In an August Rolling Stone interview, Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello reflected on the enduring legacy of the group’s infamous “Killing in the Name” track:

“‘Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me’ is a universal sentiment. While it’s a simple lyric, I think it’s one of [Zack de la Rocha’s] most brilliant. And to me, it relates to Frederick Douglass. Frederick Douglass said, the moment he became free was not the moment that he was physically loosed from his bonds. It was the moment when master said, ‘Yes.’ And he said, ‘No.’ And that’s the essence of ‘Fuck you, I will not do what you tell me.’ And that’s why it’s encouraging to hear it shouted at the Fed goons who are shooting tear gas at American citizens.”

Rage Against the Machine has promoted direct action and incorporated revolutionary political thought into their work from inception. Bursting onto the Billboard charts at number one with the release of their 1996 sophomore release, Evil Empire, the album title itself was lifted from “Ronald Reagan’s slander of the Soviet Union in the eighties, which the band feels could just as easily apply to the United States.” The liner notes included a picture of a pile of radical books, and the group posted a lengthy reading list to complement it on their site (archived).

De la Rocha told MTV, “I certainly didn’t find any of those books at my University High School library. Many of those books may give people new insight into some of the fear and some of the pain they might be experiencing as a result of some of the very ugly policies the government is imposing upon us right now. Putting them back in touch with realizing that their direct participation in events right now can affect history.”

24 years later, many of the issues the band was protesting have never felt more pressing. Covering themes of racial oppression, toxic masculinity, Marxism, civil disobedience and mass media, find Rage Against the Machine’s radical reading list below. Complement with the revolutionary-minded bookshelves of Malcolm X, Nipsey Hussle and Angela Davis. And for a deeper look at Morello’s approach to music, check out his Masterclass on the art of electric guitar.

Live From Death Row by Mumia Abu-Jamal

Joe Hill by Gibbs M. Smith

The Mau Mau War Perspective by Frank Ferudi

The Aesthetic Dimension Toward by Herbert Macuse

The Fire Last Time: 1968 and After by Chris Harman

The Media Monopoly by Ben H. Bagdikian

50 Ways To Fight Censorship by Dave Marsh

Hegemony and Revolution: A Study of Antonio Geamsci’s Political & Cultural Theory by Walter L. Adamson

The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen Gould

A New Society: Reflections for Today’s World by David Deutschman (Editor)

The Marx-Engels Reader by Robert C. Tucker (Editor)

What Uncle Sam Really Wants by Noam Chomsky

Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation by Jonathan Kozol

Marxism and the New Imperialism by Alex Callinicos

Rules for Radicals by Saul D. Alinsky

A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

East Los Angeles: History of a Barrio by Richard Romo

Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II by William Blum

Race for Justice: Mumia Abu-Jamal’s Fight Against The Death Penalty by Leonard Weinglass

Guerilla Warfare by Che Guevera

Zapata of Mexico by Peter E. Newell

Malcolm X Speaks: Selected Speeches and Statements by George Breitman

Marxism and the Oppression of Women: Toward a Unitary Theory by Lise Vogel

Inevitable Revolutions: The United States in Central America by Walter LaFeber

The Chomsky Reader by James Peck (Editor)

Chicano Politics: Reality and Promise 1940-1990 by Juan Gomez Quinones

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

What is Communist Anarchism? by Alexander Berkman

Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson by George Jackson

Fidel and Religion: Conversations With Frei Betto by Frei Betto

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave by Frederick Douglass

Democracy is in the Streets by James Miller

Capital, Volume One by Karl Marx

The Black Panthers Speak by Philip S. Foner (Editor)

Keeping The Rabble in Line: Interviews with David Barsamian by Noam Chomsky

Walden and Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau

Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koester

The Culture of Narcissism: American Life of Diminishing Expectations by Christopher Lasch

Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion (also rec’d by Bret Easton Ellis, Michael Stipe & St. Vincent)

The State and Revolution by V.I. Lenin

Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver (also rec’d by Nipsey Hussle)

Kwame Nkrumah by June Milne

Revolutionary Suicide by Huey P. Newton (also rec’d by Nipsey Hussle)

The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell

Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce (also rec’d by Jim Morrison, Leonard Cohen & Susan Sontag)

Another Country by James Baldwin

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (also rec’d by Bob DylanBruce Springsteen, Gabriel García Márquez, Nelson MandelaRay Bradbury & Tom Wolfe)

The Armies of the Night by Norman Mailer

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

Rebellion from the Roots: Indian uprising in Chiapas by John Ross

First World: Ha! Ha! Ha! The Zapatista Challenge by Elaine Katzenberger, Editor

The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge by Carlos Castaneda

Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller (also rec’d by Bob Dylan & Paulo Coelho)

Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo

Essays in Existentialism by Jean-Paul Sartre

How Real is Real? Confusion, Disinformation, Communication by Paul Watzlawick

Ghost of Chance by William S. Burroughs

Popism: The Warhol Sixties by Andy Warhol & Pat Hackett

Chicana Falsa and Other Stories of Death, Identity, and Oxnard by Michele M. Serros

Promissory Notes: Women in the Transition to Socialism by Sonia Kruks, Ranya Rapp, Marilyn B. Young, Editors

Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of a Gay World by George Chauncey

This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color by Cherrie Monzaga, Gloria Anzaluda, Editors

Subliminal Seduction by Wilson Bryan Key, Editor

Power at Play: Sports and the Problem of Masculinity by Michael A. Messner

Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women by Susan Faludi

90 Years of Ford by George H. Dammann

Illustrated History of Ford by George H. Damman

The Challenge of Local Feminisms: Women Movements in Global Perspective by Amrita Basu

Miles by Miles Davis (also rec’d by David Byrne & Questlove)

The Sixties Papers: Documents of a Rebellious Decade by Judith Clavir Albert and Stewart Edward Albert

The Graphic Work by M. C. Escher

Bob Marley: Spirit Dancer by Bruce W. Talamon

Dali: The Paintings by Benedikt Taschen, Robert Taschen, Giles Neret


Categories: Activists Musicians

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