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Civil Rights Movement Books That Bring Top Moments To Life 

Mar 08, 2022

Civil Rights Movement Books That Bring Top  Moments To Life 

The Civil Rights Movement is a great step forward for great America in the 20th century. We, generations later, only know that heroic past through works of art. Civil Rights Movement Books is one of the most accurate depictions of the times' contexts and events.

Melaninful has compiled a list of books that portrayed many pivotal moments in the evolution of the movement. Surely these Civil Rights Movement books will give you a multi-dimensional view of this great struggle. 

Check them out! 

Table of Contents

Why Reading Civil Rights Movement Books Is So Crucial? 

The Civil Rights Movement, which started in America in the 1940s, was a campaign by Black Americans and their allies to bring about the end of racial discrimination, disenfranchisement, and racial segregation in the United States. The movement had roots in the Reconstruction era of the 1800s, and it brought about a lot of change and advancements for Black Americans. 

From the 1940s to the end of the movement in the late 1960s, the movement’s practice of nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience eventually secured new protections in federal law for the human rights of all Americans and brought about large legislative gains.

Civil Rights Movement Books

Photo by Sasha Kim from Pexels

While there were improvements, it was not without its costs. There was racism and violence in response to the movement, and many people lost their lives, including key Civil Rights figures. While the fight for racial equality and justice continues in America today, it is important to remember the men and women who worked tirelessly to help forge a path and to reflect on the important actions and leaders in Civil Rights history. 

Enjoy these wonderful books to help you learn more about the heroes of the Civil Rights Movement and the change they brought about. 

20 Top-Rated Civil Rights Movement Books 

Mumbo Jumbo 

Publication year: 1920 

Author: Ishmael Reed 

Civil Rights Movement Books

Mumbo Jumbo written by Ishmael Reed, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

A plague is spreading, and it's spreading fast, from New Orleans to Chicago to New York. It's an epidemic of freedom, joy, and self-expression, being spread by Black artists, that makes anyone who catches it desperate to dance, sing, laugh and jive. It's the outbreak of Jazz, Ragtime, and Blues; the spirit of Blackness overtaking America and the world. And it's threatening to dismantle the whole social order. 

Working to root out the plague by any means possible - even murder - are the members of The Wallflower Order, an international conspiracy dedicated to puritanism and control. But, deep in the heart of Harlem, private eye and Vodun priest Papa LaBas is determined to defend his flourishing ancient culture against their insidious plans. 

The Fire Next Time 

Publication year: 1963 

Author: James Baldwin 

Civil Rights Movement Books

The fire next time, Amazon

'We, the black and the white, deeply need each other here if we are really to become a nation' 

James Baldwin's impassioned plea to 'end the racial nightmare' in America was a bestseller when it appeared in 1963, galvanizing a nation and giving voice to the emerging civil rights movement. Told in the form of two intensely personal 'letters', The Fire Next Time is at once a powerful evocation of Baldwin's early life in Harlem and an excoriating condemnation of the terrible legacy of racial injustice. 

Why We Can't Wait 

Publication year: 1964 

Author: Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Civil Rights Movement Books

Why We Can't Wait, Amazon

This is the momentous story of the Civil Rights movement, told by one of its most powerful and eloquent voices, Martin Luther King, Jr. Here King recounts the pivotal events in the city of Birmingham, Alabama in 1963 that propelled his non-violent campaign for racial justice from lunch counter sit-ins to a phenomenon that 'rocked the richest, most powerful nation to its foundations. 

Why We Can't Wait is both a unique document of American history and an enduring testament to the wise, courageous, and endlessly hopeful vision of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference 

Publication year: 1986 

Author: David Garrow 

Civil Rights Movement Books

Bearing the Cross, Amazon

A Pulitzer Prize-winning account of King's religious faith and education, civil rights accomplishments, and personal demons. 

Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-1963 

Publication year: 1988 

Author: Taylor Branch 

Civil Rights Movement Books

Parting the Waters, Amazon

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the first volume in a trilogy that traces King's rise to greatness, his courage, and personal conflicts. 

Malcolm & Martin & America: A Dream or a Nightmare 

Publication year: 1990 

Author: James Cone 

Civil Rights Movement Books

Malcolm & Martin & America: A Dream or a Nightmare, Amazon

A theologian questions if Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X were as many polar opposites as is popularly thought. 

Voices of Freedom: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement from the 1950s Through the 1980s 

Publication year: 1990 

Author: Henry Hampton and Steve Fayer 

Civil Rights Movement Books

Voices of Freedom, Amazon

The creator and a writer of the acclaimed public TV series Eyes on the Prize draw upon 1,000 interviews with those who took part in the marches, sit-ins, and Freedom Rides. 

Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama, The Climatic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution 

Publication year: 2001 

Author: Diane McWhorter 

Civil Rights Movement Books

Carry Me Home, Amazon

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, an investigation of the author's hometown and own segregationist family during 1963 when the civil rights movement came into its own. 

Reporting Civil Rights: American Journalism 

Publication year: 2003 

Civil Rights Movement Books

Reporting Civil Rights: American Journalism, Amazon

The Library of America's two-volume collection of the best reporting from 1941 through 1973, history in its first draft. 

Freshwater Road 

Publication year: 2005 

Author: Denise Nicholas 

Civil Rights Movement Books

Freshwater Road, Amazon

 A vivid novel about a 19-year-old college student from Michigan who goes to Mississippi in the summer of 1964 to help register blacks to vote. 

The Autobiography of Medgar Evers 

Publication year: 2006 

Author: Myrlie Evers-Williams and Manning Marable 

Civil Rights Movement Books

The autobiography off Medgar Evers, Amazon

On the evening of June 12, 1963 — the day President John F. Kennedy gave his most impassioned speech about the need for interracial tolerance “Medgar Evers, the NAACP’s first field secretary in Mississippi, was shot and killed by an assassin’s bullet in his driveway. The still-smoking gun — bearing the fingerprints of Byron De La Beckwith, a staunch white supremacist — was recovered moments later in some nearby bushes. 

Still, Beckwith remained free for over thirty years, until Evers’s widow finally forced the Mississippi courts to bring him to justice. The Autobiography of Medgar Evers tells the full story of one of the greatest leaders of the civil rights movement, bringing his achievement to life for a new generation. 

Breach of Peace: Portraits of the 1961 Mississippi Freedom Riders 

Publication year: 2008 

Author: Eric Etheridge 

Civil Rights Movement Books

Breach of Peace, Amazon

Using police mug shots from 1961 and contemporary photos, the stories of protesters, black and white, who came from across the USA to challenge segregation laws. 

Ripples Of Hope

Publication year: 2009 

Author: Joshua Gottheimer 

Civil Rights Movement Books

Ripples Of Hope, Amazon

Ripples of Hope brings together the most influential and important civil rights speeches from the entire range of American history from the colonial period to the present. Gathered from the great speeches of the civil rights movement of African Americans, Asian Americans, gays, Hispanic Americans, and women, Ripples of Hope includes voices as diverse as Sister Souljah, Spark Matsui, and Harvey Milk, which, taken as a whole, constitute a unique chronicle of the modern civil rights movement. 

Featuring a foreword by President Bill Clinton and an afterword by Mary Frances Berry, this collection represents not just a historical first but also an indispensable resource for readers searching for an alternative history of American rhetoric 

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration

Publication year: 2010 

Author: Isabel Wilkerson 

Civil Rights Movement Books

The Warmth of Other Suns, Amazon

By focusing on three individuals, the author chronicles the mass migration of the nearly 6 million African Americans who left the south between 1915 and 1970, remaking America. 

Moon U.S. Civil Rights Trail 

Publication year: 2014 

Author: Deborah D. Douglas 

Civil Rights Movement Books

Moon U.S. Civil Rights Trail, Amazon

People looking to learn more about the Civil Rights movement firsthand and enjoy traveling can use this thorough guide to see historic sites up close and in person. This handy guide takes travelers to such key locations of the Civil Rights movement as the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, the Emmett Till Intrepid Center, and the Little Rock Nine memorial. It covers America from Georgia up to Washington D.C. 


Publication year: 2014 

Author: Peniel E. Joseph 

Civil Rights Movement Books

Stokely, Amazon

Stokely Carmichael, the charismatic and controversial black activist, stepped onto the pages of history when he called for “Black Power” during a speech one Mississippi night in 1966. A firebrand who straddled both the American civil rights and Black Power movements, Carmichael would stand for the rest of his life at the center of the storm he had unleashed that night. In Stokely, preeminent civil rights scholar Peniel E. Joseph presents a groundbreaking biography of Carmichael, using his life as a prism through which to view the transformative African American freedom struggles of the twentieth century. 

The Birth of a Movement 

Publication year: 2017 

Author: Dick Lehr 

Civil Rights Movement Books

The birth of a Movement, Amazon

At the dawn of the modern civil rights movement, Monroe Trotter, a journalist agitator, and D.W. Griffith, a technically brilliant filmmaker, incited a public confrontation that roiled America, pitting black against white, Hollywood against Boston, and free speech against the fight for equality. This is the fiery story of a revolutionary moment for mass media and the nascent civil rights movement, and the men clashing over the cultural and political soul of a still-young America standing at the cusp of its greatest days. 

The Sword and the Shield: The Revolutionary Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. 

Publication year: 2020 

Author: Peniel E. Joseph 

Civil Rights Movement Books

The Sword and the Shield, Amazon

To most Americans, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. represent contrasting ideals: self-defense vs. nonviolence, black power vs. civil rights, the sword vs. the shield. The struggle for black freedom is wrought with the same contrasts. 

While nonviolent direct action is remembered as an unassailable part of American democracy, the movement’s militancy is either vilified or erased outright. In The Sword and the Shield, Peniel E. Joseph upends these misconceptions and reveals a nuanced portrait of two men who, despite markedly different backgrounds, inspired and pushed each other throughout their adult lives. 

The Dead Are Arising 

Publication year: 2020 

Author: Les Payne 

Civil Rights Movement Books

The Dead Are Arising, Amazon

A historic biography that conjures a never-before-seen world of its protagonist, a work whose title is inspired by a phrase Malcolm X used when he saw his Hartford followers stir with purpose, as if the dead were truly arising, to overcome the obstacles of racism. Setting Malcolm’s life not only within the Nation of Islam but against the larger backdrop of American history, the book traces the life of one of the twentieth century’s most politically relevant figures “from street criminal to devoted moralist and revolutionary.” 

The Three Mothers 

Publication year: 2021 

Author: Anna Malaika Tubbs 

Civil Rights Movement Books

The Three Mothers, Amazon

Much has been written about Berdis Baldwin’s son James, about Alberta King’s son Martin Luther, and Louise Little’s son Malcolm. But virtually nothing has been said about the extraordinary women who raised them. In her groundbreaking and essential debut The Three Mothers, scholar Anna Malaika Tubbs celebrates Black motherhood by telling the story of the three women who raised and shaped some of America’s most pivotal heroes. 


These civil rights movement books have created a lot of life-changing journeys. Grasp one from the above list and immerse yourself in the world of words that reflect the will of an era will be a great choice after a hard-working day. 

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