A Guide to Understanding Race and Taking Action in Cincinnati within a Historical Framework

By Queens of Queen City

This page and was updated on 17 June 2021 for typos.

Aside from the stories of Black women told so far, we wanted to share historical resources that white people can use to help educate themselves on race, specifically in the Cincinnati area, which is unique due to its geographic location. We do focus primarily on Black and Indigenous history as white America and more specifically Cincinnati is built on their blood through aggressive, violent systems of colonialism still intact today. That is why it is important to educate oneself with curiosity, humility, and empathy. After all, Audre Lorde said: “We must each of us recognize our responsibility to seek those words out, to read them and share them and examine them in pertinence to our lives. That we not hide behind the mockeries of separation that have been imposed upon us and which we so often accept as our own.” This guide is meant to be a launching point for your search and not all-inclusive, though it is extensive because of the complexity of the region.

Many of these resources can be accessed through your local library (yay libraries!) or bought through an independent bookstore (we prefer you shop at Native-owned bookshops, such as Red Planet Books and Comics and Birchbark Books, or Black-owned shops, especially local Smith & Hannon which is now in Over-the-Rhine) or Bookshop.org. We will link to it on Bookshop or with a free, legal online link. Many of these can be found online for free by searching, hosted through nonprofits or universities. If you think we’re missing some key resources (which we probably most definitely are), please let us know. We would love to see this as an ongoing, living document.

To start off, we want to introduce you to five resources to help you come to terms with your own white bias and racism (subliminal or not):

The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County has a large collection of books about antiracism and racism, which you can browse here.

Cincinnati Area Histories

While we recognize the more recent deaths of Timothy Thomas (2001) and Samuel DuBose (2015) as significant benchmarks in the ongoing struggles for equity in Cincinnati, modern responses are built on a historical framework of racist ideology. Cincinnati was a major hub of crimes against Black and Indigenous peoples. Our city was built on stolen, sacred land by leaders whose careers were predicated upon killing Native people. As the hub of Westward Expansion, a refuge for those fleeing enslavement, and a hotbed for abolition activity, Cincinnati has always lived within the conversation of social justice (fair and just relations between an individual and society).

Cincinnati Indigenous History

We live on seized land of the Shawnee, Delaware, Osage, and Myaamia, a land of ancient peoples we now refer to as the Adena and Hopewell, who are ancestors of the Shawnee, Delaware, Osage, and Myaamia. Many old texts are available for free, but many are inaccurate and incredibly racist towards Indigenous peoples. Here are the most accessible local Indigenous histories for you:

  • The Indians Tribes of Ohio, 1600-1840 by Warren K. Moorehead (Ohio History Connection store): This 1899 publication (revised in the 1990s) tells about Ohio’s Native population as the European colonizers violently moved westward.
  • Guide to the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks by World Heritage Ohio (Ohio History Connection store): With perspectives from Indigenous peoples and new archaeology, World Heritage Ohio tells of eight Hopewell Earthworks.
  • “Fort Ancient: History & Culture” by April Hester (Greater Cincinnati Native American Coalition): GCNAC’s Director of Education April Hester wrote about Fort Ancient Earthworks in their blog, including the misleading title of “Fort,” which tells a lot about the culture of violence settlers brought with them.
  • “A Note from the Executive Director” by Jheri Neri (Greater Cincinnati Native American Coalition): GCNAC’s Executive Director Jheri Neri writes about his experience visiting ancient Ohio sites and preserving cultural identity.
  • “What happened to the Indians that once inhabited Ohio?” by Jim Blunt (Lane Libraries): Based on the book The Other Trail of Tears: The Removal of the Ohio Indians by Mary Stockwell (Bookshop), Blunt writes a shorter, free article, focusing on Hamilton.
  • “Mutual Infatuation: Rosebud Sioux and Cincinnatians” by Susan Meyn, Queen City Heritage (CMC Library & Archives): What seems like a scene straight out of Parks and Recreation of keeping Indigenous peoples in a cage at the zoo, this article tells the story of how the Rosebud Sioux came to live at the zoo for two years.
  • “Shawnee Lookout may be largest continuously occupied hilltop Native American site In United States” (Science Daily): Recent evidence uncovered at Shawnee Lookout by UC students forces white people to reconsider how long the Shawnee peoples were inhabiting the hilltop.
  • “American Indians” section of Ohio History Central (OHC): OHC has a significant portion of their website content about the Native peoples that inhabited Ohio before and while it was known as Ohio.
  • Ancient Ohio Trail: World Heritage Ohio provides a lot of information on Ohio’s earthworks and the cultures that built them.
  • Indigenous Peoples’ Day Convergence 2020: Greater Cincinnati Native American Coalition organized a meaningful, powerful convergence of Indigenous peoples around the world.

Cincinnati Black History

  • Race and the City: Work, Community, and Protest in Cincinnati, 1820-1970 by Henry Louis Taylor Jr. (Bookshop): Exploring the protests of racial politics and socio-economics in Cincinnati history
  • River Jordan: African American Urban Life in the Ohio Valley by Joe William Trotter (Bookshop): Trotter deeply examines how the Ohio River was a deep dividing line and how cities on it struggle(d) with racism.
  • Ohio (Bookshop) (Library of Congress free), Kentucky (Bookshop) (LoC), Indiana (Bookshop) (LoC) Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1938 by Federal Writers’ Project: First-person narratives from enslavement survivors. Be aware that these interviews were conducted by white people with prefabricated notions of Black people and have inherent bias in their questions.
  • “Woman’s City Club: A Pioneer in Race Relations” by Andrea Tuttle Kornbluh in Queen City Heritage, Vol. 44, No. 2, Summer 1986, pages 21‑38. (CMC Library & Archives): Woman’s City Club has a rich history of equality, social justice, an early proponent of integration. They still operate within a framework of equity and justice.  
  • Driven Toward Madness:The Fugitive Slave Margaret Garner and Tragedy on the Ohio by Nikki M. Taylor (Bookshop): Margaret Garner escaped enslavement with her children to Cincinnati. When found, she would have rather her children die than return to enslavement. So she tried to kill her children but only ended up killing one. 
  • Frontiers of Freedom: Cincinnati’s Black Community 1802-1868 by Nikki M. Taylor (Bookshop): Probably the foremost scholar on Cincinnati’s Black community in its early history, former UC professor Nikki M. Taylor documents the extreme, unmatched “vicious mob spirit” of Cincinnati’s white residents and the eventual accomplishments the Black community gained into the late 1800s through adversity.
  • America’s First Black Socialist: The Radical Life of Peter H. Clark by Nikki M. Taylor (Bookshop): Taylor writes of Peter H. Clark’s experiences here in Cincinnati building up a public education system for Black children. Eventually, he was forced out by becoming too invested in his politics.
  • The Rivers Ran Backward: The Civil War and the Remaking of the American Middle Border by Christopher Phillips (Bookshop): The book is a riveting account that sets a geographic framework of race along the Ohio River, focusing on Cincinnati, Louisville, and St. Louis and the national and regional politics that affected Black populations and atrocities during and after the Civil War that defined our border.
  • Cincinnati’s Colored Citizens: Historical, Sociological and Biographical by Wendell P. Dabney (local library): So much Cincinnati Black history would be lost without Dabney’s records of Black individuals and Black history. This book is a true treasure.
  • Cincinnati’s Black Peoples: A Chronology and Bibliography, 1787-1982 by Lyle Koehler (local library): Koehler provides a chronology of Black Cincinnati experience in education, housing, music, population and politics from the African American experience in Cincinnati from 1787 to 1982.
  • “On Slavery’s Fringe: City-Building and Black Community Development in Cincinnati, 1800-1850” by Henry L. Taylor, Ohio History Journal (Ohio History Connection): This article focuses specifically on Cincinnati urban planning and the antebellum Black community.
  • Race and the City: Work, Community, and Protest in Cincinnati, 1820-1970 edited by Henry Louis Taylor (local library): Taylor explores the dynamics of social, economic, and political development of black Cincinnati.
  • Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America by W. Caleb McDaniel (Bookshop): This is the riveting, previously untold true story of Henrietta Wood, a woman born into enslavement and legally freed in Cincinnati in 1848, but in 1853, the city’s sheriff took her into custody and re-enslaved her. She returned a free woman and sued the sheriff for damages and won.
  • Guide to African American Resources at the Cincinnati History Library and Archives (CMC Library & Archives): The CMC Library & Archives, formerly the Cincinnati History Society, has a vast collection of Black history for you to explore. Visit “Subject Categories” and browse. Don’t miss the Civil Rights and Race Relations section!
  • Keep on Fighting: The Life and Civil Rights Legacy of Marian A. Spencer by Dorothy H. Christenson (Bookshop): Marian Spencer’s recent death was a major heartbreak for the city. Spencer was one of the major civil rights leaders in the city, and this book tells her story, her struggles, and her successes. Activists will want to read this for inspiration.
  • Hamilton Avenue Road to Freedom: Local historians tell about the Underground Railroad and uncover the harrowing story of the Escape of the 28.
  • Black Radical: The Life and Times of William Monroe Trotter by Kerri K. Greenidge (Bookshop):Trotter’s father William Monroe Trotter grew up in Cincinnati after being born into enslavement. His father’s experiences would shape his determination and radicalism as one of the major Black leaders at the time.
  • A Tour on the Underground Railroad along the Ohio River History & Guide by Nancy Stearns Theiss (Bookshop): This book tells the tales of Underground Railroad spots along the Ohio River in Ohio and Indiana.
  • Walnut Hills Historical Society: Geoff Sutton is one of the most active local historians talking about Black history.
  • Cincinnati Goddamn (Wexner Center for the Arts): A 2015 documentary by April Martin and Paul Hill about the recent history of racism in Cincinnati, covering the 2001 unrest
  • “Destruction of a black suburb” by Alana Semuels (The Atlantic): This article excellently covers the rise and fall of the Black community of Lincoln Heights and the structural racism that led to its economic downturn.
  • “25,737 people lived in Kenyon-Barr when the city razed it to the ground” by Alyssa Konermann (Cincinnati Magazine): The West End was almost entirely demolished to make room for 1-75, at the expense of the Black community living there. There was no mistake in where decision-makers chose to put 71 and 75in the hearts of Cincinnati’s Black communities.
  • Changing Plans for America’s Inner Cities by Zane L. Miller and Bruce Tucker (Ohio State University)
  • Free Black Communities and the Underground Railroad: The Geography of Resistance by Cheryl Janifer Laroche (Bookshop): Laroche examines the free Black communities that assisted the Underground Railroad in rural Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.
  • The Bone and Sinew of the Land: America’s Forgotten Black Pioneers and the Struggle for Equality by Anna-Lisa Cox (Bookshop): Cox tells the tales of Black settlers who, like white settlers, went westward across the Alleghenies to also squat in Native territory. These settlers, though, faced extreme backlash from white settlers, despite the legalities they had when the territory became states.
  • “The Long Struggle for Freedom Rights” by Karen Robertson, National Afro-American Museum & Cultural Center (Ohio History Connection)
  • Cincinnati Black History: A website with biographies of Black people in Cincinnati history
  • “Finding Kenyon Barr and Cincinnati’s Lost Lower West End” (WVXU): A part of the 2018 Fotofocus Exhibit, the following interview from Anne Delano Steinert and Jim DaMico give a thorough discussion of this lost neighborhood.
  • We Shall Overcome: Sacred Song on the Devil’s Tongue by Isaias Gamboa (Bookshop): It’s no coincidence that the most beloved protest song “We Shall Overcome” was born in Cincinnati. Gamboa traces how West Ender Louise Shropshire wrote “If My Jesus Wills” and performed it for Martin Luther King, Jr., and soon it morphed into what we now know as “We Shall Overcome.” FOX19 gives a short summary.

Cincinnati Creators

Some Cincinnati area authors who, when reading, will give you their lived experiences and their families’ lived experiences. Priscilla Jane Thompson is particularly powerful. Though we’re trying to limit white authors, we felt the need to include a few that were representative of the time and wrote incredibly valuable and transformative words. Some, like Fannie Hurst and Harriet Beecher Stowe, were white women fighting against Black oppression.

  • A Hairdresser’s Experience in High Life by Eliza Potter (Google)
    Much like Sarah Fossett, Eliza Potter was hair stylist for Cincinnati’s upper echelon.
  • Ethiope Lays by Priscilla Jane Thompson (Google
  • Gleanings of the Quiet Hours by Priscilla Jane Thompson (Google)  
  • Morning Songs by Aaron Belford Thompson (Google
  • Echoes of Spring by Aaron Belford Thompson (Internet Archive)  
  • Harvest of Thoughts by Aaron Belford Thompson (Internet Archive
  • Poet and Other Poems by Raymond Garfield Dandrige (University of Michigan
  • Songs from the Wayside by Clara Ann Thompson (Internet Archive)
  • A Garland of Poems by Clara Ann Thompson
  • Imitation of Life by Fannie Hurst (Bookshop)  
  • Reminiscences of Levi Coffin, the Reputed President of the Underground Railroad by Levi Coffin (Google)  
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (Google): Though it’s problematic today, it started a national conversation among white people about the institution of slavery and mobilized them.
  • A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Vol. 1 (Google) and Vol. 2 (Google) by Harriet Beecher Stowe: After so many people doubted that any sort of event in Uncle Tom’s Cabin could have happened, Stowe provided her research, revealing all these stories she heard and the people she met that inspired the book. She was providing non-fiction resources for people to learn from, evidence of the experiences and events happening along the Ohio River.
  • Life of Harriet Beecher Stowe edited by Charles Edward Stowe (Google): Using Harriet’s correspondences, her son wrote her biography, detailing her time here in Cincinnati and her relations with abolitionists.

General Histories

Here are a few general histories that showcase the overall experiences and struggles from Black and Indigenous people that help provide insight into how Cincinnati fits into a larger picture. Notably, if you want a more take on colonial history, visit the Decolonial Atlas and read Imperial Leather: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Colonial Conquest by Anne McClintock (Bookshop).

Indigenous History

Books and Articles

  • An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz (Bookshop): You will never be the same after reading this book. That is all.
  • “Longtime police brutality drove American Indians to join the George Floyd protests” by Katrina Phillips (The Washington Post): Why it was important for Indigenous people to show up to protests of the George Floyd’s murder
  • The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America by Andrés Reséndez (Bookshop): As Indigenous people were forced to do many things, Reséndez uncovers the stories those who were bound to slavery. 
  • Black Indian Slave Narratives (Bookshop): Native people were forced to adopt the new colonial capitalist society or die. This book takes on the ways they did because enslaving people was part of that.
  • Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir by Deborah Miranda (Bookshop): Miranda provides a captivating read that juxtaposes her tribe’s history with her own narrative multimedia memoir. 
  • The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present by David Treuer (Bookshop): Treuer, an anthropologist who is also Ojibwe, reveals the painful history the tribe had endured from its first encounters with European settlers to modern times, breaking myths that have endured and showing how they have persevered and preserved their culture.
  • All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life by Winona LaDuke (Bookshop): LaDuke adroitly expounds on Native struggles while informing on environmental and cultural issues. Water is life, and LaDuke will ensure you know that.
  • Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto by Vine Deloria, Jr. (Bookshop): This book is all about the structural racism and extermination against Indigenous peoples.
  • Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic Science by Kim TallBear (Bookshop): Kim TallBear brilliantly wrote about the problems of DNA testing in ancestry and science and its role in systemic racism, detailing the inheritance racism of Elizabeth Warren’s Cherokee lineage claims. For further reading on Warren’s problematic claims, three Indigenous scholars compiled a syllabus on the subject.
  • “We are not your dead ancestors” by Kim TallBear (Unsettle): TallBear summarizes what it means to be pretendian within the context of history.
  • “How to survive an apocalypse and keep dreaming” by Julian Brave NoiseCat (The Nation): When in the Secwepemcstin language, “Good morning” translates to “You survived the night” should tell you all you need to know about a people who have long been told that they should be dead. This article is mighty powerful.
  • Journey to Freedom: Richard Oakes, Alcatraz, and the Red Power Movement by Kent Blansett (Bookshop): This biography of Akwesasne Mohawk activist Richard Oakes covers the significant protest occupation of Alcatraz and the Red Power movement.
  • American Indian Stories by Zitkála-Šá (Google Books): Zitkála-Šá was a Yankton Dakota Sioux writer, composer, and activist who grew up in Indiana but not really by choice. She was taken there to be re-educated and eventually went to Earlham College in Richmond, IN. In this book she talks about that experience of losing her culture.
  • The American Indian Magazine, Issue 2 (Google Books): Zitkála-Šá edited this national activist publication that explored the Native experiences and issues of the time. It will give you a glimpse into what the Indigenous peoples were struggling with at the time, including racism, the Indian Bureau’s corruption, and citizenship.
  • Our History Is the Future: Standing Rock Versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance by Nick Estes (Bookshop): The book is “a work of history, a manifesto, and an intergenerational story of resistance,” tracing the events that eventually led to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests that turned into violence against the people of Standing Rock.
  • “The rebirth of red power” by Nick Martin (The New Republic): Martin’s article features Sioux author and activist Nick Estes, about the history of the Red Power movement, the complicated relationship Native Nations have with the U.S., and how we can re-think systems.
  • “When scientists ‘discover’ what Indigenous people have known for centuries” by George Nicholas (Smithsonian Magazine): This article somewhat captures how Western science ignores Indigenous science.
  • The Black Shoals: Offshore Formations of Black and Native Studies by Tiffany Lethabo King (Bookshop) (Duke University Press): King uses historical insights to examine the space between Black studies and Native studies.
  • Three articles on the song “This Land is Your Land” from Indigenous perspectives and a response song:
    • “The blind spot in the great American protest song” by Sam Kesler (NPR)
    • “’Your land?’ Natives question inaugural song” by Felicia Fonseca (Indian Country Today)
    • “‘This Land Is My Land’ or is it?” by Peter Bosshard (International Rivers)
    • “Truth and Reconciliation: ‘This land is your land, this land is my land’ – or is it?” by Michael D. Hendrickson (Native Times)
  • Notes:
    • Avoid reading Pekka Hämäläinen’s Lakota America. It’s filled with inaccuracies and colonialist views. 
    • Pretendians are everywhere. If they claim association with a tribe, try to find out if that tribe is real. Some of them make tribes up. Some of them claim tribal heritage without proving lineage.


  • All My Relations: A podcast hosted by Matika Wilbur (Swinomish and Tulalip) and Adrienne Keene (Cherokee Nation) to explore relationships as Native peoples relationships to land, to ancestors, and to each other.”
  • MEDIA INDIGENA: This podcast is journalistic coverage of current issues that affect Indigenous peoples in North America
  • Medicine for the Resistance: Podcast “hosted by an Anishnaabe kwe and an Afro mystic looking at life through Black and Indigenous eyes.”
  • “Sacheen Littlefeather – Warrior and Icon of Indian Country” episode of Native Trailblazers (Indian Country Today): Though the radio show / podcast is worth listening to in general, this episode is particularly striking because the guest Sacheen Littlefeather delves into her activism in Hollywood, including certain Western film stars wanting to kill her and being blacklisted.
  • This Land (Crooked Media): In this podcast, Rebecca Nagle dives deep into the legalities of who exactly owns Oklahoma (spoiler alert: it’s not settlers), infused with her own ancestral narratives. RBG doesn’t exactly look as saintly as progressives make her out to be when Nagle reveals how she does not respect treaties.
  • Coffee with My Ma (Stitcher): Kahentinetha Horn tells her daughter Tiio Horn “stories of her very long adventurous life, always with the sense of humour that carried her through.”
  • Ghost River: The Fall and Rise of the Conestoga by Lee Francis 4 (writer), Weshoyot Alvitre (artist), and Will Fenton (editor) (Ghost River) (Red Planet Books and Comics): This interactive graphic novel is intense not only for its content but also its in-depth available research displayed as clickable footnotes, akin to what Blu-rays tried to do but actually works. The slaughtering of the Conestoga is absolutely horrifying. 
  • When Rivers Were Trails adventure game (Indianland Tenure): This game, entirely produced by Indigenous creatives, is an alternative to the classic Oregon Trail.
  • A War Cry: Focused on the Pacific Northwest, this podcast is created, hosted and produced by an all Indigenous team. In it, they “explore stories, issues and historical connection about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Men and LGBTQ 2 Spirit community members.”
  • The Humanity Archive: This podcast shares “the dismissed, untold, and forgotten stories of history to find wisdom in our shared past and help you think critically about the present.”
  • “The Promised Land” by Periwinkle (Spotify)

Black History

Books and Articles

  • A Black Women’s History of the United States by Daina Ramey Berry and Kali N. Gross (Bookshop): “In centering Black women’s stories, two award-winning historians seek both to empower African American women and to show their allies that Black women’s unique ability to make their own communities while combatting centuries of oppression is an essential component in our continued resistance to systemic racism and sexism.”
  • The Price for Their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved, from Womb to Grave, in the Building of a Nation by Daina Ramey Berry (Bookshop): This is an in-depth look at how Black bodies were commodified and how our economy and government was built on the slave trade.
  • Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Davis (Bookshop) (There are many places you can find this free online): You cannot begin to talk about the prison system without reading Angela Davis’s work. She leads us through how the slave system transformed into the prison system.
  • The Accident of Color: A Story of Race in Reconstruction by Daniel Brook (Bookshop): Brook examines race and how Reconstruction and Jim Crow affected race and put them into binaries.
  • Capitol Men: The Epic Story of Reconstruction Through the Lives of the First Black Congressmen by Philip Dray (local library): Meet the Black men who broke ground in Congress and the oppositions they faced while trying to empower the Black community.
  • Black Reconstruction in America: Toward a History of the Part Which Black Folk Played in the Attempt to Reconstruct Democracy in America, 1860-1880 by W. E. B. Du Bois (Bookshop) (WEBDuBois.org): Du Bois is probably one of those names you maybe read a little of something about in high school but don’t remember, and that’s a shame. In this, Du Bois recalls Reconstruction through a Black lens.
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Bookshop): Coates juxtaposes the nation’s history with the Black community and a modern father-son relationship.
  • Black Indian Slave Narratives (Bookshop): Since we’re focusing on Black and Indigenous histories, we thought it important to include the narratives of Black and Indigenous peoples and their roles within the institution of slavery.
  • White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson (Bookshop): “From the Civil War to our combustible present, White Rage reframes our continuing conversation about race, chronicling the powerful forces opposed to black progress in America.”
  • They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South by Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers (Bookshop): Jones-Rogers tells how white women were not simply passive in the institution of slavery (as previously assumed) but were active enforcers and keepers of it.
  • American While Black: African Americans, Immigration, and the Limits of Citizenship by Niambi Michele Carter (Bookshop): Since the seizure of North America and the creation of the United States, the founding fathers had limited citizenship, and therefore power, to a limited few. After emancipation and the bloody expansion out West during the “Indian Wars,” the federal government sought to bring in more white people and opened up immigration but to whom and why? This book explores that relationship the government has with foreign countries and who is allowed in and if race has a factor.
  • ain’t i a woman: black women and feminism by bell hooks (Bookshop): One of the foremost feminist, capitalism, and race theorists bell hooks examines the intersections and anti-workings of black women and feminism.
  • The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein (Bookshop): This books explores the history of American governments deliberately imposing racial segregation on metropolitan areas nationwide and how they still do it today.
  • Black Perspectives (African American Intellectual History Society): Blog by AAIHS from Black scholar who are “deeply committed to producing and disseminating cutting-edge research that is accessible to the public and is oriented towards advancing the lives of people of African descent and humanity”
  • “The racist roots of American policing: From slave patrols to traffic stops” by Connie Hassett-Walker (The Conversation): Hassett-Walker briefly guides us through the history of the formation of policing and its anti-Black, anti-poor, and anti-immigrant (though she does leave out anti-Indigenous).
  • “How racist policing took over American cities, explained by a historian” by Anna North and Khalil Muhammad (Vox): Muhammad tells North about the origins of American policing and how the violence today stems from those origins. For further reading, check out Muhammad’s book The Condemnation of Blackness Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America (Bookshop).
  • “‘One continuous graveyard’: Emancipation and the birth of the professional police force” by Keri Leigh Merritt (African American Intellectual History Society): Merritt provides a short piece on the growth of policing and criminalization of Black people in this article.
  • “Dinah, put down your horn: Blackface minstrel songs don’t belong in music class” by Dr. Katya Ermolaeva (Medium): A historical perspective on minstrel tunes and advocating for their removal from the American catalogue of standard children’s songs
  • The Black Shoals: Offshore Formations of Black and Native Studies by Tiffany Lethabo King (Bookshop) (Duke University Press): King uses historical insights to examine the space between Black studies and Native studies.
  • In Search of our Mothers’ Gardens by Alice Walker (Bookshop): In this collection of essays, Walker talks about her personal and political identity as a woman of color.
  • Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde (Bookshop): This is an influential collection of essays and poetry that identifies issues of social justice and provides people with hope.
  • Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi (Bookshop): “As Kendi shows, racist ideas did not arise from ignorance or hatred. They were created to justify and rationalize deeply entrenched discriminatory policies and the nation’s racial inequities.In shedding light on this history, Stamped from the Beginning offers us the tools we need to expose racist thinking. In the process, he gives us reason to hope.”
  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander (Bookshop) (The New Jim Crow): “The New Jim Crow is a stunning account of the rebirth of a caste-like system in the United States, one that has resulted in millions of African Americans locked behind bars and then relegated to a permanent second-class status—denied the very rights supposedly won in the Civil Rights Movement.”
  • “I’ve studied the history of Confederate memorials. Here’s what to do about them,” by W. Fitzhugh Brundage. (Vox): Though other sources we’ve listed explain this, Brundgae gives a succinct history of why Confederate statues were installed.
  • We Are Your Sisters: Black Women in the Nineteenth Century, edited by Dorothy Sterling (Bookshop): “Including oral history, letters and excerpts from diaries, this is a documentary study of 2 million black slave women and 200,000 free black women in the 19th century.”
  • Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom by Keisha N. Blain (Bookshop): Blain’s groundbreaking work examines how black nationalist women engaged in national and global politics from the early twentieth century to the 1960s.
  • There Is a River: The Black Struggle for Freedom in America by Vincent Harding (Bookshop): Harding presents Black history in America as a force of strong resistance to racism and slavery rather than accommodation and discusses the people and events of this struggle, from Africa to America.
  • A Voice from the South by Anna Julia Cooper (Documenting the American South): Cooper’s book addresses a variety of issues, including women’s rights, Black women as the leaders of progress, literary criticisms of writers on Black people, and the South.


  • The 1619 Project (NY Times): Headed by journalist Nikole Hannah Jones, the 1619 Project “re-examines the legacy of slavery in the United States and timed for the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first Africans in Virginia” during its 2019 release. It was met with blowback from major white historians.
  • Sojourner Truth: A Cantata by Stanley Friedman (Soundcloud): “The Cantata’s five movements highlight scenes in Sojourner’s life: (1) why she changed her name from Isabella to Sojourner; (2) how she inspired black soldiers to fight for freedom; (3) how she changed hearts and minds with her famous “Ain’t I a Woman” speech; (4) how she faced her own death with faith and courage; (5) how her story continues to inform and inspire to this day.”
  • The Sojourner Truth Project: This compares the original speech from Sojourner Truth and a white woman’s revision of it 12 years later that was popularized
  • Angela Davis lectures on Spotify (web) (app: spotify:artist:4LsP9Fcfyln6GOh8GwYDkT)
  • 13th documentary by Ava Duvernay (Netflix and YouTube): This is a great supplement to Angela Davis. “Combining archival footage with testimony from activists and scholars, director Ava DuVernay’s examination of the U.S. prison system looks at how the country’s history of racial inequality drives the high rate of incarceration in America.”
  • Selma by Ava DuVernay (Netflix and YouTube): The story follows “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who rallied his followers on the historic march from Selma to Montgomery in the face of violent opposition, an event that became a milestone victory for the civil rights movement.”
  • The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution documentary (PBS): “The first feature-length documentary to shed light on the Black Panther Party — and all its reviled, adored, misunderstood, and mythologized history”
  • When They See Us by Ava DuVernay (Netflix): “Five teens from Harlem become trapped in a nightmare when they’re falsely accused of a brutal attack in Central Park. Based on the true story.”
  • Medicine for the Resistance: Podcast “hosted by an Anishnaabe kwe and an Afro mystic looking at life through Black and Indigenous eyes.”
  • Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture: “The only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture” provides many resources for learning about Black history.
  • Our Native Daughters album (Smithsonian Folkways) (Spotify): This album is all about four Black women reclaiming the banjo with songs about various Black experiences in America, from those who are immigrants to those who were slaves or descendants of slaves.
  • Black History Year: A Black history podcast that “connects you to the history, thinkers, and activists that are left out of the mainstream conversations.”
  • Historically Black: This podcast uses objects to tell stories through interviews, archival sound and music.
  • The Humanity Archive: This podcast shares “the dismissed, untold, and forgotten stories of history to find wisdom in our shared past and help you think critically about the present.”
  • Black History Buff: This podcast sheds light on Black history.

Taking Action

Taking action will involve more than learning about historical context of where we are currently. It’s the first step but now that we’ve acknowledged the inequities of our fellow people, it’s time to engage. 

After that first step, we want you to acknowledge three things:

  1. You don’t know everything, and you are not always right. It’s okay to make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes! The important thing is to just keep trying, learning, growing, and doing..
  2. Acknowledge your own racism. White people were taught to be racist by a racist system upheld for centuries. So, inherently, white people are racist. How have you kept racism alive and well, intentionally or unintentionally? Have you been silent when family members make racist comments, just to avoid confrontation? If you catch yourself thinking, “Her hair looks so cool,” and your first instinct is to touch a Black woman’s hair, stop and think about that for a bit.
  3. Acknowledge that the land you are on was stolen. Here are two guides for helping you do that.
    1. A Guide to Indigenous Land Acknowledgement (Native Governance Center)
    2. #HonorNativeLand Guide (US Dept of Arts & Culture)
    3. But do so with reconciliation efforts (CBC)

There are so many more calls to action, lists, and frameworks for people to absorb and use that are outside of our expertise of historical framework. To educate yourself and take action on BLM, here are some other resources:

But, more in line with our work and this guidebook, here are some actions you can take locally.

Decolonize and Indigenize the System

The Cone of Plausibility and the Futures Triangle are two tools futurists use that take into account the deep history of where we are in the present and what possibilities might unfold in the future. When we write about these women in history, we write with the present and future in mind. How does this woman’s story tell a story about today? How does this women’s story fit into the bigger narrative of Cincinnati history and how it’s still relevant to today? Of national history? Of international history? How will this woman inspire thought or action? What legacy do we want to leave for those who come after us?

Cincinnati-based education nonprofit KnowledgeWorks has developed a systems thinking guidebook with approachable language and actionable processes. Take the time to read it and use it with yourself, your businesses, your groups, and your organizations. We need to change not only the larger socio-political institutions but the small systems that we can control at the local and state levelschurches, schools, businesses, policing, prisons, agriculture, environment, idolatry of white supremacy, and so on.

Changing the system is hard, but white people cannot expect people of color to do the heavy lifting for them. With the recent COVID-19 pandemic, we were exposed to many major (and deadly) flaws in our systems, many of which have been established since white Europeans stepped foot on this continent. So how can we move forward to improve and be a better, more caring, more resilient, more equitable society and not repeat past mistakes, injustices, and genocides?

First, we need to acknowledge the validity of non-Western systems and begin reconciliation. Nearly every month “scientists discovered” something that Native people have known and have been telling us for millennia. Here are the distinctions of reconciliation, Indigenization, and decolonization.

Ensure that when you do make system changes, diverse voices are included from the start and allow them to bring their voices and experiences with them. Actually listen to them. We need to recognize that the phrase “having a seat at the table” implies that there is ownership of the table and still makes clear who owns that table, and it’s not non-white folks. So rather, collaborate, create together; don’t simply invite others to where you are.

We can produce major effects if we transition our education systems to more sustainable, equitable systems. That can be in staffing, curriculum, and how we teach. Whether you’re teaching six-year-olds or high schoolers, there is never a time to not learn. Here are some resources for educators:

We can learn from, respect, and, most importantly, work with Indigenous communities. What does this look like?

With a history of denying education to Black people, when acts of gaining education were dangerous and deadly, and re-educating Native people to strip them of their culture, we have a duty in education to not just include their histories and words but to decolonize and Indigenize the system, which can be built within the framework of whole-child, personalized, competency-based learning. But changing society shouldn’t fall solely on educators; they have enough burdens as is. Families also need to be educated on race and racism. Hiring practices need to change. Textbook companies need to change. Policies need to change. And when we do change, we need to remember to not center our systems around whiteness. To do that, we must consider public history, not a selective white history. Jacob Piatt Dunn in his article, “Duty of the State to Its History,” writes:

“Now, what was it that these English commissions learned by their investigation? Simply the facts—the actual experience of the public—the history of the evil. It is just like a physician diagnosing a case, in which he acquaints himself with the personal history of his patient for a greater or less period, in order to account for the symptoms then present themselves. If you want intelligent legislation, you must first find out just what is wrong, and then devise the remedy for that wrong.”

Imagine a world where systems didn’t have to be the way they are now. It’s not hard to imagine, but when so many in power don’t want to change; it’s hard doing. That’s when the public multitude comes in. It’s why the Federalist Papers were written from Publius, not Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. They acknowledged that the public’s voice (particularly when it speaks as one) is strong. Even if your voice is one single note in a field of hatred, we know the positivity you spark will make an impact.

Local Anti-Racism Groups

Though there are quite a few local groups working in antiracism and restorative justice, there are a few that work within a historical and educational lens in Cincinnati from whom you can learn with resources and partnerships:

  • Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center, who developed a toolkit on race and racism in Cincinnati: Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center (IJPC) educates and advocates for peace, challenges unjust local, national, and global systems, and promotes the creation of a non-violent society.
  • National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, who developed a resource toolkit: The Freedom Center’s mission is to reveal stories of freedom’s heroes, from the era of the Underground Railroad to contemporary times, challenging and inspiring everyone to take courageous steps of freedom today.
  • The Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center: The Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center exists to ensure the lessons of the Holocaust inspire action today. HHC educates about the Holocaust, remembers its victims and acts on its lessons. Through innovative programs and partnerships, HHC challenges injustice, inhumanity, and prejudice, and fosters understanding, inclusion, and engaged citizenship. HHC impacts more than 200,000 individuals each year.
  • Greater Cincinnati Native American Coalition, who provided a toolkit on Indigenous allyship: Greater Cincinnati Native American Coalition exists to preserve and represent the culture and heritage of Native American, Indigenous, and First Nations Peoples by, but not limited to, providing education, advocacy, and support on contemporary Indigenous issues, and by cultivating knowledge about Native American history in local and regional communities.
  • MUSE Women’s Choir: MUSE is an inclusive and feminist choral community advocating for peace and social justice. They unite their voices to raise awareness and inspire change in ourselves, our audiences, and our world through partnerships that honor the humanity and enduring spirit of all people.
  • Kentuckians for the Commonwealth Northern Kentucky chapter: The chapter began in Northern Kentucky in 2010, and has been active working to build a more just and sustainable community. From concerts, to film series, to candidate forums, our chapter is always working to find ways to better engage and work within our community. We hope you can join us, and help build a better Kentucky. 
  • Woman’s City Club of Greater Cincinnati: The WCC aims to educate, empower and engage the citizens of Greater Cincinnati to participate together in promoting the common good in creating a just and sustainable community where all citizens are engaged as informed stakeholders in the shaping of our shared future.
  • Cincinnati NAACP: The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination.
  • Myaamia Center: The Myaamia Center is a coalition between Miami University and the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma. They seek to conduct in-depth research that will preserve Myaamia language and culture while exposing others to their plight.
  • Miami Nation of Indians of Indiana: The Miami Nation of Indiana’s “mission is to protect, promote, record, and share the Miami of Indiana’s history, language, culture, and heritage.” They conduct outreach programs to educate.

Who to Follow, Learn from, and Amplify on the History of Race in the U.S.

Here are some people and organizations to follow in the GCA with a historical lens and some major leadership roles internationally. Listen to them and amplify them. 

Notes: Do not follow and amplify Shaun King, who’s known for exploitation of Black women’s pain and has no transparency of where his fundraising goes (likely to his pocket), and white people love to donate to his fundraisers. If Candace Owens is the only Black person you are listening to, you need to be listening to more Black voices. Also avoid the site WhiteWolfPack and its social, likely owned by a white woman, which appropriates and fetishizes Native culture and lifts content from hardworking, talented Native journalists. 

Use Your Strengths

Some people have crippling anxiety or have fear of large crowds, and some have health reasons for not being out to protest. What alternatives are there to protesting and screaming at a Facebook wall that gets you nowhere? What can you and what will you do with your skills, your personality, and your knowledge? How will you enact change in your daily routine?

We suggest thinking about ways to engage civically to deconstruct the historical constraints of white supremacy. You can call representatives, sign petitions, amplify the minority perspectives around you in statue removal, policing, gerrymandering, and fair policy. Vote and run for office.

Donating money or resources is always welcome and sometimes that can come out of your pocket while other times it can also come from using products or services that are donating their proceeds, too. It can also come from supporting minority businesses. Here are four lists of Black businesses in Cincinnati:

We also suggest ways of engaging in more personal ways. Holidays have been terrible since 2016 anyway, so why not start conversations with your family? Maybe for the holidays, you can gift loved ones the aforementioned books and movies. Maybe on Thanksgiving, you can gift the host with a copy of Ortiz’s An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States. On Indigenous Peoples’ Day, formerly known as Columbus Day, you can leave a copy with your uncle who thinks Native people no longer exist. One thing is for sure, it will spark that conversation.

Maybe you’re extremely shy. That’s okay. If you have a child, you can raise that child in a new way. Maybe you’re shy and have other talents. But have conversations with your loved ones and even strangers. In-person conversations always work best. Use pathos-based approaches to logos-based arguments. Using strong emotional words in emotional approaches such as “frustrated,” “exhausted,” “emotional burden,” and “angry” these words can trigger empathy before you get into statistics, facts, and figures. 

Discussion groups and book clubs are also an effective tool to help challenge each other. You can hold book clubs on the books mentioned above. How do you see the remnants of these histories today in Cincinnati?

It took Harriet Beecher Stowe losing her baby to cholera to feel any sort of connection to what enslaved mothers felt when losing their children to the auction block. (It’s really not at all the same, but the loss was her connection to having any sort of empathy, so… win?) This empathy sparked Stowe to write her famous novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, based on the stories she heard and the people she knew on the Ohio River and in Cincinnati. The book led other white people to empathsize, choose a side on slavery, and start the U.S. Civil War.

Indeed, white women have immense power, despite not legally having equality. White men will crawl over shards of glass they will kill over a crying white woman. Women, particularly white women, have been used as a rallying cry for men in wartimes. This was something Queen Elizabeth I had done herself in front of her army, Molly Pitcher had done for the Revolutionary War, Jeanne Fourquet had done for the Beauvaians, and used during WWI and WWII propaganda (read more about the concept of women’s bodies as symbols of nationalism in McClintock). As Elizabeth Young writes in Disarming the Nation, white women are the keepers of social constructs; they can choose to keep things as is or progress them, particularly white women in predominantly white circles. One white woman’s voice can kill a Black man, and one white woman’s voice can help provide justice. One thing is clear: Not saying or doing a thing will only keep the systemic racism going. Going back to Audre Lorde: Our silence will not protect us.

So how will you wield your voice?

Don’t be afraid to start the dialogue. This goes particularly for our white readers. By educating yourself to the systemic inequities in our nation, you are well-placed to start engaging people who may not have begun their journey. Be open, be joyful, and be hopeful. And please don’t use just these sources to dwell on pain. Celebrate accomplishments and joys of Black and Brown people. In doing your part to inform yourself, we are all on the right track to equalizing justice in America.

This guidebook was published in June 2020 and updated on 17 June 2021 by Queens of Queen City (Sean E. Andres and Chelsie J. Hoskins).