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Critical Conversations: Book Club

Anti-Black Racism Book Club

Welcome!   Join us for community discussion of anti-black racism through topics presented in our monthly selection of books and film. Conversations will be facilitated by members of the Harvard community.   For instruction on using this guide, or further assistance in researching with the Harvard Library please contact   Participation open to all students, staff, faculty, and fellows.

All meetings will be held virtually until further noticed and registered participants will be emailed meeting zoom address.

Word Cloud of Participants' Reflections at Inaugural Meeting on July 6, 2020

 BOOK CLUB of Summer 2020

We have heard from 160 Harvard students, staff, faculty, librarians, postdocs, alumni, and parents eager to learn more about anti-racism and racial justice. We are energized by your enthusiasm for learning about this important issue and we look forward to learning in community with you. For those who were unable to join our launch meeting, we have attached the presentation deck and included a link to the webinar below.

  View the Launch Meeting Webinar on July 6, 2020


December 14-18, 2020 : 

Are Prison's Obsolete, by  Angela Davis (2003)

Are Prisons Obsolete? Angela Davis On Mass Incarceration -

For our final book of 2020, we are reading Angela Davis' Are Prison's Obsolete. Don't worry if you haven't started short, and easy read (or listen)! In the event you haven't purchased a book that's absolutely no problem, you can find the pdf here. Additionally, the book can be found on Audible, however, if you're like me and don't have an audible account, a read aloud can be found on YouTube. The link to the audio playlist is here.


Zoom Registration Link: (to register please select preferred date and time )
Dec 14 Monday 6-7:30pm
Dec 15 Tuesday 6-7:30pm

Dec 16 Wednesday 5-6:30pm

Dec 16 Wednesday 6-7:30pm

Dec 17 Thursday 12-1:30pm

Dec 17 Thursday 4-5:30pm


Anchor Discussion Questions

For our final discussion, we wanted to offer you some questions to consider, or anchor yourself in, as you read and/or reflect on Are Prisons Obsolete? These are some, though not necessarily all, of the questions that facilitators will be using in your discussion groups. Please also consider what other questions have emerged for you which you would like to bring into the space.

  1. Angela Y. Davis paints a complex picture about the ways in which the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) and the carceral punishment system touch all of US life in multiple and often hidden ways. What did you find most surprising about the reach of these institutions, particularly within your own life? What are the ways in which you have understood and/or experienced the PIC in your own life (both prior to reading and during/after)? 
  2. The foundation of Davis’ argument around the obsolesce of prisons relies upon a challenging and transformation of the ways in which we understand criminality. Davis asks us to question what is consider “criminal” and the ways in which our understanding of justice has been so deeply connected to punishment. How, if at all, did this reading shift your own understanding of criminality and justice? 
  3. The PIC and mass incarceration are inextricably linked to systems of white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism, something that is made explicit and clear in “Are Prisons Obsolete?” In what ways did these intersections surprise you, or not? How do these intersections play out in your own life and communities?  
  4. In the final chapter of Are Prisons Obsolete? Angela Y. Davis offers us some abolitionist alternatives to our current carceral punishment system. What are the abolitionist alternatives that you are visioning? What are the barriers to getting there, and what are the pathways that we can work to create both as individuals and collectively in order to make them happen? What are the abolitionist alternatives that are you finding the most challenging to envision? 



August 3, 2020: 

How to Be An Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi




  July 6, 2020

View the Launch Meeting Webinar on July 6, 2020