Civil Rights Movement

An introduction to one of the defining issues of our time, with a focus on the involvement of young people in the Civil Rights Movement.

Compiled by:
Children's Services Staff

Picturebooks and Younger Elementary

Child of the Civil Rights Movement

Paula Young Shelton, Raul Colón
(Juvenile Nonfiction – J 323.1196 She)

A daughter of civil rights activist Andrew Young describes her experiences of growing up in the Deep South at the height of the movement, sharing her witness to the efforts of her father, family friend Martin Luther King, Jr. and thousands of others who participated in the historic march from Selma to Montgomery. Recommended for ages 6-9.

Granddaddy’s Turn: A Journey to the Ballot Box

Michael S. Bandy, Eric Stein
(Juvenile Picture Books– Ej Ban)

A tale based on the true story of a family's struggle for voting rights in the civil rights-era South follows a young boy's witness to a day when his proud, hardworking grandfather dresses in his best suit and goes to town so that he can vote for the first time. Recommended for ages 6-9.

Juneteenth for Mazie

Floyd Cooper
(Juvenile Picture Books – Ej Coo)

Little Mazie wants the freedom to stay up late, but her father explains what freedom really means in the story of Juneteenth, and how her ancestors celebrated their true freedom. Recommended for ages 3-6.

Lillian’s Right to Vote

Jonah Winter, Shane Evans
(Juvenile Picture Books – Ej Win)

As an older woman, Lillian recalls that her great-great-grandparents were sold as slaves in front of a courthouse where only rich White men were allowed to vote, then the long fight that led to her right—and determination—to cast her ballot since the Voting Rights Act gave every American the right to vote. Recommended for ages 6-9.

The March on Washington

Bonnie Bader
(Juvenile Fiction - J America Realsto Bad)

In 1933, people from all over the country came together calling for equal rights for African Americans. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was a peaceful protest and the setting for Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I have a dream' speech. Learn about the inspiring people and incredible acts of courage that led to this historic moment. Plus, American girl Melody shares her own experiences growing up during the civil rights movement and dealing with discrimination. Recommended for ages 6-9.

Sing a Song: How "Lift Every Voice and Sing" Inspired Generations

Kelly Starling Lyons
(Juvenile Picture Books – Ej Lyo)

In Jacksonville, Florida, two brothers, one of them the principal of a segregated, all-black school, wrote the song "Lift Every Voice and Sing" so his students could sing it for a tribute to Abraham Lincoln's birthday in 1900. From that moment on, the song has provided inspiration and solace for generations of Black families. Mothers and fathers passed it on to their children who sang it to their children and grandchildren. It has been sung during major moments of the Civil Rights Movement and at family gatherings and college graduations. Recommended for ages 6-9.

Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down

Andrea Davis Pinkney
(Juvenile Nonfiction – J 323.1196 Pin)

This picture book is a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the momentous Woolworth's lunch counter sit-in, when four college students staged a peaceful protest that became a defining moment in the struggle for racial equality and the growing civil rights movement. Recommended for ages 6-9.

The Story of Civil Rights

Wil Mara
(Juvenile Nonfiction – J 323.1196 Mar)

A history of race relations in the U.S. includes coverage of slavery, abolition and segregation as well as the events of the Civil Rights movement, discussing subjects ranging from protests and speeches to legislation and the famous people around the world who helped promote equal rights. Recommended for ages 6-9.

The Teachers March!: How Selma's Teachers Changed History

Sandra Neil Wallace
(Juvenile Nonfiction – J 323.1196 Wal)

Reverend F.D. Reese was a leader of the Voting Rights Movement in Selma, Alabama. As a teacher and principal, he recognized that his colleagues were viewed with great respect in the city. Could he convince them to risk their jobs--and perhaps their lives--by organizing a teachers-only march to the county courthouse to demand their right to vote?  Recommended for ages 6-9.

We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song

Debbie Levy
(Juvenile Nonfiction – J 782.42162 Lev)

A celebration of the history of the struggle for freedom, as reflected through moments when the iconic song "We Shall Overcome" was sung explains how the song has come to represent civil rights and freedom around the world. Recommended for ages 6-9.

Older Elementary

Black Lives Matter: From Hashtag to the Streets

Dr. Artika R. Tyner
(Juvenile Nonfiction – J 323.1196 Tyn)

Started as a hashtag after the death of Trayvon Martin, Black Lives Matter has become one of the most significant protest movements of our time and depicts the continuing struggle of the civil rights movement. See how its activists and demonstrators have changed the course of history. Recommended for ages 8-12.

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice

Phillip Hoose
(Juvenile Nonfiction – J 921 Colvin Hoo)

Presents the life of the Alabama teenager who played an integral but little-known role in the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955-1956, once by refusing to give up a bus seat, and again, by becoming a plaintiff in the landmark civil rights case against the bus company. Recommended for ages 8-12.

Freedom Song: Young Voices and the Struggle for Civil Rights

Mary C. Turck
(Juvenile Nonfiction – J 782.421592 Tur)

Demonstrates how different songs in history have served as a unifying voice of the people during the Civil Rights Movement, including "Lift Every Voice and Sing" and "We Shall Overcome." Recommended for ages 8-12.

Lifting As We Climb: Black Women's Battle for the Ballot Box

Evette Dionne
(Juvenile Nonfiction – J 323. 34 Dio)

For African American women, the fight for the right to vote was only one battle. An eye-opening book that tells the important, overlooked story of Black women as a force in the suffrage movement--when fellow suffragists did not accept them as equal partners in the struggle. Recommended for ages 8-12+

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

David Aretha
(Juvenile Nonfiction – J 975.3041 Are)
Series: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement in Photographs

Discusses the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, including the causes for the march, how the march was organized and its leaders, the important speeches, and the impact it had on the civil rights movement. Recommended for ages 8-12.

Marching for Freedom: Walk Together, Children, and Don't You Grow Weary

Elizabeth Partridge
(Juvenile Nonfiction – J 323.1196 Par)

An examination of the landmark march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., this book focuses on the children who faced terrifying violence in order to walk alongside him in their fight for freedom and the right to vote. Recommended for ages 8-12.

Through My Eyes

Ruby Bridges
(Juvenile Nonfiction – J 921 Bridges Bri)

Ruby Bridges recounts the story of her involvement, as a six-year-old, in the integration of her school in 1960. Recommended for ages 8-12.

Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom

Lynda Blackmon Lowery
(Juvenile Nonfiction – J 323.1196 Low)

A 50th-anniversary tribute shares the story of the youngest person to complete the momentous Selma to Montgomery March, describing her frequent imprisonments for her participation in nonviolent demonstrations and how she felt about her involvement in historic civil rights events. Recommended for ages 8-12+

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

Christopher Paul Curtis
(Juvenile Fiction – J 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. Recommended for ages 8-12.

We Are Power: How Nonviolent Activism Changes the World

Todd Hasack-Lowy
(Juvenile Nonfiction – J 303.61 Has)

We Are Power brings to light the incredible individuals who have used nonviolent activism to change the world. The book explores questions such as what is nonviolent resistance and how does it work? In an age when armies are stronger than ever before, when guns seem to be everywhere, how can people confront their adversaries without resorting to violence themselves? Through key international movements-from the freedom of India from British rule to American labor unions and civil rights to actions taken by high school and college students around the world-this book discusses the components of nonviolent resistance. Recommended for ages 8-12.