American Whitelash: A Changing Nation and the Cost of Progress (Hardcover)
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
An NPR Best Book of the Year • Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year
Longlisted for the 2024 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence
“American Whitelash is indispensable. Really. It is.” – Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Antiracist
Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Wesley Lowery confronts the sickness at the heart of American society: the cyclical pattern of violence that has marred every moment of racial progress in this country, and whose bloodshed began anew following Obama’s 2008 election.
In 2008, Barack Obama’s historic victory was heralded as a turning point for the country. And so it would be—just not in the way that most Americans hoped. The election of the nation’s first Black president fanned long-burning embers of white supremacy, igniting a new and frightening phase in a historical American cycle of racial progress and white backlash.
In American Whitelash, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and best-selling author Wesley Lowery charts the return of this blood-stained trend, showing how the forces of white power retaliated against Obama’s victory—and both profited from, and helped to propel, the rise of Donald Trump. Interweaving deep historical analysis with gripping firsthand reporting on both victims and perpetrators of violence, Lowery uncovers how this vicious cycle is carrying us into ever more perilous territory, how the federal government has failed to intervene, and how we still might find a route of escape.
About the Author
Wesley Lowery is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, author and on-air correspondent. He currently works as a contributing editor at The Marshall Project and a Journalist-in-Residence at the CUNY Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. In nearly a decade as a national correspondent, Lowery has specialized in issues of race, justice and law enforcement. He led the Washington Post team that was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting in 2016 for the creation and analysis of a real-time database to track fatal police shootings in the United States. His project, “Murder with Impunity,” an unprecedented look at unsolved homicides in major American cities, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2019. His first book, They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement, was a New York Times bestseller and awarded the Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose by the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.
“American Whitelash offers a livid account of the hydra-like capacity of white-supremacist ideas not just to survive but to flourish.... It's an infuriating, radicalizing read…. A good primer on the unhealthy state of the nation as we enter election season.” — Washington Post Book World
“Lowery’s galvanizing new book charts the cycle of racial progress and white backlash that has repeatedly played out through U.S. history. Beginning with President Barack Obama’s 2008 election, Lowery investigates contemporary systems of white supremacy and how they helped bring about the unprecedented political rise of Donald Trump. Combining historical research with critical yet empathetic firsthand reporting, the bestselling author of They Can't Kill Us All delivers a searing examination of the movement.” — Time
"Reveals the tensions latent in our common conceptions of racism by probing recent surges in white-supremacist violence.... [Lowery] is a lively narrative reporter with a keen eye for detail, and his prose can be devastatingly vivid." — Washington Post
“Lowery provides urgent, necessary perspective…. A masterful blend of narrative history and empathetic reporting.”
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“The rise of white supremacist violence is one of the most important stories in American life today. In American Whitelash, Wesley Lowery guides the reader through the social, psychological, and historical realities that animate this violence. It is both a brilliant and unsettling examination of a part of America that many Americans would prefer to look away from. This book reminds us that we cannot look away. American Whitelash is an essential text, one that further demonstrates why Lowery is one of our country’s most important and gifted journalists.” — Clint Smith, author of How the Word is Passed
"Elegant." — New Yorker
“Wesley Lowery chronicles the most existential racial story of our time: the racist political violence that followed Obama’s election, fueled Trump’s rise, and continues to threaten our very existence. American Whitelash is indispensable. Really. It is.” — Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Antiracist
“Wesley Lowery’s American Whitelash is an essential chronicle of America’s recent past, told with a historian’s sense of scope and a reporter’s eye for detail. Already the most compelling journalist covering the Black Lives Matter movement and its catalysts, here Lowery astutely turns his focus to the forces of reaction that both preceded the election of Barack Obama and found new strength in its aftermath.” — Adam Serwer, author of The Cruelty is the Point
“Lowery’s book is electric, because it is so well reported, so plainly told and so evidently the work of a man who has not grown a callus on his heart.... Lowery’s book is valuable for many reasons. He circles slowly and warily around the question of why, during Obama’s presidency, so little has happened to improve on the racial front.” — New York Times on They Can’t Kill Us All
“A searing, affecting, sharply written treatise on one of the most important crises the United States faces today.” — Harper’s Bazaar on They Can’t Kill Us All
“The most eloquent passages in They Can’t Kill Us All come when Lowery reveals the emotional cost paid by those who write the first draft of history, especially when the writers are journalists of color.... Lowery’s strength lies in the breadth of his reporting and the depth of his introspection.... Lowery is still in his twenties, but already he’s earned his spot among a small cadre of journalists of color.” — Chicago Tribune on They Can't Kill Us All
“Lowery provides an anthropological examination of the movement.... The result is a vivid timeline of the movement from its origins to present day.... They Can’t Kill Us All is a documentary on the awakening of young black Americans—no, all Americans—to the systematic injustices that weren’t erased with the election of President Obama.... Lowery’s clear-eyed reporting is exceeded only by his thoughtful, sharp sentences. He allows pain to seep into the prose, not hiding the anguish of a black man reporting on so much black death while pointing out connections that can’t be ignored.... [Lowery] is one of the best on the national beat.” — San Francisco Chronicle on They Can't Kill Us All
“The best journalism serves as the ‘first draft of history,’ but every so often a reporter gets to write the second draft as well. Wesley Lowery has provided a crucial dispatch from a particularly American frontline. Ferguson, Charleston, Baltimore and Cleveland are more than flashpoints in current affairs, they are the theaters in which our longstanding battles for racial equality have taken place. They Can’t Kill Us All is a valuable field report on the status of American democracy itself.” — Jelani Cobb, staff writer, The New Yorker, and professor of journalism, Columbia Journalism School