Books for Elementary Students
Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates
First published in 1951, Amos Fortune, Free Man is the story of a man who is captured and sold into slavery, but is eventually able to buy his own freedom and that of other slaves. Ages 10 and up.
Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
The story of Bud Caldwell, a young African-American boy growing up in 1930s Michigan who is on the run from abusive foster homes and is convinced that a famous stand-up bass player is his father. Ages 9-12.
Freedom's Children: Young Civil Rights Activists Tell Their Own Stories by Ellen S. Levine
This series of compelling eye-witness accounts of key events in the civil rights movement share the perspective of children. Ages 10 and up.
Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad by Ann Petry
Biography of the courageous woman who led over 300 slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad. Ages 9-12.
Just Like Martin by Ossie Davis
Written by a famous Civil Rights activist, Ossie Davis’ story tells the tale of fourteen year-old Martin, who is a proud supporter of the Civil Rights Movement until his faith and dedication are shaken following the death of his friends. Ages 10 and up.
Little Rock Nine by Marshall Poe
Written in graphic novel form, Little Rock Nine is the story of two high school friends, one black and the other white, caught in the middle of the conflict surrounding desegregation of public schools. Ages 9-12.
Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt
When the town of Phippsburg, Maine threatens to turn nearby Malaga Island, settled by former slaves, into a tourist spot, Lizzie Bright and the minister’s son, Turner Buckminster, must join together to preserve her home. Ages 9-12.
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
The Newberry Award-winning story of Cassie Logan, a young girl living in Mississippi in the 1930s whose family must deal with poverty and racism. Ages 9-12.
Students on Strike: Jim Crow, Civil Rights, Brown, and Me by John A. Stokes
Stokes, one of the students who took part in the strike at R.R. Moton High School in 1951 to protest separate schooling for blacks and whites, gives his own first-hand account of the Civil Rights Movement. Ages 9-12.
The Watsons Go To Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
When Kenny’s parents decide that his older, troublemaker brother, Byron, should be removed from the bad influences of the city for the summer, the family heads to Birmingham, Alabama, just in time to witness one of the most terrible incidents to occur in response to the Civil Rights Movement: the burning of the Sixteenth Avenue Baptist Church with four little girls inside. Ages 9-12.
Witness by Karen Hesse
When a small town in Vermont is infiltrated by the Ku Klux Klan, it is met with both support by some of the townspeople and trepidation by others. Told through the voices of both the victims and victimizers, the story shows how a small town can be gripped by prejudice, and how ultimately, the rights of the many overcome the hatred of the few. Ages 9-12.
Young Adult Books
A Good Time for Truth: Race in Minnesota by Sun Yung Shin.
Various Minnesota authors share their moving, impassioned perspectives about what life is like as a person of color in one of the whitest states in the nation. Ages 12 and up.
A Wreath for Emmet Till by Maryln Nelson
This collection of sonnets pays tribute to the fourteen-year-old lyched for whistling at a white woman. Ages 12 and up.
All American Boys by Jason Reynolds
An act of violence with an officer causes a basketball team, a school, and a town to take sides, forcing two boys, one black and one white, two grapple with modern racism. Ages 12 and up.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Written as a letter to his fifteen-year-old son, Coates' critically acclaimed, award-winning book beautifully advises “This is your country, this is your world, this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it.” Ages 14 and up.
Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose
Nine months before Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her seat, a fifteen-year-old girl fed up with the indignity of Jim Crow kept to her own bus seat. Unlike Parks, Colvin was shunned by her community for her actions. Undaunted, Colvin went on, just a year later, to be plaintiff in the landmark case that took down Jim Crow. This wonderful biography is a celebration of her determination. Ages 12 and up.
How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon
This timely, critically-acclaimed novel confronts the issues of uncertainty when a community wants to know exactly what happens when a young white man shoots a young black man. Ages 14 and up.
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs
From her teen years to her young life, Linda Brent struggled to survive at the height of slavery prior to the Civil War, even living in an attic for seven years to hide from her master. Based on Jacobs’ own personal experience. Ages 14 and up.
The Glory Field by Walter Dean Myers
The Glory Field traces the history of one African-American family, the Lewises, all the way from the beginnings of slavery, through the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement, to a family reunion in the 1990s. Ages 14 and up.
March: Books One, Two, and Three by John Lewis
This series of graphic novels by an icon of the civil rights movement details his personal experiences for a young, modern audience. Ages 14 and up.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The story of two children, Scout and Jem, and their father’s attempt to defend the honor of an African-American man who has been wrongfully accused of a serious crime. Ages 14 and up.
We Troubled the Waters by Ntozake Shange
The inspiring collection of poems celebrates a wide range of famous and forgotten milestones in the civil rights movement. Ages 12 and up.