Civil Rights Movement


For additional resources, see the Activities Calendar related to the Civil Rights Act (April 11) and Black History Month (February 16) and to the following individuals and events: Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15), Jackie Robinson (January 31), Langston Hughes (February 1), Rosa Parks (February 4), Marian Anderson (February 27), Harriet Tubman (March 10), Booker T. Washington (April 5), 1963 March on Washington (August 28), Phillis Wheatley (September 1), Frederick Douglass (September 3), and Sojourner Truth (November 26). Also check school and public library shelves for nonfiction and related biographies published in library editions.

Alco, Selina.  The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage.  Illus. by Sean Qualls.
Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, 2015.  Gr. 2-4
In this picture book account of the landmark Supreme Court case, Loving v. Virginia, readers are introduced to the struggles of Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter, a Virginia couple who were not allowed to marry because state law forbade interracial marriage. The couple had children, were jailed for living together, and spent years in the courts battling for their rights. Back matter suggests further reading related to this civil rights issue. Inspirational and informative.

Alexander, Elizabeth & Nelson, Marilyn.  Miss Crandall’s School for Young Ladies & Little Misses of Color.
Illus. by Floyd Cooper.  Wordsong, 2007.  Gr. 6 & above
Twenty-four sonnets, set within the political and social context of the times, tell the story of Prudence Crandall and her school for African American girls in Canterbury, Connecticut, in the 1830s. Mixed media illustrations add to the impact of the poetry.

Bass, Hester.  Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama.  Illus. by E.B. Lewis.
Candlewick, 2015.  Gr. 2-4
Inspirational text relates how the people of Huntsville, Alabama, participated in a variety of nonviolent activities to stop segregation in businesses and public places in the early 1960s. Powerful watercolor illustrations add to the emotion of the text. An appended author's note provides additional information.

Bausum, Ann.  Freedom Riders: John Lewis and Jim Zwerg on the Front Lines of the Civil Rights Movement.  National Geographic Children’s Books, 2005.  Gr. 5-9
The participation of two young men, one black and one white, in the Freedom Rides is highlighted in a moving text illustrated with archival photos. The book concludes with a glimpse of the lives of Lewis and Zwerg after the rides, a timeline of key events in the Civil Rights Movement, biographical sketches of other riders, source notes, and a bibliography.

Benson, Kathleen.  John Lewis in the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement.  Illus. by Benny Andrews. Lee & Low, 2006.  Gr. 3-5
Picture book biography of civil rights activist John Lewis’s participation in marches, lunch counter sit-ins, freedom rides, and voter registration drives. Colorful oil and and fabric collage illustrations dramatically depict a sense of time and place.

Bridges, Ruby.  Through My Eyes.  Scholastic, 1999.  Gr. 3-8
Illustrated with sepia photos, this memoir brings considerable emotion to the events of 1960-61, the year Bridges became the first African-American child to integrate the William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans. This powerful personal narrative is accompanied by excerpts from newspaper articles, comments by her teacher, and a timeline that places her story within the context of the Civil Rights Movement.

Brimner, Larry Dane.  Birmingham Sunday.  Calkins Creek, 2010.  Gr. 5-8
Although the focal point of the Sunday in the title is the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in September, 1963, which resulted in the death of four young girls, the text reflects a wider presentation of the unrest in Birmingham. Straightforward writing supplemented with numerous black-and-white photographs along with an appended bibliography and source notes make this book a good choice for research.

Brimner, Larry Dane.  We Are One: The Story of Bayard Rustin.  Calkins Creek, 2007.  Gr. 4-6
Though Rustin may be lesser known than other participants in the struggle for civil rights, his story as a behind-the-scenes leader in the movement in presented here in clearly written text accompanied by archival photos.

Coles, Robert.  The Story of Ruby Bridges.  Illus. by George Ford.  Scholastic, 1995.  Gr. 1-4
Six-year-old Ruby Bridges was the only African American child to attend an all-white elementary school after court-ordered desegregation in 1960. Her story of sitting alone in her classroom learning her lessons every day, despite the events occurring outside the school, is a moving one. Watercolor illustrations depict a strong child, supported by a loving family.

Cook, Michelle.  Our Children Can Soar: A Celebration of Rosa, Barack, and the Pioneers of Change.
Illus. by 13 children’s book illustrators.   Bloomsbury, 2009.  Gr. K-4
Ten African American figures are spotlighted in a text that uses a pattern to indicate that the contributions of one led to the contributions of another and so on. Magnificent illustrations bring each person to life. A paragraph about each highlighted individual is appended.

Crowe, Chris.  Getting Away with Murder: The True Story of the Emmett Till Case.  Dial, 2003.  Gr. 7-12
Powerfully told story of 14-year-old African American Emmett Till’s murder in Mississippi in 1954 and the court’s acquittal of the white murderers. Archival photos accompany the telling that places the events within the larger historical context of Jim Crow at the time.

Dray, Philip.  Yours for Justice, Ida B. Wells: The Daring Life of a Crusading Journalist.  Illus. by Stephen Alcorn.  Peachtree, 2008.  Gr. 3-5
Picture book biography of the daughter of slaves who became a journalist and launched a lifelong crusade against the practice of lynching. Digitally scanned, hand-tinted watercolor illustrations create additional drama.

Fradin, Dennis Brindell & Fradin, Judith Bloom.  Ida B. Wells: Mother of the Civil Rights Movement.
Clarion, 2000.  Gr. 5-9
Well researched biography of the journalist and activist whose primary mission in life was denouncing the practice of lynching. Supplemented with photographs.

Fradin, Dennis Brindell & Fradin, Judith Bloom.  Fight On!: Mary Church Terrell’s Battle for Integration. Clarion, 2003.  Gr. 6-9
Well written and researched biography of a courageous woman who spent nearly 60 years of her life fighting for racial equality. Ample primary source material.

Fradin, Dennis Brindell & Fradin, Judith Bloom.  The Power of One: Daisy Bates and the Little Rock Nine.
Clarion, 2004.  Gr. 6-10
Biography of Daisy Bates, who founded a weekly newspaper in Arkansas with her husband, and became actively involved with the 1957 integration of Central High School in Little Rock.

Freedman, Russell.  Freedom Walkers: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  Holiday House, 2006.  Gr. 5-8
Freedman’s impeccable research, supplemented by archival photographs, highlights the thousands of African Americans who sought to make a statement about racial equality by boycotting the buses in Montgomery, Alabama, for 381 days (1955-1956).

Freedman, Russell.  Because They Marched: The People's Campaign for Voting Rights That Changed America.  Holiday House, 2014.  Gr. 5-9
Photographs and primary source material supplement this readable account of the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery that ultimately resulted in the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Goodman, Susan E.  The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial.  Illus. by E. B. Lewis.
Bloomsbury, 2016.  Gr. 2-5
In 1847, the Roberts family of Boston challenged the segregation of schools when they were told their daughter could not attend because the school was for white children only. This was the first case of its kind and the first time an African American lawyer argued in a supreme court. Extensive back matter provides additional information, and the author explains her research process. Inspiring story illustrated with extraordinary watercolor paintings.

Hansen, Joyce.  Women of Hope: African Americans Who Made a Difference.  Scholastic, 1998.  Gr. 4-8
Developed from a series of posters issued by the Bread and Roses Cultural Project of the National Health and Human Service Employees Union (AFL-CIO), this book profiles 12 courageous African American women involved in a variety of occupations and causes. A single page of commentary, including quotes, accompanies each black-and-white photo. A good lead-in to additional reading.

Haskins, Jim.  Delivering Justice: W.W. Law and the Fight for Civil Rights.  Illus. by Benny Andrews.
Candlewick, 2005.  Gr. 2-4
Oil and collage illustrations supplement a strong narrative in telling the story of mail carrier W.W. Law’s involvement as an organizer of nonviolent protests in the civil rights movement.

Hoose, Phillip.  Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice.  Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2009.  Gr. 6-12
Though much less well-known than Rosa Parks, Colvin, at the age of 15, refused to give up her seat on a bus in 1955 Montgomery, Alabama, and was subsequently arrested. Interviews, photos, and additional primary source material add depth to this well-researched text that was a 2009 National Book Award nominee.

Hunter-Gault, Charlayne.  To the Mountaintop: My Journey Through the Civil Rights Movement.  Roaring Brook, 2012.  Gr. 7-12
Part history and part memoir, the author's story deals with her quest for equality in education during the turbulent times of segregation in the 1960s South. Black-and white photos and considerable primary source material.

Issa, Kai Jackson.  Howard Thurman’s Great Hope.  Illus. by Arthur L. Dawson.  Lee & Low, 2008.  Gr. 3-5
Picture book biography of Thurman that focuses on his commitment to getting a good education, against all odds. His work ethic led him to become a spiritual leader, an author, and an advisor to Martin Luther King, Jr.

Jurmain, Suzanne.  The Forbidden Schoolhouse: The True and Dramatic Story of Prudence Crandall and her Students.  Houghton Mifflin, 2005.  Gr. 5-9
Well-sourced informative account of Crandall’s school for young girls of color in Connecticut. Faced with considerable racism, Crandall and her students showed a great deal of courage. Appended note tells what happened to the principal people involved.

Kanefield, Teri.  The Girl from the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the Advent of the Civil Rights Movement.  Abrams, 2014.  Gr. 5-8
Tells of Virginia high school student Barbara Rose Johns who led the student body in a strike in protest of the conditions in her tar paper shack school in the 1950s. Includes photos and other primary source material. Inspirational story of courage in the early years of the Civil Rights Movement.

Levine, Ellen S.  Freedom’s Children: Young Civil Rights Activists Tell Their Own Stories.  Putnam, 1993.  Gr. 6-10
Young people from southern states who were involved in a variety of ways in the Civil Rights Movement tell their stories in this compelling book.

Levinson, Cynthia Y.  We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March.  Peachtree, 2012.
Gr. 6-12
This photo-essay focuses on four of the nearly 4000 elementary, middle, and high school students, who thought more action was needed against segregation and boycotted school to participate in the Birmingham Children's March. Many of them were arrested for their involvement. This inspiring story of courage was based on interviews, published sources, and archival material. Excellent appended matter.

Levinson, Cynthia Y.  The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, A Young Civil Rights Activist.  Illus. by Vanessa Brantley Newton.  Atheneum, 2017.  Gr. 2-4
Audrey Faye Hendricks was introduced to older readers in the author's We've Got a Job. In this book, Audrey's participation in a freedom march in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963, and her subsequent arrest at age nine presents her story to the picture book audience. The brightly colored illustrations and accessible storytelling about a courageous girl from the civil rights movement offers readers an example of the difference individuals can make.

Levy, Debbie.  We Shall Overcome.  Illus. by Vanessa Brantley-Newton.  Jump at the Sun/Disney, 2013.
Gr. 1-4
Presents the evolution of the song that has become the anthem of civil rights, beginning with slaves in the fields and in churches. The lyrical text relates the spread of the song as a unifying force across the United States through the 20th century and its use in recent years as the freedom song for oppressed people all over the world. Brightly colored mixed media collage illustrations show people of all races and ages singing the song. Useful back matter includes an annotated timeline of the song that supplements the text with background information and sources, including internet sites where readers can listen to the song performed.

Lewis, J. Patrick.  When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Rights Leaders.  Chronicle, 2012.  Gr. 4-8
Five artists illustrate this collection of poems featuring 17 heroes of civil rights. Some of these international figures are more well-known than others, but each was significant in helping to give voice to the various movements with which he/she was involved.

Lewis, J. Patrick & Lyon, George Ella.  Voices from the March on Washington.  Wordsong/Boyds Mills,
2014.  Gr. 5-9
Powerful poems give voice to a selection of participants and onlookers during the 1963 March on Washington. Creative addition to the collection of books on the Civil Rights Movement.

Lewis, John & Aydin, Andrew.  March: Book One.  Illus. by Nate Powell.  Top Shelf Productions, 2013.
Gr. 6-10
This graphic novel biography recounts the early years of John Lewis, one of the original civil rights leaders. The first-person viewpoint vividly relates events which influenced Lewis as well as those in which he participated. The black-and-white art captures the emotions. See also March: Book Two (2015) and March: Book Three (2016)

Lowery, Lynda Blackmon; Leacock, Elspeth (Adapt.), & Buckley, Susan.  Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the Selma Voting Rights March.  Illus. by P.J Loughran.  Dial, 2015.  Gr. 7-10
In this powerful memoir, Lowery discusses what it was like to be one of the youngest participants in the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery. The tone of the writing is conversational, and the text includes archival photos supplemented by cartoon-like drawings...all of which will appeal to readers. Concluding pages contain information about the fight for voting rights and civil rights advocates who died for the cause.

Lucas, Eileen.  Cracking the Wall: The Struggles of the Little Rock Nine.  Illus. by Mark Anthony.
Carolrhoda, 1997.  Gr. 3-5
This easy-to-read book chronicles the events surrounding the desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Timeline and afterword provide additional information.

McWhorter, Diane.  A Dream of Freedom: The Civil Rights Movement from 1954-1968.  Scholastic, 2004.  Gr. 5-9
Well written and designed, this comprehensive chronicle of people and events is reader friendly and supplemented with numerous archival materials. The organizational format by year allows readers to pinpoint specific events of interest as well as understand the underlying issues.

Mitchell, Don.  The Freedom Summer Murders.  Scholastic, 2014.  Gr. 7-10
The murders of the three young civil rights workers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, are the focus of this compelling book. Well documented and thoroughly researched.

Morrison, Toni.  Remember: The Journey to School Integration.  Houghton Mifflin, 2004.  Gr. 4-8
Superb sepia-toned photographs accompany a fictional text that imagines the thoughts and feelings of the individuals pictured. A chronology of key events in civil rights history is appended.

Myers, Walter Dean.  Ida B. Wells: Let the Truth Be Told.  Illus. by Bonnie Christensen. Amistad/HarperCollins, 2008.  Gr. 3-6
Good overview of the writer and speaker who worked for the rights of African Americans and women and waged a life-long battle against lynching. Quotes from her autobiography are scattered throughout. Watercolor illustrations contribute to the understanding of the times.

Nelson, Kadir.  We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball.  Hyperion, 2008.  Gr. 4 & above
Stunning oil paintings complement this well-told story of the men and events that made up the Negro Leagues. The pain of bigotry and segregation underlies but does not overshadow the players’ sheer joy of playing baseball. An extraordinary book!

Nelson, Marilyn.  A Wreath for Emmett Till.  Illus. by Philippe Lardy.  Houghton Mifflin, 2005.  Gr. 9-12
This astonishing collection of 15 poems (in which the last line of one is the first line of the next) tells of Till’s brutal murder. Illustrations packed with emotion complement the sophisticated text.

Partridge, Elizabeth.  Marching for Freedom: Walk Together, Children, and Don’t You Grow Weary.
Viking, 2009.  Gr. 6 & above
The courage and spirit of children who inspired adults in their lives to become involved in civil rights activism, specifically voting rights in Selma, Alabama, is evident through their voices in this outstanding volume. Numerous quotes and other archival materials appear throughout. Substantial back matter includes a bibliography, source notes, and resources for further research.

Pinkney, Andrea Davis.  Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down  Illus. by Brian Pinkney.
Little, Brown, 2010.  Gr. 2-5
In a lyrical text that compares the goal of integration with food, the book relates the peaceful protest of four black college students who sat at a Woolworth's lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, in February, 1960. Pinkney's characteristic swirls and use of line in his illustrations focus on the action. A Civil Rights Movement timeline, additional facts about the sit-in, and resources are appended.

Pinkney, Andrea Davis.  Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters.  Illus. by Stephen Alcorn.
Harcourt, 2000.  Gr. 4-6
An engaging storytelling style and superb oil paintings present biographies of 10 African American activists for civil rights. Numerous quotes are included in the text that ranges from the subjects’ childhood to the accomplishments of their adult lives.

Powell, Patricia Hruby.  Loving vs Virginia: A Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case.
Illus. by Shadra Strickland.  Chronicle 2016.  Gr. 7 & above
In verse novel format, the author documents the lives of Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter from their teen years to the successful resolution of the Supreme Court verdict that changed the lives of interracial couples. Told in alternating voices and supplemented with primary source materials, this well-researched book is compelling and poignant and a must for library collections in the area of civil rights

Rappaport, Doreen.  Nobody Gonna Turn Me ‘Round: Stories and Songs of the Civil Rights Movement.
Illus. by Shane W. Evans.  Candlewick, 2008.  Gr. 4-8
A collection of songs, poems, letters, and first-person accounts chronicles the time between the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955 and the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, focusing on little-known as well as famous figures in the Civil Rights Movement. Stunning images illustrate the stories in this third book of the trilogy that chronicles aspects of the African American experience.

Rubin, Susan Goldman.  Freedom Summer: The 1964 Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi.  Holiday House, 2014.  Gr. 6-10
This well researched, well-documented text focuses on the participants and the activities in the summer of 1964 Mississippi. Interviews with those involved supplemented by numerous photographs bring the events alive.

Shange, Ntozake.  We Troubled the Waters.  Illus. by Rod Brown.  Amistad, 2009.  Gr. 4-8
Ordinary people as well as well-known leaders of the Civil Rights Movements are featured in powerful poems illustrated with dramatic acrylic paintings. Oppression and brutality are the focus of many of the poems, though the final selections express hope for equality in America.

Shange, Ntozake.  Coretta Scott.  Illus. by Kadir Nelson.  Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins, 2009.  Gr. 3-8
Compelling oil paintings illustrate this biographical poem of civil rights leader, Coretta Scott King. Readers will find her commitment to the partnership with her husband in their cause of peace and humanity to be inspirational. Good for reading aloud.

Sheinkin, Steve.  The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights.  Roaring Brook, 2014.  Gr. 7-10
This meticulously researched and superbly written book relates the drama behind a little known event from World War II - an explosion at the Port Chicago base in California that killed more than 300 men, most of them African American sailors. The trial that followed and the resulting convictions of 50 young men paved the way for desegregation of the U.S. military. Includes photos, oral histories, and an extensive bibliography.

Shelton, Paula Young.  Child of the Civil Rights Movement.  Illus. by Raúl Colόn.  Schwartz & Wade, 2009.
Gr. 1-4
Drawn from her family’s shared memories, the daughter of Andrew Young recounts events from her childhood that were part of her family’s involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. Both text and watercolor illustrations reflect optimism in spite of the injustice.

Shore, Diane Z. & Alexander, Jessica.  This Is the Dream.  Illus. by James Ransome.  Amistad, 2005.
Gr. 1-5
Lyrical text accompanies collage art (a combination of paintings, photographs, and news clippings) in this chronicle of people and events of the Civil Rights Movement. A useful overview that should lead readers to additional resources for information.

Slade, Suzanne.  Climbing Lincoln's Steps: The African American Journey.  Illus. by Colin Bootman.
Albert Whitman, 2010.  Gr. 2-5
This book outlines the Civil Rights Movement and its leaders, starting with the significance of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and moving on to landmark events, such as Marian Anderson's performance at the Lincoln Memorial and Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. Biographies and a timeline are appended. Lovely watercolor illustrations of people and events complement the text.

Stotts, Stuart.  We Shall Overcome: A Song That Changed the World.  Illus. by Terrance Cummings.
Clarion, 2010.  Gr. 4-6
The history of the song from its origins through its ultimate use as an "anthem" for the Civil Rights Movement is the focus of this book. Well researched and clearly written, it is rich in primary source material including black-and-white photographs, quotes, and other graphics. An extensive bibliography of resources is appended, and a CD of Pete Seeger singing the song is included.

Tavares, Matt.  Henry Aaron's Dream.  Candlewick, 2010.  Gr. 3-5
Aaron's childhood dream was to play baseball, but until he was 12 years old, it was a "whites only" sport in his hometown of Mobile, Alabama. The story recounts his journey to the Major Leagues, facing racism throughout his career in the Negro Leagues and the minors. Superb illustrations add drama to this inspirational tale of courage and determination.

Thomas, Joyce Carol (Ed.).  Linda Brown, You Are Not Alone: The Brown v. Board of Education Decision.
Illus. by Curtis James.  Hyperion, 2003.  Gr. 6-12
Well-known writers of literature for young people share memoirs, poems, and stories about the impact of the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in 1954.

Turck, Mary C.  Freedom Song: Young Voices and the Struggle for Civil Rights.  Chicago Review Press, 2008.  Gr. 6 & above
The impact of music (e.g., spirituals, gospel, protest songs, and others) and the people who performed it on all aspects of the Civil Rights Movement are discussed. Black-and-white photographs, the use of numerous resources, and an accompanying CD add to the presentation.

Walker, Paul Robert.  Remember Little Rock: The Time, The People, The Stories.  National Geographic Children’s Books, 2009.  Gr. K-3
A well-documented text offers insight into the events of the 1957-58 school year in Little Rock as nine students integrated Central High School. Many quotes and photographs are included. Good research choice.

Weatherford, Carole Boston.  Voice of Freedom Fannie Lou Hamer: Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement.
Illus. by Ekua Holmes.  Candlewick, 2015.  Gr. 5-8
Free verse poetry tells the story of the civil rights activist from her early life as the daughter of sharecroppers to her emergence on the national scene as one who spoke openly about her treatment during her pursuit of the right to vote. Striking illustrations. Extensive back matter. This exceptional portrait of determination and perseverance belongs on every library shelf.

Whitehead, Kathy.  Art from Her Heart: Folk Artist Clementine Hunter.  Illus. by Shane W. Evans.  Putnam, 2008.  Gr. 5-8
This picture book biography tells the story of the self-taught folk artist who worked on a plantation and painted life as she saw it on any surface she could find, but who could not view her initial gallery exhibitions with other visitors because of her race.

Selected Fiction
Bandy, Michael S. & Stein, Eric.  White Water.  Illus. by Shadra Strickland.  Candlewick, 2011.  Gr. 1-4
A young boy wonders why the water in the "Whites Only" drinking fountain in a segregated southern town looks so cool and clear while the water in his fountain is warm and rusty, and he is determined to find out why. Based on a childhood experience of the author.

Birtha, Becky.  Grandmama’s Pride.  Illus. by Colin Bootman.  Albert Whitman, 2005.  Gr. 2-4
In 1956, two African American girls experience Jim Crow laws for the first time when they visit their Grandmama in the segregated South. Luscious watercolor paintings enhance this emotional story about pride and dignity.

Burg, Shana.  A Thousand Never Evers.  Delacorte, 2008.  Gr. 5-8
It’s 1963 and as news of violence filters in, Addie Ann's brother flees in fear of racist reprisals for a local incident. The town patriarch has died and left a large garden space to be shared by both races. The white residents take over the garden with no intention of sharing. However, someone secretly ruins the harvest. Addie Ann's uncle is arrested and brought to trial, the proceedings of which are a mockery of justice. As a result, she unifies the black community by leading them to the jail where she bravely tells her story.

Coleman, Evelyn.  White Socks Only.  Illus. by Tyrone Geter.  Albert Whitman, 1996.  Gr. 2-5
Emotionally charged story of a little African American girl who goes to town. She sees the "Whites Only" sign on a drinking fountain and thinks it means "white socks." She takes off her shoes and drinks from the fountain, drawing anger from townspeople. In an act of supportive defiance, other African American citizens remove their shoes and drink from the fountain as well.

Cooper, Floyd.  Willie and the All-Stars.  Philomel, 2008.  Gr. 1-4
Willie can’t imagine that players from the Negro Leagues could be as good as his heroes in the Majors, until he has the opportunity to see them play each other in a game. Realistic illustrations have a nostalgic feel.

Crowe, Chris.  Mississippi Trial, 1955.  Dial, 2002.  Gr. 6-8
Told within the context of the events that surrounded the murder of Emmett Till, this story features fictional Hiram who is visiting his grandfather in Mississippi and must face the fact that his racist grandfather may have been involved. Powerful reading.

Curtis, Christopher Paul.  The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963.  Delacorte, 1995.  Gr. 5-9
It's 1963 in Flint, Michigan, and Kenny's family is trying to deal with the bad influences on his older brother. They decide to take him to his grandmother's in Birmingham--a risky venture in volatile times. They are there at the time of the Sixteenth Avenue Baptist Church bombing, and Kenny is fearful for his sister's safety. Funny, poignant, superb writing--a must read!

Draper, Sharon.  Stella by Starlight.  Atheneum, 2015.  Gr. 4-6
In this compelling story of a young girl growing up in Depression-era, segregated North Carolina, Stella and her brother Jojo witness a meeting of the Ku Klux Klan one night, practically in their own backyard. Word spreads, and the strong African American community bands together against the injustices of racism. In a powerful scene, the entire black community accompanies three registered black voters to the polling location and waits silently and seemingly endlessly until the sheriff steps aside.

Draper, Sharon.  Fire from the Rock.  Dutton, 2007.  Gr. 6-9
Although honor student Sylvia is thrilled to be among those chosen to integrate Little Rock’s Central High School in 1957, she is also terrified of the racist activities in her community. Does she have the courage to go through with it? Considerable history is woven into this fictional story.

Faulkner, Matt.  A Taste of Colored Water.  Simon & Schuster, 2008.  Gr. 2-4
LuLu and her cousin Jelly can only imagine the wonderful array of colors and flavors that there must be in the water fountain with the sign “Colored” hanging by it. They trick Jelly’s dad into taking them to town, but before they get to sample the glorious water, an angry policeman with a snarling dog yells that the water is not for them and they witness an attack on a civil rights demonstration. Pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations reflect both the innocence of the children and the disturbing nature of the times.

Holliday, Billie & Herzog, Arthur, Jr.  God Bless the Child.  Ill. by Jerry Pinkney.  Amistad/HarperCollins, 2004.  Gr. 3-5
Text is the Billie Holiday song. Pinkney's stunning watercolor illustrations interpret the words as one family's move North during the Great Migration of the 1930s. Accompanying CD of Billie Holiday singing the song.

Johnson, Angela.  A Sweet Smell of Roses.  Illus. by Eric Velasquez.  Simon & Schuster, 2004.  Gr. 1-3
An African American child and her younger sister sneak out of the house to join some civil rights marchers and listen to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speak. This quiet story is illustrated with magnificent black-and-white illustrations that have touches of red in the American flag, a teddy bear's ribbon, and the roses.

Kittinger, Jo S.  Rosa's Bus: The Ride to Civil Rights.  Illus. by Steven Walker.  Boyds Mills/Calkins Creek, 2010.  Gr. 2-5
A free verse narrative imbeds the story of Rosa Parks in the story of the bus on which she rode. Readers learn the history of the bus, the discrimination that led to Parks's action, and the bus boycott. Beautiful oil paintings add drama to the text. An appended author's note provides additional context.

Levine, Kristin.  The Lions of Little Rock.  Putnam, 2012.  Gr. 6-8
Two middle school best friends, one an extremely shy girl and the other who is expelled because she is passing for white, defy the dangers of segregated Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1958, in order to maintain their friendship. Touching story. Long historical note and bibliography are appended.

Littlesugar, Amy.  Freedom School, Yes!  Illus. by Floyd Cooper.  Philomel, 2001.  Gr. 2-4
In the summer of 1964 in Mississippi, Jolie's family hosts a young white woman from the North who has volunteered to teach at Freedom School. Tension and violence are in air, from throwing bricks through windows to burning down the church where classes are held. The teacher persists, however, and teaches the children about their cultural heritage outside under a tree. Lush illustrations reflect the apprehension and strength of the characters.

Malaspina, Ann.  Finding Lincoln.  Illus. by Colin Bootman.  Albert Whitman, 2009.  Gr. 2-5
In his determination to locate information for a school report on young Abraham Lincoln, a boy makes the decision to enter the public library (forbidden in 1950s Alabama) and is helped by a librarian after hours.

Mason, Margaret H.  These Hands.  Illus. by Floyd Cooper.  Houghton Mifflin, 2011.  Gr. 1-4
Stunning illustrations and poetic text tell the story of how African American workers in the bread factory were not allowed to touch the bread because white people would not want to eat it. Instead, they swept the floor and loaded the trucks. Union protests in the Civil Rights Movement brought attention to the issues. An author's note provides additional information.

McKissack, Patricia.  Stitchin’ and Pullin’: A Gee’s Bend Quilt.  Illus. by Cozbi A. Cabrera.  Random House, 2008.  Gr. 2-5
Several generations of women from Gee’s Bend, Alabama, have traditionally gathered to stitch quilts and tell stories. Their quilts pay tribute to the freedoms they have acquired over the years. At the center of this collection of poems is Baby Girl, who starts out playing under the quilting frames and ends up an adult who assists the quilt making herself. Vibrant illustrations reflect the warmth of the women working together.

McKissack, Patricia.  Abby Takes a Stand (“Scraps of Time” series #1).  Illus. by Gordon James.  Viking, 2005.  Gr. 3-5
The "Scraps of Time" series uses family keepsakes as a way of viewing the past. In this one, Grandma Gee (Abby) shows the children a menu from a grill in Nashville in 1960 where she was not allowed to eat. Abby becomes a civil rights activist by handing out flyers about nonviolent protest.

McKissack, Patricia C.  Goin’ Someplace Special.  Illus. by Jerry Pinkney.  Atheneum, 2001.  Gr. 2-5
'Tricia Ann gets permission to go downtown alone and finds herself confronted by the indignities of Jim Crow laws. She finally arrives at the "Someplace Special"--the public library where everyone is welcome. Exquisite watercolor illustrations capture the time and place, as well as the child's humiliation and eventual satisfaction.

Pinkney, Andrea Davis.  Boycott Blues: How Rosa Parks Inspired a Nation.  Illus. by Brian Pinkney. Greenwillow, 2008.  Gr. 3-6
This blues-y account (by a guitar-playing hound) of Rosa Parks's refusal to give up her bus seat and overview of the Montgomery Bus Boycott is illustrated in magnificent swirling ink lines and bright color washes. The text emphasizes how difficult and lengthy the boycott actually was. An author's note with additional information is appended.

Ramsey, Calvin Alexander.  Ruth and the Green Book.  Illus. by Floyd Cooper. Carolrhoda, 2010.  Gr. 2-4
In their new 1952 Buick, Ruth and her family embark on a car trip from Chicago to her grandmother's home in Alabama. They encounter Jim Crow laws along the way, but learn of the Negro Motorist Green Book, a guide to hotels, restaurants, gas stations, and services that will accept African Americans. Ruth becomes the expert at using the book to guide her family. Great illustrations. An author's note gives more information about the travel guide.

Ramsey, Calvin Alexander & Stroud, Bettye.  Belle, The Last Mule at Gee's Bend: A Civil Rights Story.
Illus. by John Holyfield.  Candlewick, 2011.  Gr. K-3
A contemporary African American boy asks an old woman about a mule he sees munching greens. She tells him the story about Martin Luther King's visit to their town in 1965 encouraging residents to vote. Belle and other mules brought wagonloads of people to vote after the white sheriff shut down the ferry. Three years later, Belle and another mule pulled Dr. King's casket through the streets of Atlanta. Richly colored illustrations add to the accessibility of this story based on actual events.

Rappaport, Doreen.  The School Is Not White!: A True Story of the Civil Rights Movement.  Illus. by Curtis James.  Hyperion, 2005.  Gr. 2-5
Tells the story of the Carter family in rural Mississippi in 1960s, who enrolled their seven children in an all-white school so they would have more opportunities for a good education. There were many consequences along the way, but the family persevered.

Reynolds, Aaron.  Back of the Bus.  Illus. by Floyd Cooper.  Philomel, 2010.  Gr. 1-3
A small boy is on the bus with his mother and witnesses Rosa Parks's refusal to give up her seat. Told in free verse style in first person and illustrated with luminous oil paintings, the story relates a significant event in civil rights history through innocent eyes.

Scattergood, Augusta.  Glory Be.  Illus. by Scholastic, 2012.  Gr. 5-8
Glory has always celebrated her July 4 birthday with a party at the community pool. But it's 1964 Mississippi, and some "freedom people" have come to town insisting that the pool be desegregated. The town leaders' decision is to close the pool indefinitely, and Glory is faced with figuring out her own views of civil rights.

Stauffacher, Sue.  Bessie Smith and the Night Riders.  Illus. by John Holyfield.  Putnam, 2006.  Gr. 3-5
Told from the viewpoint of a little girl who peeks through the tent flaps to see the famous blues singer, readers learn a fictionalized account of an incident in which Smith scared off a group of Ku Klux Klan members threatening her.

Swain, Gwenyth.  Riding to Washington.  Illus. by David Geister.  Sleeping Bear Press, 2008.  Gr. 2-4
A little white girl accompanies her father to Washington, D.C., in August, 1963, to hear Martin Luther King speak and encounters her first examples of discrimination along the way. She helps the black wife of one of her father's employees enter a "No Coloreds" restroom. When she hears Dr. King's speech, she realizes he is speaking of a dream for everyone, not just African Americans.

Vander Zee, Ruth.  Mississippi Morning.  Illus. by Floyd Cooper.  Eerdmans, 2004.  Gr. 4-8
A boy in 1933 Mississippi is friends with a black boy, and the two are well aware of lynchings and the violence of the Ku Klux Klan. His disillusionment is palpable when he discovers that his influential store owner father is a member of the Klan. Magnificent oil paintings evoke a sense place and time and the boy's emotions.

Weatherford, Carole Boston.  Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-ins.  Illus. by Jerome LaGarrigue.
Dial, 2004.  Gr. 1-4
Set in Greensboro, N.C. in 1960, the story is told from the viewpoint of a little girl who's unhappy that she can't sit at the lunch counter at Woolworth's and order something. When her older siblings join the NAACP and her brother's friends participate in the lunch counter sit-ins, she sees change in her future. An author's note discusses the events in Greensboro that year. Effective impressionistic paintings complement the text.

Wiles, Deborah.  Freedom Summer.  Illus. by Jerome Lagarrigue.  Atheneum, 2001.  Gr. 2-5
Set in 1964 in Mississippi, Joe and his best friend John Henry swim in the creek because African American John Henry is not allowed to swim in the town's public pool. The boys are thrilled when the Civil Rights Act is enacted and head to the pool only to fnd that it is being filled with asphalt. Stunning illustrations capture the emotions of the boys and the power of the story.

Wiles, Deborah.  Revolution.  Scholastic, 2014.  Gr. 6-9
In this second installment of the Sixties Trilogy, begun with Countdown (2010), 12-year-old Sunny learns firsthand what racism can do to a community. It's Freedom Summer 1964 in Mississippi, and "invaders" (civil rights activists there to help black citizens vote) have moved into the community. Abundant primary source material is interspersed throughout the text. An extraordinary book!

Woodson, Jacqueline.  Show Way.  Illus. by Hudson Talbott.  Putnam, 2005.  Gr. 3-6
Based on the author’s own history, the story tells of eight generations of women, from slavery times to the Civil Rights Movement to modern day (the author herself and her daughter). What connects them is the quilt-making tradition of Show Ways, quilts that contain secret meanings. Exquisite multimedia art that utilizes watercolors, chalk, and cloth complements the lyrical text. A book not to be missed!

Woodson, Jacqueline.  The Other Side.  Illus. by E.B. Lewis.  Putnam, 2001.  Gr. K-4
In this touching friendship story, Clover, an African American girl, lives on one side of a fence that divides the town. On the other side of the fence, a white girl is playing. Both have been told by their mothers not to cross the fence. Eventually, they sit on the fence together and are soon playing together. Magnificent watercolor paintings complement this timeless story.


Last updated 03/23/17

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