... brilliant and disturbing ... While Stamped from the Beginning has won Kendi the 2016 National Book award for nonfiction, it has also disturbed some readers. This is because of the author’s fearless reappraisals of the words, actions and philosophies of some of the more revered heroes of American abolitionism and civil rights – including African American heroes ... Kendi’s unusually original and groundbreaking analysis is the product of an almost clinical modus operandi ... The analysis that emerges is delivered largely without sentimentality. This is not a historian fearful of upsetting orthodoxies or questioning fixed reputations ... He goes where the evidence takes him, which is not to where he or we might want it to go ... The methodical nature of Kendi’s approach does not render him blind to historical circumstance nor is he without sympathy for the figures he examines. This is not mechanistic history, but a measured laying out of a compelling, if discomfiting, thesis ... Kendi’s other trick is to cleverly weave into his prose short but nuanced biographies of several legendary American figures...Through their speeches, diaries and letters, Kendi deftly makes the case that racial ideas have always been a functional necessity to a Christian nation that was economically founded upon slavery while being politically and philosophically dedicated to the principles of liberty and freedom ... Kendi is at his most persuasive and powerful when he takes on the most basic assumption that underlies much thinking and writing about race in America – that racial ideas lead to racist policies ... Perhaps what is most disturbing about Kendi’s work is that it shows how the same racial ideas, dressed in different period costumes, have been repeatedly used to explain away the deaths of generations of African Americans, slaves, victims of Jim Crow lynchings and, in the 21st-century, casualties of police shootings.
... a lucid, accessible survey of how 'the people' were racialised over 500 years ... Kendi confidently re-evaluates the writings of many celebrated abolitionists and African-American heroes and concludes that racism often underpinned their strategies ... Kendi’s most important insight might help rethink anti-racist activism ... One might expect Kendi to be despondent, but he believes that eradicating discriminatory policies will consign racist ideas to the past ... an un-yielding narrative of racist ideas, violence and harm. However, the book is also a history of refusals.
... engrossing and relentless ... To his enormous credit, Kendi does not spare himself, admitting that before his book research, he unwittingly harbored prejudice ... The greatest service Kendi and provide[s] is the ruthless prosecution of American ideas about race for their tensions, contradictions and unintended consequences. And yet I have greater difficulty embracing the notion that, as Kendi argues, progress on race is inevitably stalked by the advance of racism and that, on an individual level, falling short in specific instances somehow taints the whole of a person ... The old one-drop rule for determining race was based on prejudice and pseudoscience. A one-drop rule for determining racism seems only slightly less unfair, no matter how well-intentioned.