Humanism and Anti-racism – some examples

Here is a list of humanists who have been actively involved in anti-racism and some suggested works (some recent some more historical)

James Baldwin, American novelist and activist

See The Fire Next Time and other works

Video clip:

Richard Wright, author

See Native Son (fiction)

Ta Nehisi Coates, author and journalist

See Between the World and Me

Zadie Smith

Contempt as a virus (essay)

Kenan Malik, writer and lecturer

In The Meaning of Race (1996) Malik ‘throws new light on the nature and origins of ideas of racial difference. Arguing that the concept of ‘race’ is a means through which Western society has come to understand the relationship between humanity, society and nature, the book re-examines the relationship between Enlightenment thought and racial discourse, clarifies the nature of scientific racism, and presents a critique of postmodern theories of cultural ‘difference’.’ [Google Books]

Adam Rutherford, How to Argue with a Racist

Adam Rutherford is a geneticist and author. How to Argue with a Racist: History, Science, Race and Reality takes aim at pseudoscientific arguments used to justify racism and racial stereotypes, both historically and today, using biology – and socio-economics – to challenge the harmful use of racist tropes presented as fact.

Watch: How to Argue with a Racist

Some other info on humanists and anti-racism

John Amichi, Patron of Humanists UK

Video clip for schools: Not-racist v anti-racist: What’s the difference?:

Asa Philip Randolph, Civil Rights leader

Asa Philip Randolph was a civil rights leader who campaigned for racial equality in the workplace. He organised the March on Washington in 1963 at which Martin Luther King delivered his ‘I have a dream’ speech.

‘This condition of freedom, equality, and democracy is not the gift of gods. It is the task of men, yes, men, brave men, honest men, determined men.’

First Universal Races Congress

The First Universal Races Congress took place in London 26-29 July 1911: the first ever conference of its kind. The Congress sought to challenge racial divisions in the light of social and scientific understanding, pre-dating comparable efforts by international bodies such as UNESCO by four decades. Developed from an idea suggested by Felix Adler at a meeting of the International Union of Ethical Societies (a precursor of today’s Humanists International) in 1906, the Congress was principally organised by Gustav Spiller, drawing attendees from across the world.

W.E.B. du Bois

Lifelong anti-racist activist and writer on racial inequality. Castigated the Church for its role in upholding racist ideals and institutions (e.g. slavery).

Albert Einstein

Einstein drew on his own experience of anti-semitism to decry racism. During the 1930s and 1940s, while living in America, Einstein joined civil rights organisations including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the American Crusade Against Lynching (ACAL), acting as co-chair for the latter, and lobbying for federal anti-lynching legislation alongside its founder Paul Robeson. In a commencement address for the historically black Lincoln University, he described racism as ‘a disease of white people’.

How Albert Einstein Used His Fame to Denounce American Racism

A.J. Ayer was Chairman of the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination in Sport

Barbara Wootton

‘In case of fire or shipwreck no one stops to inquire into the intelligence quotient, the character, or (one hopes) the social status or racial origins of those whose lives are at stake, in order to give priority to those of higher standing. At such times all are treated as equal, preference being given only to those least able to help themselves. But we have yet to learn that what is good in emergency is no less good in everyday life.’

More can be found on the Humanist Heritage website:


Download the entire essay here

Humanist worldview traditions


392.7 KB

Download resource