey Foundation. Our History Has Always Been Contraband: In Defense of Black Studies, which is edited by Colin Kaepernick, Robin D.G. Kelley, and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, will initially be released in e-book format and will be free to download. The copublishers intend to release a print edition in late spring or early summer, depending upon printer scheduling.
“We’re working as quickly as we can,” Haymarket editorial director Anthony Arnove said, disclosing that there may be a digital short run, followed by a larger offset print run, to further expedite the release of the print edition. The book, he added, is being crashed in response to the ongoing controversy surrounding the Advanced Placement African American Studies curriculum and the College Board.
“It’s not just Florida,” Arnove said, referring to criticism from Florida governor Ron DeSantis that is widely considered to have influenced the College Board's decision to alter its African American Studies curriculum, despite its CEO's insistence that this was not the case. “The sad reality is that we’re seeing such assaults in North Dakota, in Oklahoma, and in other states—although Florida certainly is leading the charge on this attack on librarians, on teachers, on educators, and on the whole infrastructure for having the kinds of critical and open conversations we need to have about our history. Speaking for Haymarket, this really goes to the core of our mission.”
Haymarket has been at the forefront of defending people’s right to read banned books and to study African American history that has not been sanitized for political reasons. Recently, the Chicago-based press partnered with Dream Defenders, a Florida grassroots organization, to distribute free books to young people there; it has donated 650 print books and 7,000 e-books to date. It also recently donated books to another grassroots group, this one in Tulsa, Okla., called Black History Saturday Schools, that is fighting the elimination of African-American history books from the curriculum.
“We’re collaborating with Haymarket to forcefully repel this attack upon Black Studies specifically and Black History in general,” Kaepernick Publishing editorial director Christopher Petrella said. “We’ve long been familiar with Haymarket and in admiration of them for their stated commitment to publishing titles that can support and accompany movements for racial, economic, and cultural justice. We’re excited that when we approached them a number of weeks back, we received an immediate and enthusiastic yes.
"Black Studies itself is integral to making sense of our current political moment,” Petrella continued. “We want to underscore that. From our perspective, Black Studies really does the necessary work to uproot some of the country’s mythologies. The fight is broad—they’ve been planning this for years and they’re well-funded—and it’s going to require an intersectional approach. We’re really happy to be doing some of the work on the publishing side alongside Haymarket."
In an email, Colin Kaepernick added: "We’re thrilled to be partnering with Haymarket Books on this important project. The political stakes in the fight to protect, preserve, and expand Black Studies couldn’t be higher. For close to 60 years, the [Black Studies] field has built bridges from knowledge to collective action in service of our liberation."
This is the first book that is being copublished by Haymarket Books and Kaepernick Publishing; the two companies also are collaborating on a September release, the trade paper edition of a Kaepernick Publishing anthology edited by Colin Kaepernick, Abolition for the People: The Movement for a Future Without Policing & Prisons, originally released in 2021. "That collaboration was already in the works when we then discussed the idea of copublishing this new project," Arnove explained.
Haymarket publicity director Jim Plank added in an email to PW: "Our slogan at Haymarket is 'Books for Changing the World,' but we know that in reality it is people organizing and coming together, often brought together by books and the ideas therein, that can really change the world."