This is a list of living books that tell the stories of the people and events of the Civil Rights Movement. While these are picture books, they are stories that all ages can appreciate. Some of my very favorite children’s books are on this list because they tell such inspiring stories of courage and determination. I hope you enjoy them as much as my children and I have!
Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin Alexander Ramsey
About an African American family trying to travel to the south in the Jim Crow era. Gives insight into segregation and discrimination. Highly recommend!
A Time to Act – John F. Kennedy’s Big Speech by Shana Corey
Touches on life during the Civil Rights Movement and segregation. Tells a little about the life and legacy of JFK, and his courage in trying to lead the United States to equality.
Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport
Beautiful story about how Martin Luther King Jr. used powerful words of love and hope to fight for justice. Highly recommend!
The United States v. Jackie Robinson by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
The inspiring story of Jackie Robinson and the role he played in the Civil Rights Movement. Highly recommend!
Voice of Freedom, Fannie Lou Hamer: Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford
I can’t recommend this book enough! A true account of the life of Fannie Lou Hamer and her contributions to the Civil Rights Movement. Heartbreaking, moving, hopeful, and inspiring, this is an emotional read. Note: there are some difficult topics mentioned in this book: forced sterilization (p. 12), and the overall injustice and violence that were realities during this time. There is also strong language (p. 21). This is a beautifully written picture book, but you might want to pre-read before sharing it with your children. Highly highly recommend!
Child of the Civil Rights Movement by Paula Young Shelton
The author tells the true story of her experience as a child observer and participant in the Civil Rights Movement. Told from a child’s perspective, so it is excellent for children. Features other prominent leaders of the Civil Rights Movement who she knew and had a relationship with, such as Martin Luther King Jr.. Highly recommend!
The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson
This story is amazing and fabulous for children! Tells the true story of a nine year-old girl who bravely went to jail to protest segregation. This book explains segregation and the Civil Rights Movement in a way that is very accessible to children. One of my favorites!
Between the Lines by Sandra Neil Wallace
This is the true story of Ernie Barnes who was a football player and artist. It highlights some of obstacles that he faced because of the segregation and discrimination of his time.
Lillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by Jonah Winter and Shane W. Evans
Told through the memories of “Lillian” and her ancestors, this story takes the reader from the time of slavery to 1965, when the right to vote was finally guaranteed for all Americans. Good read!
We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song by Debbie Levy
Talks about the history of the Civil Rights Movement and the role of the song “We Shall Overcome” not only in the United States, but in civil rights movements throughout the world. The text is very clear and easy for children to understand.
Carter Reads the Newspaper by Deborah Hopkinson
The story of Carter G. Woodson, the son of former slaves post Civil War, who raised himself from poverty, gained an education, and became an advocate for black Americans. He formed the movement that later led to Black History Month. Great read!
If a Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks by Faith Ringgold
This story takes the reader on an imaginary bus ride during which the bus tells the story of Rosa Parks. The author does a good job of making the story engaging and accessible.
Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-Ins by Carole Boston Weatherford
Based on real events, but told from a fictional child’s point of view, this is a gentle but powerful window into segregation and the movement to change it. Excellent read!
Ron’s Big Mission by Rose Blue and Corinne J. Naden
This story is based on a real event from the childhood of astronaut Ron McNair. It tells about how nine year-old Ron courageously stood up to the unfair rule that allowed only white people to check out books from the library. I love this story so much! It is especially accessible for young children, because it is easy for them to see the injustice in forbidding a child to bring library books home because of his skin color.
Granddaddy’s Turn: A Journey to the Ballot Box by Michael S. Bandy
Granddaddy gets dressed in his Sunday best and waits patiently in line for his very first chance to vote, only to be denied through an illegal “reading test.” This story brings to life the injustice of such practices. The author did a great job of helping us feel Granddaddy’s pain when after waiting for so long for a chance to vote, he had to keep waiting after all.
Back of the Bus by Aaron Reynolds
This excellent book tells the story of Rosa Parks defying segregation from the point of view of a child looking on. It’s an easy an enjoyable read and opens the discussion of segregation and civil rights in a natural way for a child.
A Bus of Our Own by Freddi Williams Evans
This is a really great true story. Just before the civil rights era, children in a black community can’t go to school because the weather is too harsh to walk the long distance, and the county only provides a bus for the white children. Despite this injustice, and despite their poverty, the community comes together to provide a bus for the children. I really love this one!
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