I’m interning with Atlanta Civic Circle this summer to explore the relationships between the people and our government here in Atlanta. As a rising senior at the University of Georgia, I’m majoring in journalism so I can dig deeper and learn more about the struggles or triumphs of everyday people.

What I’ve seen is that the more you know about what is going on in the world around you, and the more you understand its past history and future implications, the better voter and activist you can be. 

These are some books and documentaries I’ve found or had recommended to me that do that. I’m passing them on because I think becoming better informed allows us to make independent decisions that can change the way our democracy works.

Atlanta Civic Circle encourages readers interested in the below books to support their local bookstore or check to see if the books are available for free at their local library. E-readers can use the Libby app to find an audio or digital book available in their library’s system.

Flipped: How Georgia Turned Purple and Broke the Monopoly on Republican Power

Greg Bluestein (2022)

Bluestein is an alumnus of the University of Georgia’s Red & Black independent, student-run paper and served as its editor-in-chief. I will also have the honor of serving as editor-in-chief for the 2023-2024 academic year.

Close to home, Greg Bluestein, the lead political reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, recounts how Georgia voters flipped the 2020 election from Republican to Democratic at the national level, electing Joe Biden for president, along with Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock to give Democrats a narrow majority in the U.S. Senate. 

Immigration Nation

Netflix (2020)

In a six-episode look at immigration in the United States, “Immigration Nation” follows the stories of undocumented families’ from Mexico and Guatemala, as well as those of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. The dual storylines show both sides to this heavily politicized issue and calls for more attention in order to create more reforms for immigration law and practices.

YouTube video

How Democracies Die

Steve Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt (2018)

Is our democracy in danger? Harvard University professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt say yes, after decades of studying the breakdown of democratic governments in Europe and Latin America. Named one of the best books of 2019 by the Washington Post, “How Democracies Die” sheds light on the different ways our government could collapse – or be saved.

Saving Capitalism

Netflix (2017)

Robert Reich, who was U.S. Secretary of Labor during the Clinton administration, narrates this documentary that explains the struggles of the modern working class in America and its relationship to capitalism. Reich explores wealth disparities and political power – and how the American people can organize and get active to make a change. 

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America

Richard Rothstein (2017)

“The Color of Law” digs into the policies of our local, state and federal governments that have allowed racial segregation to persist in our country’s neighborhoods. Richard Rothstein examines racial zoning, public housing, tax exemptions and other practices at the local and national levels that further separate people by race.  

YouTube video

I Am Not Your Negro

Hulu (2016)

Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, “I am Not Your Negro” uses James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript, “Remember This House,” to explain the history of racism in the United States  through Balwin’s recollections of civil rights leaders Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Medgar Evers. The documentary ends with a look at the Black Lives Matter movement. 

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate

Naomi Klein (2015)

Naomi Klein dives into the dynamic relationship between capitalism and climate change. She argues that fighting climate change is a way to rethink and restructure our economic system. From examining those who deny climate change and those who start green movements that never seem to take off and actually achieve change, Klein reminds us that by first lowering our greenhouse gas emissions, we can fill in the gaps of inequality, fix local economies and work towards a better democracy.

The Know Your Bill of Rights Book: Don’t Lose Your Constitutional Rights – Learn Them!

Sean Patrick (2013)

The Constitution is the law of the land – but understanding it can be confusing and mind-warping. Sean Patrick believes the Bill of Rights, made up of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, is the most important part for regular people because it directly affects our freedom and personal liberties. In order to exercise our power as the people, we need to understand our rights. 

The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court

Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong

For an in-depth look at the inner workings of the Supreme Court, this book closely examines landmark decisions from the court’s 1969 to 1975 terms to illuminate the relationships between the associate justices and the chief justice and the politics of the court. 

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