6 Books for Kids about the Civil Rights Movement

  • by Gwen Glazer

    Writing great historical books for middle-grade readers can be a tall order. It often requires a ton of research but needs to feel effortless. It must introduce compelling characters, real or imaginary, and remain historically accurate but also fun to read. And it has to set a vivid scene—in recent or distant history—without getting bogged down in details.

    Half a century after the Montgomery Bus Boycott that began with Rosa Parks, many authors of children’s literature are filling that tall order by creating compelling fiction and nonfiction about the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and ’60s. Here are six of our favorites.


    Rosa by Nikki Giovanni
    A true account of Rosa Parks’ life, in picture-book biography format.






    lions little rock

    The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine
    Arkansas, 1958: Marlee’s community is mired in the debate over integration. But when a new girl comes to her school, Marlee’s experience goes from theoretical to real-life.






    The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
    Historical details about the tragic bombing of the Sixteenth Avenue Baptist Church, seen through the lens of one African-American family’s trip from Flint, Michigan, to the segregated South.





    ruby bridges

    Ruby Bridges Goes to School by Ruby Bridges
    An autobiography written by one of the students who helped end school segregation in New Orleans.





    one crazy summer

    One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
    Three girls wind up at a summer camp run by the Black Panthers.






    little rock nine

    The Little Rock Nine and the Fight for Equal Education by Gary Jeffrey
    An easy-to-read nonfiction graphic novel about the Little Rock school integration. (There’s a second book in the series about Rosa Parks, too.)






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    Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you’d recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations!