Resources in the Archives on the Civil Rights Movement as depicted in Children’s Literature

She had not sought this moment but she was ready for it. When the policeman bent down to ask “Auntie, are you going to move?” all the strength of all the people through all those many years joined in her. She said, “No.”—From Rosa

Imagining the moment when Rosa Parks was arrested for protesting segregation in 1955, Nikki Giovanni is one of many authors of children’s literature who has made the history of the Civil Rights Movement accessible to a younger audience. By focusing on well-known and pivotal events that helped to galvanize the movement, such as Rosa Parks’ refusal to move to the back of the bus, or Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, authors and illustrators bring to life the struggle of African Americans who fought for equal rights under the law during the 1950s and 1960s. Books like Rosa educate young readers about the fight for social justice during a time of rampant racial discrimination and inequality for blacks in America. Introducing children to concepts such as racial violence and intolerance, authors and illustrators have the delicate task of explaining these concepts in a way that will encourage empathy in young readers. They often do so by depicting this history through the eyes of children, and considering how children would have participated in or been affected by these events.

Many titles on the topic of Civil Rights can be found in the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection at Archives & Special Collections. These books tell the story of the Civil Rights Movement in different ways, from how people joined in historic marches, to the methods people used to stand up against segregation. Some of them focus specifically on historical figures, such as Rosa Parks and Dr. King, in order to show their courage in times of adversity and to honor their legacy. These books are valuable resources for educators in elementary and middle schools. As the country continues to grapple with the effects of its past, educating young readers about this aspect of U.S. history is an important step in encouraging tolerance and awareness.

The Northeast Children’s Literature Collection available at Archives & Special Collections includes a variety of titles concerning the Civil Rights Movement, most of which have been published within the last twenty years (note that the call number for each book is placed after the year of publication):

Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott:

  • Edwards, Pamela Duncan, The Bus Ride that Changed History (2005) CLC C4260
  • Giovanni, Nikki. Rosa (2005) CLC C4109
  • Kittinger, Jo S., Rosa’s Bus (2010) CLC D6405
  • Pinkney, Andrea Davis, Boycott Blues: How Rosa Parks Inspired a Nation (2008) CLC D2342
  • Reynolds, Aaron, Back of the Bus (2010) CLC D2710
  • Romito, Dee, Pies from Nowhere: how Georgia Gilmore Sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott (2018) CLC D9629

Historic Marches:

  • Clark-Robinson, Monica, Let the Children March (2018) CLC D9667
  • Evans, Shane, We March (2012) CLC D6844
  • Johnson, Angela, A Sweet Smell of Roses (2005) CLC D1393
  • Partridge, Elizabeth, Marching for Freedom: Walk Together, Children, and Don’t You Grow Weary (2009) CLC D2448
  • Shelton, Paula Young, Child of the Civil Rights Movement (2010) CLC D6401
  • Swain, Gwenyth, Riding to Washington (2008) CLC D2562

Martin Luther King, Jr.:

  • Bausum, Ann, Marching to the Mountaintop: how Poverty, Labor Fights, and Civil Rights set the Stage for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Final Hours (2012) CLC C8192
  • Bolden, Tonya, M.L.K.: Journey of a King (2007) CLC C5135
  • Bunting, Eve, The Cart that Carried Martin (2013) CLC D7202
  • Duncan, Alice Faye, Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: the Sanitation Strike of 1968 (2018) CLC D9630
  • Michelson, Richard. As Good as Anybody: Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Amazing March Toward Freedom (2008) CLC C5719
  • Nelson, Kadir, I Have a Dream (2012) CLC D6631
  • Pinkney, Andrea Davis, Martin & Mahalia: His Words, Her Song (2013) CLC D6995
  • Pinkney, Andrea Davis, Martin Rising: Requiem for a King (2018) CLC D9631
  • Rappaport, Doreen. Martin’s Big Words: the Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (2001) CLC D591
  • Woodson, Jacqueline. Martin Luther King, Jr., and His Birthday. 1990. CLC A14499

Desegregation of schools

  • Coles, Robert, The Story of Ruby Bridges (1995) CLC D9093
  • Kanefield, Teri, The Girl from the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the Advent of the Civil Rights Movement (2014) CLC D7890
  • Rappaport, Doreen, The School is not White! A True Story of the Civil Rights Movement (2005) CLC D1435
  • Tonatiuh, Duncan, Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & her Family’s Fight for Desegregation (2014) CLC D7573

Other notable books:

  • Bass, Hester, Seeds of Freedom: the Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama (2015) CLC D8280
  • Brantley-Newton, Vanessa. Let Freedom Sing (2009) CLC D2570
  • Corey, Shana, A Time to Act: John F. Kennedy’s Big Speech (2017) CLC D9519
  • Haskins, James, Bayard Rustin: Behind the Scenes of the Civil Rights Movement (1997) CLC C1349
  • Hunter-Gault, Charlayne, To the Mountaintop: My Journey through the Civil Rights Movement (2012) CLC C8284
  • Levy, Debbie, We Shall Overcome: the Story of a Song (2013) CLC D7194
  • Pinkney, Andrea Davis, Sit-in: How Four Friends Stood up by Sitting Down (2010) CLC D2808
  • Ramsey, Calvin A., Ruth and the Green Book (2010) CLC D2670
  • Ramsey, Calvin A. & Bettye Stroud, Belle, the Last Mule at Gee’s Bend: A Civil Rights Story (2011) CLC D6351
  • Weatherford, Carole Boston, Freedom on the Menu: the Greensboro Sit-ins (2005) CLC D1389
  • ZuHone, Diane, This is the Dream (2006) C9893

We invite you to view these items in the reading room in Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. Our staff is happy to assist you in accessing these and other collections in the archives.

This post was written by Alexandra Borkowski, a UConn PhD student and student assistant in Archives & Special Collections.

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