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11 Books That’ll Wake You Up To The History You Didn’t Learn In School

Amongst the many important subjects that aren’t being taught in schools (*ahem financial literacy*) is alternative, less biased history lessons. While some states are considering whether or not to teach history at all, others, like Texas, are debating which historical facts are approved.

In fact, according to a recent vote, Hillary Clinton, the first female presidential candidate of a major political party, may not make the cut in Texas’ public school textbooks. And this is just one of many examples where historical fact is being omitted in public education.

The standard for educational curricula is set by each individual state. The selection process for school board members varies by state as members of a school board are either elected or appointed by state government officials. Yet another reason why it’s important to vote.

Although a curriculum is set by a school board, the subject matter is at the discretion of each individual teacher, according to Teachnology. If you’re curious about the stuff they don’t teach in school and in need of something other than what a middle-aged, majority white teachers deems important, pop into your local library, or grab your fave reading app, and add these history books to your list.

While controversial, this book is a good read when looking for an overshadowed perspective of United States history. The first chapter tells the story of Columbus from the perspective of an Indigenous group; other chapters go on to break down history from a point of view that many are not familiar with. Although written in the 1980’s, this book has been revised and is often revisited by US history buffs.

The belief often taught in school that modern innovations were introduced by Europeans is challenged in this book, which notes that many big ideas passed on by English forefathers were actually spawned from Chinese innovations. Written by a Canadian scholar, this book is an interesting interpretation of how the Western world has been established based on Eastern influence.

You may have heard about the descending power of the American economy and the increasing power of China’s growth but very little is explained—until now. This book gives an understanding of what is to come as world powers shift. You may be inspired to start studying Chinese after reading this book.Duolingo anyone?

While the author, Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, is a controversial scholar, his studies of world religions incorporates science and sparks thought. It’s an interesting read on a topic that is often avoided in public schools. Peterson studies the psychology of religious and ideological beliefs, making this subject more about the brain and how humans from different cultures process rituals and myths.

Due to its religious subject matter, this book probably would be avoided in a public school environment. However, this book neither focuses on nor promotes one religion over the other. Instead, this book looks at a question and compares and contrast the answers based on different religions and their beliefs. If you’ve never understood the differences between some of the world’s most popular belief systems, Prothero’s book is a good place to start.

Authored by assassinated political activist Walter Rodney, this book from the eighties is a great read for anyone interested in Africa as it relates to Western civilization. It is often described as one of the most important books on African history and is also a precursor to the black history studies that aren’t typically taught in schools.

This bold book tackles a dense topic that many people experience but don’t understand: The segregation of neighborhoods and the subsequent segregation of schools. Both powerful and disturbing, this book very important in understanding how local, state, and federal laws reinforce neighborhood segregation.

Lakota Woman is the autobiography of Mary Crow Dog, a Native American woman who grew up on the Rosebud Indian reservation in South Dakota. Her story of life on a reservation reveals not only her personal hardships, but the challenges of her community and their struggle for rights. Although the book was originally published in 1990, Mary Crow Dog’s story remains an important reminder of the cruelties perpetuated against Native Americans in the United States.

One of the definitive books on the topic, Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution tells the story of the now-iconic resistance to police raids at the Stonewall Inn in 1969. Carter’s exhaustive research and extensive interviews help illuminate how a single night at a gay bar in Greenwich Village became the catalyst for queer liberation.

More art book than academic text, Suffragettes to She-Devils maps out the role that art and graphic design has played in women’s liberation, from before the 1950s to now. Including cartoons, fine art, posters, flyers, zines, and more, McQuiston has compiled a body of work that shows just how effective visual media can be as an agent of change and conversation, whether it’s about the fight for reproductive rights, voting rights, or labor rights.

Caliban and the Witch illustrates how closely the creation of capitalism is tied to the subjugation of women. Federici tells the very dark tale of how European witch hunts, defeated peasant movements, and a new patriarchal order all coincided to create the capitalist system that we know today. Combining exploration of sex and class, she shows just how the working class became and continues to be divided along gender lines, with women bearing the brunt of violence.

Additional reporting: Julia Gibson


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