Middle Grade Civil Rights Nonfiction

Even as the United States condemned Hitler and the Holocaust, political leaders in the south held fast to the idea that black people were inferior to white people. Policemen, the KKK, and most white people in the south ignored U.S. integration laws and continued to demoralize black people. This list captures the major resistance events of the 50s and 60s.

Twelve Days in May: Freedom Ride 1961 by Larry Dane Brimner

In May 1961, thirteen people, both black and white, were selectively chosen to ride a bus from Washington, DC to New Orleans. Knowing the US Supreme Court had ruled bus segregation unconstitutional, they planned to ignore all segregation signs in the south. They were beaten and their bus set on fire.

March Forward, Girl by Melba Pattillo Beals

Melba Pattillo Beals is best known for being one of the nine students who integrated Central High in Little Rock Arkansas in 1957. She describes her feelings about being judged as inferior for her skin color and her determination to attend the brand-new, all-white high school even though she would be bullied for doing so. 

Attucks! by Phillip Hoose

In the 40s and 50s, black kids in Indianapolis attended a segregated high school called Crispus Attucks. The basketball team wasn’t allowed to play public schools. When the Board of Education finally agreed to allow Attucks to play public schools, the city of Indianapolis witnessed a champion team in the making.

Chasing King’s Killer by James L. Swanson

Swanson tells the story of Martin Luther King’s assassination as if it’s fiction. He provides all the minute details that make a story interesting. He cuts back and forth between King and his assassin, James Earl Ray, moment by moment to that fateful moment when King stands on a hotel balcony and Ray aims his rifle.

Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom by Lynda Blackmon Lowery

As a teen, Lynda Blackmon and her black classmates were given liberty by their teachers and administrators to skip school to participate in peaceful demonstrations. In one such demonstration, state troopers attacked Blackmon and other children as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, a day that came to be called “Bloody Sunday.”

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose

Claudette Colvin was 15-years-old when she refused to give up her seat to a white person on a bus. She knew the U.S. government had outlawed bus segregation, but Alabama ignored the law. The police came, dragged her off the bus, and threw her in jail. Her case went to trial and she was found guilty.

Freedom’s Children by Ellen Levine

This book gives short eyewitness accounts of all the major events of the Civil Rights movement from the perspective of the kids who lived it. Kids describe how they felt about the general segregation practices, bus boycotts, school segregation, freedom marches, Freedom Summer, and Freedom Rides. Some kids were participants.

Freedom Summer by Susan Goldman Rubin

In the summer of 1964, volunteers arrived in Mississippi to help black people get registered to vote so they could legally bring about change. This enraged racist policemen and the KKK. In a typical cover-up, they murdered three volunteers, setting off the largest civil rights investigation in history.

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly (Young Readers’ Edition)

During the employment shortage of World War II, four mathematically talented black women landed jobs at Langley Air Force Base. Though they proved themselves equal to men in their capabilities, they still had to deal with the segregation laws in effect at the time. After the war they continued to be vital in the race to get a man into space.

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