The civil rights movement took place in the 1950s and 1960s. It was a struggle against the social injustice faced by Black Americans. Key figures in the civil rights movement included Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man; The Little Rock Nine, the first Black students to attend a previously segregated high school; The Freedom Riders, who protested segregated bus terminals; and, of course, Martin Luther King, Jr., who was at the front and center of the fight for civil rights until he was assassinated on April 4, 1968. If you would like to learn more about these brave individuals and the civil rights movement in general, here are a few books to get you started.
Adult Books about the Civil Rights Movement
By Townsend Davis
Logging 30,000 miles of research and more than 100 hours of interviews with civil rights veterans, Townsend Davis has written both a history of the struggle and an indispensable traveler’s guidebook to civil rights in the deep south. Ranging from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s childhood neighborhood to Philadelphia, Mississippi, where three civil rights workers were murdered, to Selma and Birmingham and scores of other sites, Weary Feet, Rested Souls is a uniquely inspiring and deeply commemorative guide to the movement and its heroes.
By Sara Bullard
An illustrated history of the civil rights movement, including a timeline and profiles of forty people who gave their lives in the movement.
By Lynne Olson
In this groundbreaking and absorbing book, credit finally goes where credit is due—to the bold women who were crucial to the success of the civil rights movement. From the Montgomery bus boycott to the lunch counter sit-ins to the Freedom Rides, Lynne Olson skillfully tells the long-overlooked story of the extraordinary women who were among the most fearless, resourceful, and tenacious leaders of the civil rights movement.
By Robin Coste Lewis
The Voyage of The Sable Venus, by Robin Coste Lewis, contains poems on many different topics: love, loss, family history, travel, art, death. At its center is the long title poem, which is constructed of the titles and exhibit descriptions of Western art pieces that contain a black female figure. One section, Catalog 6, focuses exclusively on art from the time of the Civil Rights Movement. Read as a whole, the book is an argument for why that movement was, and continues to be, essential to American democracy.
By Tracy Smith
Tracy K. Smith, a poet whose book Life on Mars won the Pulitzer, writes a memoir of how her life in suburban California contrasts with her parents’ adolescence during the Civil Rights era. The writing in this book is lyrical, encouraging the flow of a narrative that explores love within a family and the way members’ individual experiences impact everyone in the group. The contrast between her parents’ struggles and her more comfortable upbringing, which is still influenced by racism, illness, and loss, brings to light unexpected examinations of what it means to be Black in America.
By Kathryn Stockett
Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. Aibileen is a wise, regal black maid raising her seventeenth white child. Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, can cook like nobody’s business but can’t mind her tongue. It is 1962, and these three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step that forever changes a town and the way women –mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends — view one another.
By Colson Whitehead
As the civil rights movement begins to reach the black enclave of Frenchtown in segregated Tallahassee, Elwood Curtis takes the words of Dr. Martin Luther King to heart: He is “as good as anyone.” Elwood is about to enroll in the local black college. But for a black boy in the Jim Crow South of the early 1960s, one innocent mistake is enough to destroy the future. Elwood is sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy. Based on the real story of a reform school in Florida that operated for one hundred and eleven years.
By Elizabeth Berg
Stricken by polio, Paige Dunn, a woman of remarkable free spirit, beauty, and intelligence, continues to raise her daughter, Diana, with the help of her caretaker Peacie, in a novel set against the backdrop of Tupelo, Mississippi, in 1964.
Teen Books about the Civil Rights Movement
The Young Crusaders : The Untold Story of the Children and Teenagers Who Galvanized the Civil Rights Movement
By V. P. Franklin
It was the largest civil rights demonstration in US history: the system-wide school boycott in New York City on February 3, 1964, where over 360,000 elementary and secondary school students went on strike and thousands attended freedom schools. Franklin shows that it was these unheralded young people who set the blueprint for today’s youth activists and their campaigns to address poverty, joblessness, educational inequality, and racialized violence and discrimination.
By John Lewis
Teen Graphic Novel
A graphic novel trilogy based on the life of civil rights leader and congressman John Lewis.
By Octavia Butler
Teen Graphic Novel
Octavia E. Butler’s bestselling literary science-fiction masterpiece, Kindred, is now in graphic novel format. More than 35 years after its release, Kindred continues to draw in new readers with its deep exploration of the violence and loss of humanity caused by slavery in the United States, and its complex and lasting impact on the present day.
By Chris Crowe
In Mississippi in 1955, a white sixteen-year-old finds himself at odds with his grandfather over issues surrounding the kidnapping and murder of a fourteen-year-old African American teenager from Chicago.
By Patricia Hruby Powell
Written in blank verse, the story of Mildred Loving, an African American girl, and Richard Loving, a Caucasian boy, who challenge the Virginia law forbidding interracial marriages in the 1950s.
Junior Books about the Civil Rights Movement
By Erinn Banting
This book chronicles the history of the United States civil rights movement.
By Carole Boston Weatherford
This book presents a collage-illustrated treasury of poems and spirituals inspired by the life and work of civil rights advocate Fannie Lou Hamer.
By Paula Young Shelton
The author, the daughter of Andrew Young, describes the participation of Martin Luther King, Jr., along with her father and others, in the civil rights movement and in the historic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965.
By Mildred Taylor
A black family living in Mississippi during the Depression of the 1930s is faced with prejudice and discrimination which its children do not understand.
By Christopher Paul Curtis
Everyday life for the Watsons, an African-American family from Flint, Michigan, is drastically changed after they go visit Grandma in Alabama in the summer of 1963.
By Shelia P Moses
Determined to stand up for their rights, eleven-year-old Rufus, a Black boy, and his friends participate in the 1963 civil rights protests in Birmingham, Alabama. Shelia Moses gives readers a deeply personal account of one boy’s heroism during what came to be known as the Children’s Crusade in this important novel that highlights a key turning point in the civil rights movement.