Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You is a "remixed" version of Ibram X. Kendi's award-winning history book, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (2016). Kendi's 2016 Stamped, which won the National Book Award in the year of its release, comprehensively analyzes America's relationship with racism. Kendi's book was met with rave reviews, and many readers were frustrated that the history they had been taught throughout school failed to discuss racism. In an interview with NPR released in 2020, Kendi explained that he wanted to "give young people access to this history by collaborating with a writer who could take his facts [...] and write it for a younger audience." Kendi immediately thought of Jason Reynolds, the celebrated author of young adult bestsellers such as Long Way Down and All American Boys.
Because Reynolds primarily works in the genre of fiction, he was initially hesitant to accept Kendi's offer. However, Reynolds quickly became excited by the opportunity to craft an engaging historical narrative for younger readers. In 2019, Reynolds spoke to Time magazine and described his writing process. "I settled into it and I tried to figure out, if I’m 16, what makes me want to read this book? And the answer is always going to be subversion. So the book starts: ‘This is not a history book,'” Reynolds said.
In the Time interview, Kendi discusses the importance of Reynolds's work. "The idea is that high school students should be able to learn in a very detailed and clear way the history of racist ideas so that they would not have to spend their whole lives struggling with these ideas in the way so many of us adults have,” Kendi said.
In Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, Reynolds and Kendi aim to help young people understand their role in discussing and dismantling racism. Like Stamped from the Beginning, the young-adult book is divided into five chronological sections. Reynolds focuses on the construction of race and how it has been used throughout the history of the West to concentrate power among certain groups while disenfranchising others.
In the first chapter, Reynolds writes about three primary groups; "segregationists," "assimilationists," and "antiracists." Over the course of the book, readers can identify different prominent leaders and how their actions can be classified into the ideologies promoted by these different groups. It becomes clear that throughout American history, numerous politicians that have been revered as advocates for democracy were in fact racist and exclusionary in their practices. The book also discusses how slave labor and white privilege have been woven into the DNA of the United States, and racist ideas in America have long been normalized. In Kendi's extensive written work, he advocates for Americans to confront their biases and become antiracists. Like Kendi, Reynolds encourages his young readers to be antiracist and actively combat racism in individual, interpersonal, institutional, and structural sectors.
Since its release by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in March 2020, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You has received critical acclaim. It has been named the #1 New York Times bestseller and a USA Today bestseller. Additionally, Stamped has been integrated into history curriculums across the nation.