Civil Rights Movement literary resources
Special Interest Project by Silena Hammond
An area of special interest for me is the Civil Rights Movement. I lived in the Deep South and experienced the unjust attitudes and behaviors of those still, so many years post the American Civil War, refuse to embrace all races as equal. As a child in the south I was taught the Dr. Martin L. King Jr. was an “agitator,” not a hero for civil rights. My in-laws had a coffee book entitled something like, “King’s Dream, Our Nightmare.” Recently, I was reading a fictional novel set in Mississippi and it mentioned the death of civil rights leader Medgar Evers. I had to research who he was and what he did. It was an embarrassment to me. As a parent, I have been committed to teaching my children to value diversity and to respect all as equals. As an educator, I have a similar goal. However, because my community is so homogenous I’m finding that my students can not fully appreciate the struggle for civil rights. Therefore, I have set about creating a list with brief descriptions of picture books, non-fiction books and fictional novels to use to educate myself and to use as a resource for planning future lessons. I did not choose the most obvious selections that dealt with Dr. King. As a significant figure of the Movement, I will never have difficulty finding books on him. Instead, I hunted for books that either teaches about everyday people that were involved in the Civil Rights Movement, or people that faced biased but persevered. I choose books that represented people of color that were pioneers of their fields. I choose books that showed the face of ugliness that racism shows humankind; these books will make you think and feel. You won’t read them and forget them. Months later they will creep into your consciences and you’ll wonder again at a time when there was segregation. You’ll wonder how it can still exist in many places in the US. Many of the books complement one another and can be used to form units. Also, due to the variety of the books, I can easily differentiate as needed. The books are appropriate for grades 4-8. While this list is by no means exhaustive, I’ve enjoyed complying this list and look forward to using it in the future.

Civil Rights Movement Fictional Novels
Fire from the Rock by Sharon Draper
“Sylvia Patterson's life suddenly changes with the integration of Little Rock's Central High in 1957 when she is selected to be one of the first black students to attend the previously all white school.”
Mississippi Trial, 1955 by Chris Crowe
In Mississippi in 1955, a sixteen-year-old finds himself at odds with his grandfather over issues surrounding the kidnapping and murder of a fourteen-year-old African-American from Chicago.”

My Mother the Cheerleader by Robert Sharenow
“Thirteen-year-old Louise uncovers secrets about her family and her neighborhood during the violent protests over school desegregation in 1960 New Orleans.”

The Return of Gabriel by John Armistead
In the summer of 1964, a thirteen-year-old white boy whose best friend is black is caught in the middle when civil rights workers and Ku Klux Klan members clash in a small town near Tupelo, Mississippi.”
A Summer of Kings by Han Nolan
Over the course of the summer of 1963, fourteen-year-old Esther Young discovers the passion within her when eighteen-year-old King-Roy Johnson, accused of murdering a white man in Alabama, comes to live with her family.”

A Thousand Never Evers by Shana Burg
As the civil rights movement in the South gains momentum in 1963 and violence against African-Americans intensifies, residents of the small town of Kuckachoo, Mississippi, including seventh-grader Addie Ann Pickett, begin their own courageous struggle for racial justice.”

Walking to the Bus-Rider Blues by Harriette Gillem Robinet
Twelve-year-old Alfa Merryfield, his older sister, and their grandmother struggle for rent money, food, and their dignity as they participate in the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott in the summer of 1956.”
The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
The ordinary interactions and everyday routines of the Watsons, an African-American family living in Flint, Michigan, are drastically changed after they go to visit Grandma in Alabama in the summer of 1963.”

Civil Rights Movement Picture Books
Boycott Blues: How Rosa Parks Inspired a Nation by Andrea Davis Pinkney
“Uses the form of a blues song to share the story of the year-long bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, sparked by seamstress Rosa Parks' refusal to give up her seat on a city bus to a white passenger in 1955, which resulted in a repeal of the Jim Crow segregation laws.”
Chicken Sunday by Patricia Polacco
“To thank Miss Eula for her wonderful Sunday chicken dinners, three children sell decorated eggs to buy her a beautiful Easter hat.”
Coretta Scott (poetry) by Ntozake Shange
“An illustrated biography of Coretta Scott King, describing her childhood in the segregated South, her marriage to Martin Luther King, Jr., and her civil rights work.”
Ellington Was Not a Street by Ntozake Shange
“An illustrated poem in which Ntozake Shange recalls her childhood growing up in the company W.E.B. Du Bois, Dizzy Gillespie, Paul Robeson, and other great African-American men who were instrumental in changing American culture and society.”

Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-ins by Carole Boston Weatherford
“The 1960 civil rights sit-ins at the Woolworth's lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, are seen through the eyes of a young Southern black girl.”
Freedom School, Yes! By Amy LiIttlesugar
“When their house is attacked because her mother volunteered to take in the young white woman who has come to teach African-American children at the Freedom School, Jolie is afraid, but she overcomes her fear after learning the value of education.”

Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles
“When their house is attacked because her mother volunteered to take in the young white woman who has come to teach African-American children at the Freedom School, Jolie is afraid, but she overcomes her fear after learning the value of education.”

Going North by Janice Harrington
“A young African American girl and her family leave their home in Alabama and head for Lincoln, Nebraska, where they hope to escape segregation and find a better life.”
Goin’ Someplace Special by Patricia C. Mckissack
“In segregated 1950s Nashville, a young African American girl braves a series of indignities and obstacles to get to one of the few integrated places in town: the public library.”
If a Bus Could Talk by Faith Ringgold
“Presents a brief biography, in simple text with illustrations, of Rosa Parks, the African-American woman and civil rights worker whose refusal to give up her seat on a bus led to a boycott which lasted more than a year in Montgomery, Alabama.”
Mississippi Morning by Ruth Vander Zee
“Amidst the economic depression and the racial tension of the 1930s, a boy discovers a horrible secret of his father's involvement in the Ku Klux Klan.”
Playing to Win: The Story of Althea Gibson by Karen Deans
“An illustrated biography of the life and achievements of African-American tennis player Althea Gibson. Deans clearly lays out Gibson’s story, from the discrimination she faced as a black woman in mid–twentieth century America to the highlights of her tennis career.”

Rosa by Nikki Giovanni
“Presents an illustrated account of Rosa Parks' refusal to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, and the subsequent bus boycott by the black community.”
Sweet Land of Liberty by Deborah Hopkinson
“Tells the story of Oscar Chapman, assistant secretary of the interior under President Franklin Roosevelt, telling how a childhood injustice influenced his decision to organize the 1939 concert given by African-American opera singer Marian Anderson at the Lincoln Memorial after she had been denied the use of Constitution Hall.”

A Sweet Smell of Roses by Angela Johnson
“Two young girls participate in a freedom march and listen to Dr. Martin Luther King speak during the Civil Rights movement.”

This is the Dream (poetry) by Diane Z. Shore & Jessica Alexander
“An illustrated poem that describes how nonviolent protests helped end the segregation of schools and public places in the United States.”
The Tuskegee Airmen Story by Lynn M. Homan & Thomas Reilly
“When Joshua, Krista, and their friend, Charlene, find Granddad's souvenirs of World War II, he takes the opportunity to tell them about the war and his experiences as a Tuskegee Airman.”
When Marian Sang by Pam Munoz Ryan
“An introduction to the life of Marian Anderson, extraordinary singer and civil rights activist, who was the first African American to perform at the Metropolitan Opera, whose life and career encouraged social change.”

White Socks Only by Evelyn Coleman
“Grandma tells the story about her first trip alone into town during the days when segregation still existed in Mississippi.”

Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph became the World’s Fastest Woman by Kathleen Krull
“A biography of the African-American woman who overcame crippling polio as a child to become the first woman to win three gold medals in track in a single Olympic.”

Civil Rights Movement Non-Fiction
Black and White Airman: Their True History by John Fleischman
Presents the true story of two men--one African-American, the other white--who lived in the same Ohio neighborhood, went to the same school, joined the Army Air Corps in 1941, and finally became close friends nearly sixty years later.”
Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose
Presents an account of fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin, an African-American girl who refused to give up her seat to a white woman on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama, nine months before Rosa Parks, and covers her role in a crucial civil rights case.”
Freedom Song: Young Voices and the Struggle for Civil Rights by Mary C. Turck
Explores how songs helped strengthen the Civil Rights movement, discusses how churches and other groups created new songs from existing religious and secular music, and includes an audio CD with music by the Chicago Children's Choir.”
Freedom Walkers: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Russell Freedman
Presents the story of the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955 and the major persons and events that contributed to the year-long struggle for equal rights on Montgomery's city buses.”

Getting Away with Murder: The True Story of the Emmett Till Case by Chris Crowe
Presents a true account of the murder of fourteen-year-old, Emmett Till, in Mississippi, in 1955.”

Marching for Freedom: Walk Together, Children, and Don’t You Grow Weary by Elizabeth Partridge
Recounts the three months of protest that took place before Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s landmark march from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery to promote equal rights and help African-Americans earn the right to vote.”

Mine Eyes Have Seen: Bearing Witness to the Struggle for Civil Rights by Bob Adelman
“Examines the civil rights movement in words and images, presenting photos by Bob Adelman and essays by author and scholar Charles Johnson.”
Remember: The Journey to School Integration by Toni Morrison
“Presents a selection of archival photographs that document events surrounding the integration of U.S. schools following the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, and includes captions in which Toni Morrison imagines what the people in the pictures must have been thinking and feeling.”
Remember Little Rock: The Time, the People, the Stories by Paul Robert Walker
“Combines eye witness accounts with archival photographs to document the events surrounding the integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.”
The Voice That Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights by Russell Freedman
“Tells the life story of singer Marian Anderson, describing her famous 1939 Lincoln Memorial performance and explaining how she helped end segregation in the American arts after being refused the right to perform at Washington's Constitution Hall because of the color of her skin.”
We are One: The Story of Bayard Rustin by Larry Dane Brimner
Chronicles the life of African-American social activist Bayard Rustin, discussing his protests of segregation before the civil rights movement began and his organization of the March on Washington.”
We are the Ship:The Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson
“Explores the history of Negro League baseball teams, discussing owners, players, hardships, wins, and losses; and including illustrations.”

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