Children in the Civil Rights Movement

We are all familiar with prominent and respected civil rights activists like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, John Lewis, and Rosa Parks. During their lives, they stood up to injustice, and spoke out against segregation and racism in the United States. Their words and actions paved the way for a more equitable society for us all. We should also remember how children of the era also used their influence for the betterment of our schools and communities. Their faces reflected society and cast an image of ourselves onto the country’s consciousness. This booklist highlights the bravery and commitment of the children of the civil rights movement in the face of danger, hate, and uncertainty.

Remember: The Journey to School Integration by Toni Morrison
Archival photographs that depict the historical events surrounding school desegregation inspire a fictional account of the dialogue and emotions of the children who lived during the era of “separate but equal” schooling.

This Is Your Time by Ruby Bridges
Civil rights activist Ruby Bridges–who, at the age of six, was the first African American to integrate an all-white elementary school in New Orleans–shares her story through text and historical photographs, offering a powerful call to action.

This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy
 Jo Ann-found herself called on as the spokesperson of a group of students who broke the color barrier and integrated Clinton High School in Tennessee. This is the heartbreaking and relatable story of her four months thrust into the national spotlight and as a trailblazer in history. 

The Little Rock Nine and the Fight for Equal Education by Gary Jeffrey
The story of a group of African American students known as the Little Rock Nine is a saga of incredible courage and grace. This taut, thrilling graphic novel plunges readers into the cauldron of hate, bigotry, and fear the students faced.

Todos Iguales: Un Corrido de Lemon Grove / All Equal: A Ballad of Lemon Grove by Christy Halle
The story of the 1931 Lemon Grove incident, in which Mexican families in southern California won the first school desegregation case in United States history. Told in Spanish and English, it includes a corrido (ballad).

We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Levinson
This tells the little-known story of the 4,000 Black elementary, middle, and high school students who answered Dr. Martin Luther King’s call to “fill the jails.” Between May 2 and May 11, 1963, these young people voluntarily went to jail, drawing national attention to the cause, helping bring about the repeal of segregation laws, and inspiring thousands of other young people to demand their rights.

Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation By Duncan Tonatiuh
Years before the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling Brown v. Board of Education, Sylvia Mendez, an eight-year-old girl of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage, played an instrumental role in Mendez v. Westminster, the landmark desegregation case of 1946 in California.

As Fast as Words Could Fly by Pamela M. Tuck
A fourteen-year-old African American boy in 1960s Greenville, North Carolina, uses his typing skills to make a statement as part of the Civil Rights movement.  Despite the injustice he faces, Mason takes a stand, enters a typing tournament and uses his skills to triumph over suspicions and racial prejudice.