Folger and the Community

Engaging with the District



This reading list has been compiled by CrossTalk DC partner, the DC Public Library. Many thanks to Librarian Kari Mitchell and Special Collections Manager Kerrie Cotten Williams. These books are available at or through your local branch library. Check out Part 1 and Part 2.

hooks, b. (1995). Killing Rage: Ending Racism. New York, NY: H. Holt and Co.

One of our country’s premier cultural and social critics, bell hooks has always maintained that eradicating racism and eradicating sexism must go hand in hand. But whereas many women have been recognized for their writing on gender politics, the female voice has been all but locked out of the public discourse on race. Killing Rage speaks to this imbalance. These twenty-three essays are written from a black and feminist perspective, and they tackle the bitter difficulties of racism by envisioning a world without it. They address a spectrum of topics having to do with race and racism in the United States: psychological trauma among African Americans, friendship between black women and white women, anti-Semitism and racism, and internalized racism in movies and the media.


Ifill, Gwen. (2009). The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama. New York, NY: Doubleday.

Veteran journalist Ifill sheds new light on the impact of Barack Obama’s presidential victory and introduces the emerging African American politicians forging a new path to political power. Ifill argues that the Black political structure formed during the Civil Rights movement is giving way to a generation who are the direct beneficiaries of the struggles of the 1960s.


Jaffe, H., & Sherwood, T. (1994). Dream City: Race, Power, and the Decline of Washington, D.C. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

With a new afterword covering the two decades since its first publication, two of Washington, D.C.’s most respected journalists expose one of America’s most tragic ironies: how the nation’s capital, often a gleaming symbol of peace and hope, is the setting for vicious contradictions and devastating conflicts over race, class, and power. Jaffe and Sherwood have chillingly chronicled the descent of the District of Columbia — congressional hearings, gangland murders, the establishment of home rule and the inside story of Marion Barry’s enigmatic dynasty and disgrace. Now their afterword narrates the District’s transformation in the last twenty years. New residents have helped bring developments, restaurants, and businesses to reviving neighborhoods. The authors cover the rise and fall of Mayors Adrian Fenty and Vince Gray, how new corruption charges are taking down politicians and businessmen, and how a fading Barry is still a player.


Jones, D. M. (2013). Fear of a Hip-Hop Planet: America’s New Dilemma. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.

This is a chronological account of development of rap music going back to the era of slavery. It depicts another side of the “culture wars” debate that shifts away from the “art” or “poison” angle back towards a conversation about the conditions that produced the music. It also shows the deep interconnection between how urban youth are represented in the media and urban policies like the war on drugs, and examines how the geographic split within the black community masks a second split between two disparate cultures both claiming to be black.


Jones, E. P. (2006). All Aunt Hagar’s Children. New York, NY: Amistad.

In these fourteen sweeping and sublime stories, Jones resurrects the minor characters in his first award-winning story collection, Lost in the City. The result is vintage Jones: powerful, magisterial tales that showcase his ability to probe the complexities and tenaciousness of the human spirit. All Aunt Hagar’s Children is filled with people who call Washington, D.C., home. Yet it is the city’s ordinary citizens, not its power brokers, who most concern Jones. Here, everyday people who thought the values of the South would sustain them in the North find “that the cohesion born and nurtured in the south would be but memory in less than two generations.”


Jones, E. P. (2005). Lost in the City: Stories. New York, NY: Amistad.

The nation’s capital that serves as the setting for the stories in Edward P. Jones’s prizewinning collection, Lost in the City, lies far from the city of historic monuments and national politicians. Jones takes the reader beyond that world into the lives of African American men and women who work against the constant threat of loss to maintain a sense of hope. From “The Girl Who Raised Pigeons” to the well-to-do career woman awakened in the night by a phone call that will take her on a journey back to the past, the characters in these stories forge bonds of community as they struggle against the limits of their city to stave off the loss of family, friends, memories, and, ultimately, themselves.


Phillips, K. (2002). Wealth and Democracy: The Politics of the American Rich. New York, NY: Broadway Books.

With intriguing chapters on history and bold analysis of present-day America, Phillips illuminates the dangerous politics that go with excessive concentration of wealth. Profiling wealthy Americans–from Astor to Carnegie and Rockefeller to contemporary wealth holders–Phillips provides fascinating details about the peculiarly American ways of becoming and staying a multimillionaire. He exposes the subtle corruption spawned by a money culture and financial power, evident in economic philosophy, tax favoritism, and selective bailouts in the name of free enterprise, economic stimulus, and national security.

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