Before his NFL exile, before taking a knee, and before becoming the face of social activism in sports – Colin Kaepernick was a business major at the University of Nevada, struggling to find his place in the world. Adopted into an all-white family as a baby, it was in college football and the predominantly Black fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi that Kaepernick’s awakening to African-American culture and history began:

Learning what it meant to be an African man in America, not a Black man but an African man, was critical for me. Through this knowledge, I was able to identify myself and my community differently.

Seeking a deeper connection to his ancestry, and better understanding of the racial injustices endemic to America today, Kaepernick sought out reading material. In his rookie year, he asked longtime civil rights activist (and consultant for the 49ers) Harry Edwards for a book list, which included seminal work by James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison and Maya Angelou.

By 2016, Kaepernick was auditing a course on Black representation in pop culture at Berkeley – taught by Ameer Hasan Loggins, from whom he sought further recommendations. His interest in literature as a liberator led him to launch Kaepernick Publishing last year, an imprint aimed at amplifying and elevating the voices of the disenfranchised.

Now an icon of the modern civil rights movement, find the books that shaped and inspired Colin Kaepernick below. Complement with the reading lists of bell hooks, Malcolm X, Maya Angelou, MLK, and Nipsey Hussle.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley (also rec’d by Gabrielle Union, Ibram X. Kendi, Janelle Monáe, Kareem Abdul-JabbarRose McGowanTupac Shakur & Questlove)

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin (also rec’d by David Bowie & Ta-Nehisi Coates)

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (also rec’d by Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, Nipsey Hussle & RATM)

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (also rec’d by Glennon Doyle, Janet MockRichard Branson & Shonda Rhimes)

The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon (also rec’d by Nipsey Hussle, Noname & RATM)

Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment by Patricia Hill Collins

Black Looks by bell hooks (also rec’d by Laverne Cox)

The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson

(via The New York Times)

Categories: Activists Athletes