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

Ten Speed. Jun. 2023. 288p. adapted by adapted by Joel Christian Gill. Tr $29.99. ISBN 9781984859433.
Gr 9 Up–Kendi’s antiracism opus receives a pointedly visual adaptation from Gill (Fights: One Boy’s Triumph Over Violence). Since the beginning of America, there have been racist, assimilationist, and antiracist ideas, and people who spoke for or against them. The evolution of these ideas is seen through the lens of five historical figures: Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, William Lloyd Garrison, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Angela Davis. As guides, the five demonstrate how the country takes a step forward with emancipation and civil rights, but several steps back with Jim Crow laws and the War on Drugs. Gill uses gray scale and cartoonish illustrations that place emphasis on the subject, lively gestures, and facial expressions. For every 20 panels or so of serious commentary, there are scenes of historical figures with heart-shaped eyes because someone agreed with them, or a page presenting assimilationists as wannabe superheroes. Gill also blends historical quotes and statements from the original edition with modern colloquialisms. The latter brings a lightness to the subject, making the book accessible outside of academia. Notably, Gill encases racists and assimilationist comments in black speech bubbles that drip like sticky ooze.
VERDICT A welcome, educational addition to social justice collections.

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