We Refuse

A Forceful History of Black Resistance


By Kellie Carter Jackson

Formats and Prices




$39.00 CAD



  1. Hardcover $30.00 $39.00 CAD
  2. ebook $18.99 $24.99 CAD

An “unsparing, erudite, and incisive” (Jelani Cobb) reframing of the past and present of Black resistance—both nonviolent and violent—to white supremacy

Black resistance to white supremacy is often reduced to a simple binary, between Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s nonviolence and Malcolm X’s “by any means necessary.” In We Refuse, historian Kellie Carter Jackson urges us to move past this false choice, offering an unflinching examination of the breadth of Black responses to white oppression, particularly those pioneered by Black women.  
The dismissal of “Black violence” as an illegitimate form of resistance is itself a manifestation of white supremacy, a distraction from the insidious, unrelenting violence of structural racism. Force—from work stoppages and property destruction to armed revolt—has played a pivotal part in securing freedom and justice for Black people since the days of the American and Haitian Revolutions. But violence is only one tool among many. Carter Jackson examines other, no less vital tactics that have shaped the Black struggle, from the restorative power of finding joy in the face of suffering to the quiet strength of simply walking away. 
Clear-eyed, impassioned, and ultimately hopeful, We Refuse offers a fundamental corrective to the historical record, a love letter to Black resilience, and a path toward liberation.

  • “Compelling and often counterintuitive.”
    New York Times Book Review
  • “Unsparing, erudite, and incisive, We Refuse is an insurgent history. Kellie Carter Jackson has produced a book that is every bit as urgent as the subject matter she so brilliantly writes about.”
    Jelani Cobb, coeditor of The Matter of Black Lives
  • “Kellie Carter Jackson is fearless. She is not afraid to tell you want she thinks, share what she knows, or challenge prevailing wisdom. We Refuse is proof. She taps the wellsprings of memory, archives, oral histories, literature, imagination, and personal experience to tell a very Black story of armed resistance, strategic retreat, unbreakable resolve, and joyous rapture. Reading this book will cause discomfort in some folks, provoke cheers in others. But I doubt anyone will be able to put it down.”
    Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams
  • “Eye-opening.”
    Gayle King, CBS Mornings
  • “Illuminating, informative and, ultimately, hopeful.”
    Minneapolis Star-Tribune
  • “Kellie Carter Jackson has outdone herself with this masterfully researched and endlessly readable exploration—and celebration—of Black refusal to racism and oppression.”
    Ms. Magazine
  • “What does it mean to use violence as a means of resistance? How has violent resistance shaped Black radical freedom movements, despite the popular notion that peaceful pleas for humanity or moderate negotiations with white supremacist oppression are the only path to racial justice? In We Refuse, Kellie Carter Jackson provides a cogent, provocative, and ultimately inspiring re-evaluation of how violence—in all its forms—has been used by Black people to resist slavery and its afterlives. Both radical history and racial reckoning, this book is sure to become a canonical text. Through extensive research and brilliant analysis of Black communities and our politics, We Refuse is a timely re-writing of the African American past, one that forces us to reframe our discussion of our beloved civil rights icons, our assumptions about our politics, and our collective understanding of what it means to resist.”
    Kerri K. Greenidge, author of The Grimkes
  • “From one of our generation’s most exciting historians, We Refuse changes the way we understand the contours and legacy of the Black freedom struggle. Blending fierce analysis with touching personal vignettes, Kellie Carter Jackson’s essential new book enhances the most pressing debates of our time and will stay with readers long after they finish.”
    Elizabeth Hinton, author of America on Fire
  • “Kellie Carter Jackson tells a nuanced and textured story about how African Americans, over many centuries, have refused racism by any means necessary. Her book thoughtfully reveals that nonviolence is just one of the many strategies Black people have used to assert their humanity and achieve full equality in this country. It is a must-read for all of us committed to understanding and, hopefully, joining the long freedom struggle.”
    Salamishah Tillet, Pulitzer Prize–winning critic
  • “Enthralling…A fascinating array of histories that highlight the ingeniousness, efficacy, and relatability of Black political maneuvering across several centuries of oppression…By astutely delineating how Black resistance strategies have always existed on a spectrum between the binary of nonviolence vs. violence, Carter Jackson demolishes an unnecessarily rigid distinction. The result is an invigorating paradigm shift.”
    Publishers Weekly (starred review)
  • “Urgent [and] uncompromising.”
    Kirkus (starred review)
  • “A deft and compelling history of protest against white supremacy that gives the use of force due recognition.”

On Sale
Jun 4, 2024
Page Count
304 pages
Seal Press

Kellie Carter Jackson

About the Author

Kellie Carter Jackson is the Michael and Denise Kellen ’68 Associate Professor and Chair of Africana Studies at Wellesley College. Her book Force and Freedom was a finalist for the Frederick Douglass Book Prize and the Museum of African American History Stone Book Award. She is the cohost of the Radiotopia podcast “This Day in Esoteric Political History.” She lives outside of Boston with her husband and three children. 

Learn more about this author