A Martin Luther King Day reading list about race in the workplace

Martin Luther King Jr. stands before microphones ready to speak after meeting with President Lyndon B. Johnson to discuss civil rights at the White House…
Martin Luther King Jr. stands before microphones ready to speak after meeting with President Lyndon B. Johnson to discuss civil rights at the White House…
Image: Library of Congress/Warren K. Leffler/Handout via Reuters
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At Quartz at Work, we often think about the workplace as just another arena in which life happens. It’s a setting for relationship building, creative quests, minding mental health, finding purpose—but also the constant, often unconscious reinforcement of life’s inequalities, including those built into the world’s racial and socioeconomic power structures.

We also think work can provide an opportunity to make a conscious effort to lean into diversity and the innovation it brings, and to create a more equitable economy by rethinking the way companies and the people who run them go about their business. In other words, the workplace can be a source of the kinds of changes needed to make Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of racial and economic equity a reality.

Over the past year, the need to connect the lines between injustices outside the office, in white supremacist movements and police violence, for example, with corporate workplace norms—which have been shaped by white culture—has felt especially pressing. That urgency inspired Quartz at Work senior reporter Sarah Todd to spearhead a fantastic, jam-packed series of stories in 2020 about how to build antiracist companies, and inspired several thoughtful essays by contributors and staffers investigating the experiences of Black Americans in the workplace, past and present.

Here we’ve collected several of our top stories on race in the workplace as an MLK Day reading list. Email us at to tell us what resonates with you, and other topics in this area that you would like to see us cover.

Antiracism, unpacked

What does it mean to be an antiracist company? How can employers, business schools, and other shapers of workplace culture combat injustices and inequalities within their ranks and in the wider world?


Have better conversations about race

It’s hard to reckon with other people’s reality without open and honest dialogue.


Company culture and allyship

Diversity and inclusion are not the same thing, and there’s not much point in trying to be successful in one but not the other.


Hiring fairly

The first step in diversifying the workforce and leadership ranks is making sure the opportunity is open to any candidate who is qualified for the job.


Ideas and essays worth sharing

Personal experience is a powerful motivator. So, too, is information that reveals the injustices and hidden costs of things we blindly accept as norms.

Bonus: Two workshops

Quartz members can access the replays and recaps of our Quartz at Work (from home) workshops, including two we did in 2020 on how to build antiracist companies.