NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — New York’s premier black cultural institution is out with a list of must-read books for anyone wanting to know more about the history of race relations in this country.

As Black Lives Matter protesters swarm cities across the U.S., many wonder how did we get here. Historians say the answer lies in looking back.

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Harlem’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is out with its “Black Liberation Reading List,” 95 books that they say foster a better understanding of the black experience.

“It seems like an urgent moment. People are looking for resources and we want to think about not just anti-racism, which I think is so important, but also black joy, black pleasure, black resistance over the centuries,” said Kevin Young, the director of Schomburg Center.

“How do you think the events of the last couple of weeks have sort of shifted the narrative in the culture and in society about black culture?” CBS2’s Jessica Moore asked.

“When you see someone kneel on the neck of George Floyd, the police officer, for almost nine minutes, almost nonchalantly with his hand in his pocket, something’s really wrong, but it’s the same something that’s been wrong for a while. The beauty of this list, I think, is that it thinks about the historical qualities of racism but also of resistance, and it also talks about this current moment,” Young said.


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The books range from classics by Maya Angelou to cookbooks celebrating African-American cuisine. And the demand is obvious, with bookstores across the tri-state area reporting soaring sales of black literature.

“More white families are more aware of the racism that still prevails, and hopefully now I think they’re maybe teaching their children how to have racial equality,” said Jeanette Rudoff from Anderson Bookstore.

“It’s great to see the sales and the interest and the backlogs. I mean, these are good things,” said Young. “We just want people to get the information they need.”

Young says especially in this moment, information brings the power to create lasting change.

Many of the books on the Schomburg list are already sold out on Amazon, but all can be checked out electronically through the New York Public Library.

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Click here for the full list.