Resources and Books for Children About The Civil Rights Movement

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We celebrate the birthday and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr this week. Had he not been assassinated, he would be 93 years old. On MLK Day, many Americans are reminded of the racial inequity we have overcome with the help of Dr. King and the Civil Rights movement. Yet, nearly 54 years after his passing, there is still so much work to be done. Black Americans still do not have the equity and equality that Dr. King and many of his fellow freedom fighters dreamed of.

As we work toward an anti-racist America, the best place to start is with our children at home. Understanding the history of our country's Black experience and how the Civil Rights movement motivated a nation to change provides a rich lesson in how each of us can move forward to a more just society. 

If you have not talked to your kids about race, MLK Day provides an important reminder to do so. The legacy of the King family calls for the third Monday in January to be a "day on, not a day off" and improve our communities. We can, of course, start investing in the future of our communities by opening up a dialogue with our children.

We have compiled several options to share with your children on MLK day and beyond! 

Freedom's Ring Multi-Media Speech 
Stanford University's 
Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute, offers "Freedom's Ring," an animated multi-media experience to compare the written and spoken word of the "I have a dream" speech. Our Tula families have found it a powerful and engaging resource to share as a tradition. 

When I Get Grown Animated Short and Documentary 
"When I Get Grown"
was selected for the World House Documentary Film Festival. While it is not about Dr. King, it is the story of how civil rights icon Dr. Bernard LaFayette committed to being a changemaker at the young age of 7.  The documentary covers several hours of edited interviews, but the 2 minute animated short at the beginning will be engaging and powerful for young kids. 

Students With King Virtual Tour 
While the pandemic has made travel difficult, you can still take a historical tour online! We can't promise that this will engage a toddler. But, it's a great virtual field trip for your school-age children. 

Books to Share with Your Children 

For young children, you may consider starting the conversation with illustrated books. It's never too early for that, and there are many children's books about the Civil Rights movement. We have chosen books below that are all written by Black authors and offer different stories and perspectives of the movement. The links to the books themselves will direct you to Black-owned, Mahogany Books in Washington DC. It's important to support independent bookstores anytime we can, and Black-owned shops are becoming increasingly rarer.


Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement

VOICE OF FREEDOM FANNIE LOU HAMER by Carole Boston Weatherford
Ages 4-7 

Awards: 2016 Caldecott Honor Book, 2016 Robert F. Sibert Honor Book, and 2016 John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award Winner

"Stirring poems and stunning collage illustrations combine to celebrate the life of Fannie Lou Hamer, a champion of equal voting rights." (Penguin Random House)

Age 6+

"A picture book celebration of the 50th anniversary of the momentous Woolworth's lunch counter sit-in, when four college kids staged a peaceful protest that became a defining moment in the struggle for racial equality and the growing civil rights movement." (Little Brown)

ROSA by Nikki Giovanni and Bryan Collier
Ages 4-8

Awards: Caldecott Honor Book, Coretta Scott King Medal for Illustrators

"Fifty years after her refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, city bus, Mrs. Rosa Parks is still one of the most important figures in the American civil rights movement. This tribute to Mrs. Parks is a celebration of her courageous action and the events that followed." (Macmillian)

A SWEET SMELL OF ROSES by Angela Johnson 
Ages 5-8 

"Inspired by the countless young people who took a stand against the forces of injustice, two Coretta Scott King Honorees, Angela Johnson and Eric Velasquez, offer a stirring yet jubilant glimpse of the youth involvement that played an invaluable role in the Civil Rights movement." (Simon & Schuster)

CORETTA SCOTT by Ntozake Shange 
Ages 4-9

"Celebrated poet and playwright Ntozake Shange captures the spirit of Civil Rights pioneer Coretta Scott King in this picture book biography gorgeously illustrated by Caldecott Medal artist Kadir Nelson." (Haper Collins)

 ANTITACIST BABY by Ibram X. Kendi 
Baby to age 3 (Big kids like this one too!)

This is not specifically a book about the civil rights movement, but it is one that #TeamTula loves. 

"Take your first steps with Antiracist Baby! Or rather, follow Antiracist Baby‘s nine easy steps for building a more equitable world. " (Penguin Random House)

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander

THE UNDEFEATED by Kwame Alexander 
Ages 6-9

Awards: 2020 Caldecott Medal,  2020 Newbery Honor Book, and 2020 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award

"The text is peppered with references to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others, offering deeper insights into the accomplishments of the past, while bringing stark attention to the endurance and spirit of those surviving and thriving in the present. Robust back matter at the end provides valuable historical context and additional detail for those wishing to learn more." (HMH)


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