September 28, 2021

Library Launches Grant-funded Reading Program to Foster Community Discussion about Race through Local Lens

Virginia Beach Public Library (VBPL) is hosting a reading program, "Stamped from the Beginning," to bring the community together for productive, locally-relevant discussions about race. At the heart of the program is Dr. Ibram X. Kendi's "Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America" for adult readers, and its adaptations, "Racism, Antiracism, and You" for teens, by Kendi and Jason Reynolds; and "Stamped (for Kids): Racism, Antiracism and You," by Kendi, Reynolds and Sonja Cherry-Paul.

The program is funded by a grant from Virginia Humanities and the Hampton Roads Community Foundation (HRCF) as part of the "Beneath the Surface" initiative designed to deepen awareness of the role race and racism play in issues confronting South Hampton Roads.

"Libraries promote freedom of thought and offer books and other materials across the ideological spectrum," said Virginia Beach Library Board Chair Ryan Reyes. "The 'Stamped from the Beginning' program fosters community-led discussion on race in a way that is locally relevant. Some community members have incorrectly associated the program with critical race theory, or CRT, when in fact, that is not at all the focus of the books or related program opportunities."

"The books and ideas of prominent educators and authors are helpful in encouraging discussion, understanding each other, and building community," said Director of Libraries Eva Poole. "This program invites conversations on issues that are provocative and may spur some disagreement. As safe spaces where all are welcome, libraries are the ideal place for community members to have these deliberations and share their different perspectives."

"Stamped from the Beginning" includes a variety of exhibits and engaging events beginning now and culminating in February 2022 with a visit from Jason Reynolds. "Determined: The 400-Year Struggle for Black Equality," an exhibit from the Virginia Museum of History & Culture, is on display now at Central Library through Monday, Oct. 18, 2021. A StoryWalk® based on the award-winning book, "The Undefeated," by author Kwame Alexander and illustrator Kadir Nelson, will be on display at Kempsville Library on Thursday, Sept. 30, from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., and will appear at community events, including the Virginia African American Cultural Center's Community Fall Festival on Saturday, Oct. 2.

Book discussions begin in October, while programs, including African American genealogy and local history workshops, begin later in fall and winter. For more information about the community read and related programs and resources, visit

Book Selection
The "Stamped…" books were selected for the community read because they are among the most reputable sources for learning about the history of racism in America and the concepts of antiracist thought. Dr. Kendi is the Director of Antiracist Research at Boston University and is a historian of race in America. He received the National Book Award in 2016 for "Stamped from the Beginning." Adults may pick up a free copy of "Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America" at any VBPL location, while supplies last. It's also available to borrow in e-book format in VBPL's Hoopla collection at Free copies of the teen and children's titles will be available to participants of related programming.

Funding for "Stamped from the Beginning" Community Read
The program has been made possible, in part, by the Hampton Roads Community Foundation (HRCF), Virginia Humanities, the Virginia Beach Library Foundation (VBLF), and the Friends of Virginia Beach Public Library (FVBPL).

VBLF received a grant of $10,000 on behalf of VBPL from Virginia Humanities and the Hampton Roads Community Foundation. VBLF provided $10,000 in required matching funds plus an additional $8,500.

About Virginia Beach Public Library
A community anchor for more than 60 years, Virginia Beach Public Library includes a central library, a joint-use library in partnership with Tidewater Community College, seven area libraries, a public law library, and community outreach vehicles including a Bookmobile. Services include workforce development and job-search support, small business resources, computer and technology classes, early literacy classes and outreach, local history archives, services for those with visual, physical or reading disabilities, and free programs for all ages. In addition to books, music, magazines and video in tangible and digital formats, the library provides online research tools accessible from home or work, and a variety of specialty collections, including take-home technology. Visit for more information.

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