There are many good books about race and Christianity in the United States. Some people can be intimated by academic books with all their footnotes and details. You shouldn’t be. Historians (particularly religious historians) tend to be clear writers. Don’t get bogged down in the details–read for the big picture (unless you really like all the details and then, sure, attend to each one!).
Below are some recommendations for books in the field that I think are accessible for general readers. If you are new to the topic, I would suggest starting with the historical overviews and the theological and modern reflections. You can also look at the sources I relied upon for each episode if you are interested in pursuing specific topics in greater depth.
Blum, Edward J. and Paul Harvey. The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2014.
Butler, Anathea. White Evangelical Racism: The Politics of Morality in America. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2021.
Emerson, Michael O., and Christian Smith. Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.
Evans, Curtis J. The Burden of Black Religion. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.
Harvey, Paul. Through the Storm, Through The Night: A History of African American Christianity. Lanham, MD: Rowan & Littlefield, 2011.
Noll, Mark A. God and Race in American Politics: A Short History. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010.
Raboteau, Albert J. Canaan Land: A Religious History of African Americans. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.
Davis, David Brion. Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
Glasson, Travis. Mastering Christianity: Missionary Anglicanism and Slavery in the Atlantic World. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
Goetz, Rebecca Anne. The Baptism of Early Virginia: How Christianity Created Race. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012.
Blum, Edward J. Reforging the White Republic: Race, Religion, and American Nationalism, 1865-1898. Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 2015.
Chang, Derek. Citizens of a Christian Nation: Evangelical Missions and the Problem of Race in the Nineteenth Century. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010.
Dickerson, Dennis. The African Methodist Episcopal Church: A History. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2019.
Harper, Matthew. The End of Days: African American Religion and Politics in the of Emancipation. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 2016.
Higginbotham, Evelyn Brooks. Righteous Discontent: The Women’s Movement in the Black Baptist Church, 1880-1920. Boston: Harvard University Press, 1994.
Jewell, Joseph O. Race, Social Reform and the Making of a Middle Class: The American Missionary Association and Black Atlanta, 1870-1900. New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007.
Noll, Mark A. The Civil War as a Theological Crisis. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2006
Raboteau, Albert J. Slave Religion: The “Invisible Institution” in the Antebellum South. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.
Sensbach, Jon F. A Separate Canaan: The Making of an Afro-Moravian World in North Carolina, 1763-1840. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1998.
Baker, Kelly J. Gospel According to the Klan: The KKK’s Appeal to Protestant America, 1915-1930. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2011.
Chappell, David L. A Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2004.
Collier-Thomas, Bettye. Jesus, Jobs, and Justice: African American Women and Religion. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010.
Curtis, Jesse. The Myth of Colorblind Christians: Evangelicals and White Supremacy in the Civil Rights Era. New York: NYU Press, 2021
Harvey, Paul. Freedom’s Coming: Religious Culture and the Shaping of the South from the Civil War through the Civil Rights Era. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 2012.
Hawkins, J. Russell. The Bible Told Them So: How Southern Evangelicals Fought to Preserve White Supremacy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021.
Marsh, Charles. God’s Long Summer: Stories of Faith and Civil Rights. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008.
Savage, Barbara Dianne. Your Spirits Walk Beside Us: The Politics of Black Religion. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2008.
Willis, Alan Scot. All According to God’s Plan: Southern Baptist Missions and Race, 1945-1970. Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky, 2004.