In Defense of Black Studies

Edited by Colin Kaepernick, Robin D. G. Kelley, and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

Haymarket Books (July 4, 2023)

Trade paper • ISBN-13: 9798888900574 • US $19.95 • 5.5 in x 8.5 in • 220 pgs.


“White supremacists are attempting to control our people’s future by erasing our past. But we won’t let them. The centuries-long attack on Black history represents a strike against our very worth, brilliance, and value. We’re ready to fight back. And when we fight, we win.” 
—Colin Kaepernick 

Since its founding as a discipline in 1969, Black Studies has been under constant attack by social and political forces seeking to discredit and neutralize it. 

Florida is the frontline of an increasingly pitched battle taking place in schools and communities across the country. State legislatures are introducing laws to remove work by Black scholars like Angela Davis, bell hooks, Kimberlé Crenshaw, James Baldwin, and many others from classrooms, libraries, and curricula.

Books are tools—sources of knowledge and inspiration, especially in the hands of young people and organizers—to challenge the world and imagine something better. This barrage of attacks by the state represents something more chilling and insidious than a dismissive “culture war” headline: it’s an attempt to hide our radical history from future generations. And Black Studies as a field of knowledge and inquiry is by necessity radical. It came into being in undaunted opposition to the racial status quo. That’s what makes it dangerous. It refuses to accept the world as it is—a world of premature Black death and vulnerability, a world of lethal doses of racial inequity, a world where Black people are rendered less than human. To the contrary, Black Studies has always been integral to the struggle for human liberation.

The assault on Black Studies is an assault on movements fighting for a better future. It signals a disturbing truth about the US political landscape: the so-called “war on woke” is far from over. It’s just beginning, and it needs to be confronted head-on.

Co-published by Haymarket Books and Kaepernick Publishing, Our History Has Always Been Contraband collects critical voices from the Black radical tradition. Edited by Robin D. G. Kelley, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, and Colin Kaepernick, Our History Has Always Been Contraband gives students and non-students alike access to a history and tradition that is being suppressed. 


Colin Kaepernick is a Super Bowl quarterback and New York Times bestselling author who fights oppression globally. He founded the Know Your Rights Camp, which advances the liberation and well-being of Black and Brown people through education, self-empowerment, mass-mobilization, and the creation of new systems that elevate the next generation of change leaders.

Robin D. G. Kelley is Professor and Gary B. Nash Endowed Chair in U.S. History at UCLA. He is the author of Hammer and Hoe, Race Rebels, Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination, and Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original, among other titles. His writing has been featured in the Journal of American History, American Historical Review, Black Music Research Journal, African Studies Review, New York Times, The Crisis, The Nation, and Voice Literary Supplement.

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor writes and speaks on Black politics, social movements, and racial inequality in the United States. She is author Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership, published in 2019 by University of North Carolina Press. Race for Profit was a semi-finalist for the 2019 National Book Award and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in History in 2020. She is a 2021 MacArthur Foundation Fellow. Her earlier book From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation won the Lannan Cultural Freedom Award for an Especially Notable Book in 2016. She is also editor of How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective, which won the Lambda Literary Award for LGBQT nonfiction in 2018. Taylor is a contributing writer at The New Yorker.  Her writing has appeared in the Los Angeles TimesBoston ReviewParis ReviewGuardianThe NationJacobin, and Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society, among others. She is a former Contributing Opinion Writer for The New York Times. In 2016, she was named one of the hundred most influential African Americans in the United States by The Root. In 2018 Essence Magazine named her among the top one hundred “change makers” in the county. She has been appointed as a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians by the Organization of American Historians. Taylor is Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University.


Audio book:

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