These stories cover racism, discrimination, prejudice or stereotypes in different forms and degrees, from subtle to flagrant, from implied to violent.
On this page you can read free short stories online that might be suitable short stories for high school kids.
Town and Country Lovers | Nadine Gordimer
In part 1, a white geologist and a black cashier become involved even though there’s a law against such relationships.
In part 2, a white farmer’s son has a relationship with the black daughter of a farm worker. Shortly after, she marries a black man who has loved her for a long time.
The Barber | Flannery O’Connor
While a man gets his hair cut, his barber ridicules his liberal views, especially his support of a black candidate in the neighborhood.
Judgement Day | Flannery O’Connor
Tanner, an elderly white man from the South, goes to live with his daughter in New York. He thinks he knows how to deal with African-Americans, but when he tries befriending one of his daughter’s neighbors, things go wrong.
“Judgement Day” (PDF page 534)
Indian Education | Sherman Alexie
A chronicle of the life of Victor, from grade 1 through high school. Victor gets bullied, wrongly judged by teachers, and sees his peers take destructive paths.
The Witness | Katherine Anne Porter
Uncle Jimbilly works with his hands, doing odd repair jobs and making small carvings. He tells the young people about the days of slavery.
The Prisoner Who Wore Glasses | Bessie Head
In South Africa under apartheid, a group of political prisoners are used to having some leeway in prison. There’s news of a new warden, known for being strict and harsh.
A Party Down at the Square | Ralph Ellison
A young boy is at his uncle’s house in the South when the town’s white population excitedly gathers in the town square for the lynching of a black man.
Read “A Party Down at the Square” (Scribd free trial required)
Black is My Favorite Color | Bernard Malamud
Nat Lime, a Jewish bachelor, is drawn to African-American people. He thinks about his experiences with them, which never seemed to go the way he wanted.
Brownies | ZZ Packer
A Brownie troop of fourth grade African-American girls goes to a summer camp. They quickly develop a dislike for a troop of all white girls, and after one of them is heard using a racial slur, they decide to beat up all the white girls.
Elbow Room | James Alan McPherson
Paul Frost, a white man and a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War, marries Virginia Valentine, a black woman who has traveled extensively.
Slave on the Block | Langston Hughes
The Carraways, an affluent white couple in Greenwich Village, love all things African-American. They have a black cook and they hire the nephew of their previous cook to be a live-in model for the wife to paint.
The Sheriff’s Children | Charles Waddell Chesnutt
In the small town of Troy in North Carolina, Captain Walker is murdered. A mulatto man had been seen at the Captain’s house the previous night, so he is apprehended. The men feel that they should mete out justice themselves and decide to lynch him. When the sheriff is told about the plan, he does his duty and protects his prisoner.
On the Road | Langston Hughes
An African-American vagrant looking for some food and a place to sleep gets turned away from a parsonage and a shelter before trying to break down the door of a church.
Black Man and White Woman in Dark Green Rowboat | Russell Banks
During a heat wave, a man and woman go out on a boat and discuss a major decision that the woman has made.
Saturday Afternoon | Erskine Caldwell
Tom Denny’s lazy Saturday afternoon is interrupted when a lynching party is formed. He joins the mob in search of Will Maxie, a black man accused of talking to a white woman.
An Outpost of Progress | Joseph Conrad
Two Europeans man a trading post in the African jungle. They’re involved in ivory trading, but there’s very little real work to do. A local wants to trade slaves for ivory.
Black Boy | Kay Boyle
A young girl rides a horse on the beach and joins her grandfather to get pushed around on a chair (like a rickshaw) on the boardwalk by young black boys. She develops a friendship with one of the boys, but her grandfather warns her to stay away from him.
Blues Ain’t No Mockin Bird | Toni Cade Bambara
Some children are playing in the front yard with the two neighbor children while their grandmother works in the back. Two men are in the field nearby with a movie camera. They say they are making a film about food stamps. The grandmother has asked them to stop, but they simply moved farther away.
The Beginning of Homewood | John Edgar Wideman
The narrator is writing a letter to his brother to tell him the story of his great-great-great-grandmother Sybela Owens, who escaped from slavery. She ran off one night with her two children and her owner’s son, the father of her children, on a five-hundred-mile journey.
Blood-Burning Moon | Jean Toomer
Louisa is a black woman working as a domestic helper for a white family, the Stones. She has a secret relationship with Bob Stone, a son of her employer. A black man, Tom Burwell, is also interested in her.
Fever | John Edgar Wideman
There is a yellow fever epidemic in late 18th century Philadelphia. Allen, an African-American, chooses to stay in the city to help Dr. Rush find a cure and treat the victims. Popular opinion among the white population is that the disease was brought to the city by black slaves.
Recitatif | Toni Morrison
Twyla and Roberta meet at a shelter when they’re eight-years-old. They have to stay there because their mothers are unable to care for them. Despite being different races, they become friends. One day their mothers come to visit.
The White Horses of Vienna | Kay Boyle
When a local Austrian doctor gets injured, Dr. Heine arrives to help him. When the unnamed doctor’s wife finds out the visitor is Jewish, she’s unhappy about it and knows the townspeople will be too. Nevertheless, she knows his presence is necessary and she must assist him.
A Way of Talking | Patricia Grace
Rose returns from college and gets fitted for a bridesmaid’s dress for her sister Hera’s wedding. The dressmaker, Jane, makes a comment about some Maori workers that upsets Rose and Hera.
No Witchcraft for Sale | Doris Lessing
The Farquars have a son, Teddy. He’s loved by Gideon, a servant of the family. When Teddy is six, he makes a disparaging comment about Gideon’s son, causing Gideon to distance himself from Teddy. One day, a snake spits venom in Teddy’s eyes; Gideon springs into action, attempting to save the boy’s sight.
Jacob | Jack Schaefer
The narrator tells how he came to have a pair of Indian-made moccasins. When he was a boy, there were Indian settlements in his area. People started moving in on them and they fought back. It turned into a major confrontation. Anti-Indian sentiments are strong, and the boy wants to see some up close.
The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven | Sherman Alexie
A Native American man goes to the store for an ice cream. He is used to being viewed as a crazy Indian by white people. He remembers a relationship he had with a white girl and how it ended.
Going to Meet the Man | James Baldwin
Jesse, a white sheriff, lies in bed with his wife, impotent, thinking about a black protest leader he had beaten that day and a childhood memory of going to a lynching.
So What Are You, Anyway? | Lawrence Hill
A young girl, Carole, is flying to see her grandparents. The couple seated next to her make inquiries about her life and background.
My First Goose | Isaac Babel
During the Russian civil war in 1918, the narrator, a Jewish man, is assigned as the Propaganda Officer to a Cossack Division of the Red Army. He is weak, educated, and wears glasses. He is treated with little respect.
The Blues I’m Playing | Langston Hughes
Mrs. Ellsworth, a wealthy widow, serves as patron for Oceola Jones, a young black pianist. Oceola tries to maintain some distance while Mrs. Ellsworth pries into her life, trying to control whatever she can. Mrs. Ellsworth doesn’t agree with all the music Oceola plays, and she doesn’t approve of her boyfriend.
Flying Home | Ralph Ellison
Todd, a young black man training to be a pilot in World War II, comes to after a crash landing. He is worried about the reaction of the white officers to his failure. An old black man, Jefferson, checks on Todd and sends his son into town for help.
Totem | Thomas King
Some visitors and staff at the Southwest Alberta Art Gallery and Prairie Museum are annoyed by the noise coming from a totem pole. The director, Walter Hooton, didn’t even know they had a totem pole. He decides to have it moved into temporary storage until they can remove it completely.
This seems like an allegory for the way First Nations people have been treated in Canada.
Desiree’s Baby | Kate Chopin
Desiree had been adopted as a toddler. She is now an adult with a baby of her own. She and her husband, Armand, are very happy. After a while, there are some whispers about the baby’s background.
The Flowers | Alice Walker
Myop is a ten-year-old girl who is out exploring the woods behind her family’s sharecropper cabin on a beautiful summer day. As she starts to head home she makes a shocking discovery.
The Beautiful Thing | Kit De Waal
The narrator’s father leaves Antigua to work in America and, later, to start again in England. He works hard and experiences some racism as he establishes himself.
Dry September | William Faulkner
Miss Minnie Cooper has accused a black man, Will Mayes, of attacking her. Some of the town’s men discuss the accusation at a barbershop. They are easily riled against Mayes and make plans to mete out justice themselves.
See also: American History (Coming-of-Age), Menagerie, a Child’s Fable (Fables), That Evening Sun (Fear), Shooting an Elephant (Animals)
Looking for Novels about Racism? Visit Novel Recommendations
I will try to add more short stories for teens and avid readers about racism, discrimination or prejudice that could be helpful for teaching reading and reading comprehension to middle and high school students. Eventually, I hope these pages will become a teaching resource.