Children’s Books To Read About The Civil Rights Movement
We celebrate the birthday and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr this week. Had he not been assassinated, he would be 92 years old. On MLK Day, many Americans are reminded of the racial inequity we have overcome with the help Dr. King and the Civil Rights movement. Yet, nearly 53 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 own children at home. Understanding the history of our country's Black experience and the way in which 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. Stanford University's Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute, offers "Freedom's Ring," an animated experience to compare the written and spoken word of the "I have a dream" speech that serves a helpful resource.
For younger children, you may want to begin with illustrated books in your home library. 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.
Mahogany Books is just a couple of miles from the Capitol and is one of the many businesses that had to close on 1/6 for safety. It's important to support independent bookstores anytime we can, and Black-owned shops are becoming increasingly rarer.
VOICE OF FREEDOM FANNIE LOU HAMER by Carole Boston Weatherford
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)
SIT-IN: HOW FOUR FRIENDS STOOD UP BY SITTING DOWN by Andrea Davis Pinkney
"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
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
"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
"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
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)