As we head into the three-day weekend in honor of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., we wanted to share some fantastic book titles from the Success Academy Education Institute team to help students (and adults!) of all ages learn about and reflect on the Civil Rights Movement.
A Sweet Smell of Roses by Angela Johnson, Illustrated by Eric Velasquez
In this beautifully illustrated picture book, Angela Johnson (a three-time Coretta Scott King Award winner) uses simple, sensory language to tell the story of two young girls who sneak out of the house to join a historic march for civil rights.
My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Martin Luther King III, Illustrated by AG Ford
Written by his son of the same name, this tender picture book provides a uniquely personal glimpse into the life and character of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I Have A Dream by Martin Luther King Jr., Illustrated by Kadir Nelson
This picture book pairs powerfully realistic illustrations with the actual text of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, offering an early introduction to his legacy of optimism and pacifism. The crisp illustrations and elevated language allow young readers to engage with more sophisticated vocabulary, figures of speech, and ideas about justice and equality.
Martin Rising: Requiem for a King by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Illustrated by Brian Pinkney
A dazzling combination of evocative language and stunning illustrations, Martin Rising: Requiem for a King celebrates the legacy of Dr. King by exploring the final months of his life through poetry. Together, these poems form a powerful tribute to the late civil rights hero that’s as joyous as it is emotional.
The Watsons Go to Birmingham — 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
This hilarious, heartwarming, and poignant work of historical fiction tells the story of a quirky, tight-knit family living in Flint, Michigan, during the era of the civil rights movement. When the Watsons head south to Birmingham, their family drama intersects with a dark moment of historical fact: the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.
The Civil Rights Movement (A Step Into History) by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
The Civil Rights Movement (A Step Into History) is a short, fact-packed work of nonfiction that doesn’t feel like a textbook read. Written in accessible prose, this book explains how the civil rights movement started, what challenges activists faced, what impact the movement had on the country, and how it shaped the world we live in today.
Dear Martin by Nic Stone
Dear Martin offers a raw portrait of honors student Justyce McAllister who, after being wrongfully arrested for doing a good deed, starts a journal to Dr. King in the hopes of reckoning with the ugly, persistent violence of social injustice today.
Meridian by Alice Walker
Meridian tells the story of a young woman attending college in the 1960s whose involvement in the civil rights movement alters her life in surprising, indelible ways. Written by Alice Walker, the first African American woman to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for The Color Purple, this novel is a powerful meditation on female strength and the human impact of activism.
Invisible Man by Ralph Waldo Ellison
In his 1952 debut, Ralph Ellison interrogates Black identity through the perspective of a man who is “invisible… simply because people refuse to see [him].” Widely considered to be one of the greatest American novels ever written, Invisible Man addresses the ideological concerns of the civil rights movement with scorching wit and striking clairvoyance; its questions and dilemmas are as relevant now as they have ever been before.
Why We Can’t Wait by Martin Luther King Jr., Afterward by Jesse Jackson
Why We Can’t Wait recounts the story of Birmingham, tracing the history of the struggle for civil rights back to its roots and looking to the future. Dr. King offers an eloquent and penetrating analysis of the events and pressures that propelled the civil rights movement from lunch counter sit-ins to the forefront of American consciousness.