From beginner-friendly introductions to classic books on the philosophy of race, this page features books to suit any learning style. It’s important to note that there is no single best book on the philosophy of race. The best book for you will depend heavily on your preferred learning style and the amount of time/energy you’re willing to spend reading.
It’s also worth noting that it is not a list of personal recommendations. Personal book recommendations tend to be highly subjective, idiosyncratic, and unreliable. This list is part of a collection of over 100 philosophy reading lists which aim to provide a central resource for philosophy book recommendations. These lists were created by searching through hundreds of university course syllabi, internet encyclopedia bibliographies, and community recommendations. Links to the syllabi and other sources used to create this list are at the end of the post. Following these links will help you quickly find a broader range of options if the listed books do not fit what you are looking for.
Here are the best books on the philosophy of race in no particular order.
Race: A Philosophical Introduction – Paul C. Taylor
Publisher description: In Race: A Philosophical Introduction, Second Edition , Paul C. Taylor provides an accessible guide to a well-travelled but still-mysterious area of the contemporary social landscape. As in the first edition, the book blends metaphysics and social philosophy, analytic philosophy and pragmatic philosophy of experience. In this thoroughly updated and revised volume, Taylor outlines the main features and implications of race-thinking, while engaging the ideas of such important figures as Linda Alcoff, K. Anthony Appiah, W. E. B. Du Bois, Michel Foucault, Sally Haslanger, and Howard Winant. The result is a comprehensive but accessible introduction to philosophical race theory and to a non-biological and situational notion of race.
The book unfolds in a sequence of five chapters, each devoted to one of the following questions: What is race-thinking? Don’t we know better than to talk about race now? Are there any races? What is it like to have a racial identity? And how important, ethically, is colorblindness?…
Philosophy of Race: An Introduction – Naomi Zack
Publisher description: Philosophy of Race: An Introduction provides plainly written access to a new subfield that has been in the background of philosophy since Plato and Aristotle. Part I provides an overview of ideas of race and ethnicity in the philosophical canon, egalitarian traditions, race in biology, and race in American and Continental Philosophy. Part II addresses race as it operates in life through colonialism and development, social constructions and institutions, racism, political philosophy, and gender. This book constructs an outline that will serve as a resource for students, nonspecialists, and general readers in thinking, talking, and writing about philosophy of race.
Racism: A Short History – George M. Fredrickson
Publisher description: Are antisemitism and white supremacy manifestations of a general phenomenon? Why didn’t racism appear in Europe before the fourteenth century, and why did it flourish as never before in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries? Why did the twentieth century see institutionalized racism in its most extreme forms? Why are egalitarian societies particularly susceptible to virulent racism? What do apartheid South Africa, Nazi Germany, and the American South under Jim Crow have in common? How did the Holocaust advance civil rights in the United States?
With a rare blend of learning, economy, and cutting insight, George Fredrickson surveys the history of Western racism from its emergence in the late Middle Ages to the present. Beginning with the medieval antisemitism that put Jews beyond the pale of humanity, he traces the spread of racist thinking in the wake of European expansionism and the beginnings of the African slave trade. And he examines how the Enlightenment and nineteenth-century romantic nationalism created a new intellectual context for debates over slavery and Jewish emancipation….
The Routledge Companion to the Philosophy of Race – Paul C Taylor et al.
Publisher description: For many decades, race and racism have been common areas of study in departments of sociology, history, political science, English, and anthropology. Much more recently, as the historical concept of race and racial categories have faced significant scientific and political challenges, philosophers have become more interested in these areas. This changing understanding of the ontology of race has invited inquiry from researchers in moral philosophy, metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of science, philosophy of language, and aesthetics.
The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Race offers in one comprehensive volume newly written articles on race from the world’s leading analytic and continental philosophers. It is, however, accessible to a readership beyond philosophy as well, providing a cohesive reference for a wide student and academic readership….
The Idea of Race – Robert Bernasconi & Tommy Lee Lott
Publisher description: A survey of the historical development of the idea of race, this anthology offers pre-twentieth century theories about the concept of race, classic twentieth century sources reiterating and contesting ideas of race as scientific, and several philosophically relevant essays that discuss the issues presented. A general Introduction gives an overview of the readings. Headnotes introduce each selection. Includes suggested further readings.
Black Skin: White Masks – Frantz Fanon
Publisher description: Few modern voices have had as profound an impact on the black identity and critical race theory as Frantz Fanon, and Black Skin, White Masks represents some of his most important work. Fanon’s masterwork is now available in a new translation that updates its language for a new generation of readers.
A major influence on civil rights, anti-colonial, and black consciousness movements around the world, Black Skin, White Masks is the unsurpassed study of the black psyche in a white world. Hailed for its scientific analysis and poetic grace when it was first published in 1952, the book remains a vital force today from one of the most important theorists of revolutionary struggle, colonialism, and racial difference in history.
The following sources were used to build this list:
University Course Syllabi:
- The Philosophy of Race, Ethnicity, and Citizenship – Philosophy 117 | University of California, Berkeley
- Ideas Of or About Race – PHIL 657 | University of Oregon
- Philosophy of Race and Racism – PHIL 299 | Georgia Military College
- Philosophy and Race – Philosophy 451 | Michigan State University
- What should I read on the philosophy (ontology mostly) of race
- Can anyone give me the name of philosophers who write about racism? I can only find proper arcticles from sociologists and psychologists.
- Racism and Philosophy
You might also be interested in the following reading lists:
- The Best Introductory Philosophy Books
- The Best Philosophy Books on Justice
- The Best Philosophy Books on Feminism
Or browse this collection of over 100 philosophy reading lists to find more philosophy book recommendations.
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A Collection of the Greatest Philosophical Quotations
A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations is a collection of the greatest thoughts from history’s greatest thinkers. Featuring classic quotations by Aristotle, Epicurus, David Hume, Friedrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, Michel Foucault, and many more, A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations is ideal for anyone looking to quickly understand the fundamental ideas that have shaped the modern world.