St. John's Law First Friday Book Club

First Friday Book Club

Join the Club!

Led by St. John’s Law Professors Cheryl L. Wade and Sheldon A. Evans, the First Friday Virtual Book Club will challenge preconceived notions and inspire newfound depth in understanding as we discuss books by African American authors that explore some of the most impactful issues of our time, including:

  • Racial justice 
  • Racial awareness 
  • Social change 

With unique insight into the racial caste system suffered in America and across the African Diaspora, and through their literary prowess, the authors express messages to the Black community and to those in power that seek to understand the Black experience and how to change it. 

The First Friday Book Club meets online from 12 to 1:15 p.m. If you want to join, or have any questions, please email Catherine Sims at [email protected]

2020-2021 Book Club Selections

October 2, 2020
Ellis Cose, The Rage of a Privileged Class: Why are Middle-Class Blacks Angry? Why Should America Care? (1994)

This book combines a journalistic eye with a philosopher’s gaze into the plight that middle-class and professional African Americans face when navigating society. It paints an important picture of the diversity of culture and class that exists within the Black community, and why the privileged class within that community still suffers from the effects of racism more commonly stereotyped as only affecting the poor. This is a powerful read that helps readers understand that the Black community is not a monolith, and the nuances of racism that exist for different members of the community.

November 6, 2020
Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Water Dancer (2019)

This novel has been hailed as a brilliant visitation upon slavery that has managed to tell an insightful story through the lens of science fiction. It follows a young enslaved African American man whose memories trigger a mysterious ability that enables him to help enslaved African Americans escape to freedom. This novel is one of the best works of author Ta-Nehisi Coates, who is already one of the most well-regarded Black authors and commentators in the world.

January 8, 2021
The Oxford Anthology of African-American Poetry (Arnold Rampersad & Hilary Herbold, eds. 2006)

This book is one of the most definitive volumes of African-American poetry, which highlights the unique voice and emotions of the African American community in the 19th and 20th centuries. Like only poetry can, the words, rhythm, and unique style captures the sorrows, joys, and triumphs of the African-American experience. In many ways, this volume offers a literary portrait of an entire people.

February 5, 2021
Chancellor Williams, Destruction of Black Civilization: Great Issues of a Race From 4500 B.C. to 2000 A.D. (1971)

This nonfiction, historical piece is a widely read classic that is amongst the most researched scholarship of African continental history. It starts by discussing the development of civilizations on the African continent, as well as the struggle between nations and empires throughout the centuries that lead to the oppressive systems of colonialism, slavery, and imperialism. In addition, it touches on modern history by detailing the descent of African Americans in the United States and the rest of the Diaspora spread across the western world.

March 5, 2021
Isabel Wilkerson, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents (2020)

Acclaimed author Isabel Wilkerson’s latest book explores America through the unspoken taboo of its caste system of race, class, and a host of other factors. By telling real stories from a myriad of peoples across this nation, Wilkerson shows that American history is one that intentionally perpetuates hierarchies based on various classes and intersectional ties. Her storytelling shows that this not only affects people’s day-to-day lives, but also tells us more about the health and fate of our nation.  

April 2, 2021
Janis Sarra & Cheryl L. Wade, Predatory Lending and the Destruction of the African-American Dream (2020)

Business law scholars Janis Sarra and Cheryl Wade use their unique insight into corporate law and governance to explore the racial wealth gap that has been perpetuated and widened by both historical and recent events. This book details the salient factors that exacerbate the racial wealth gap by analyzing the economic exploitation of African Americans with a focus on predatory practices regarding the most impactful and important source of building wealth in America: home mortgages.

Now let’s go read!