Share 13 Significant Books on Civil Rights for Martin Luther King Jr. Day

13 Significant Books on Civil Rights for Martin Luther King Jr. Day

After several years in the Subsidiary Rights Department at Atria Books, Hilary Krutt now works as an editor at L&T, a brand publishing company. A former member of the Off the Shelf editorial board, Hilary continues to be an avid consumer (and sometimes reviewer) of contemporary fiction and memoir. She hails from Boston but currently calls Brooklyn home.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day presents an important opportunity to reflect on the progress made since the Civil Rights Movement, as well as to meditate on how best to address inequalities that persist to this day. Here, in honor of Dr. King, we highlight writers who have made significant contributions to the discussion of race relations in this country.


Just Mercy
by Bryan Stevenson

A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and an unwavering call to fix our broken justice system, from the influential lawyer behind the Equal Justice Initiative.

Just Mercy
Bryan Stevenson

A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and an unwavering call to fix our broken justice system, from the influential lawyer behind the Equal Justice Initiative.

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Between the World and Me
by Ta-Nehisi Coates

This profound winner of the National Book Award, hailed by Toni Morrison as “required reading,” explores the biggest questions about America’s racial history through the intimate lens of a father’s concern for his son.

Between the World and Me
Ta-Nehisi Coates

This profound winner of the National Book Award, hailed by Toni Morrison as “required reading,” explores the biggest questions about America’s racial history through the intimate lens of a father’s concern for his son.

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Citizen
by Claudia Rankine

Told through essay, image, and poetry, Claudia Rankine’s provocative book is a powerful testament to the effects of mounting racial aggressions on the individual and collective in the twenty-first century.

Citizen
Claudia Rankine

Told through essay, image, and poetry, Claudia Rankine’s provocative book is a powerful testament to the effects of mounting racial aggressions on the individual and collective in the twenty-first century.

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The Butler
by Wil Haygood
A mesmerizing inquiry into the life of Eugene Allen, the butler to eight American presidents who ignited a nation’s imagination and inspired the Lee Daniels film “The Butler.”
The Butler
Wil Haygood

With an introduction from the film adaptation’s director, Lee Daniels, this biography explores Eugene Allen’s tenure in the White House as a butler to eight U.S. Presidents during some of the country’s most critical periods.

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The Help
by Kathryn Stockett
In this best-selling novel three women, two black and one white, join together to write a tell-all book about working as a black maid in the South that could forever alter their destinies and their small town.
The Help
Kathryn Stockett

In 1960s Mississippi, three women from very different walks of life risk everything to come together to tell the stories of “the help”—the black maids who work for white families. Told through alternating voices, it is a powerful tale of desperation, fortitude, and, above all, tremendous hope.

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Freedom's Daughters
by Lynne Olson

From the Montgomery bus boycott to the lunch counter sit-ins to the Freedom Rides, Lynne Olson skillfully tells the long-overlooked story of the extraordinary women who were among the most fearless, resourceful, and tenacious leaders of the Civil Rights Movement.

Freedom's Daughters
Lynne Olson

From the Montgomery bus boycott to the lunch counter sit-ins to the Freedom Rides, Lynne Olson skillfully tells the long-overlooked story of the extraordinary women who were among the most fearless, resourceful, and tenacious leaders of the Civil Rights Movement.

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The Freedom Writers Diary
by The Freedom Writers

Erin Gruwell, a teacher in Long Beach, California, challenged her “at-risk” students to confront intolerance and misunderstanding and to record their thoughts in diaries, which was the genesis of this inspiring book.

The Freedom Writers Diary
The Freedom Writers

Erin Gruwell, a teacher in Long Beach, California, challenged her “at-risk” students to confront intolerance and misunderstanding and to record their thoughts in diaries, which was the genesis of this inspiring book.

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Go Tell It on the Mountain
by James Baldwin

With symbolic power and lyrical precision, Baldwin chronicles a fourteen-year-old boy’s reckoning with his identity as the stepson of a Pentecostal minister in Harlem one Saturday in March of 1935.

Go Tell It on the Mountain
James Baldwin

With symbolic power and lyrical precision, Baldwin chronicles a fourteen-year-old boy’s reckoning with his identity as the stepson of a Pentecostal minister in Harlem one Saturday in March of 1935.

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Carry Me Home
by Diane McWhorter

There was a turning point in America’s civil rights struggle: 1963. Child demonstrators faced down police dogs in nonviolent marches against segregation. The Klan retaliated by bombing the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, killing four young black girls. Diane McWhorter, daughter of a prominent Birmingham family, weaves together police and FBI records, interviews with black activists and Klansmen, and personal memories into this extraordinary narrative. A major work of history, investigative journalism, and personal memoir that won the Pulitzer Prize, Carry Me Home demonstrates that Alabama remains a civil rights crucible.

Carry Me Home
Diane McWhorter

There was a turning point in America’s civil rights struggle: 1963. Child demonstrators faced down police dogs in nonviolent marches against segregation. The Klan retaliated by bombing the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, killing four young black girls. Diane McWhorter, daughter of a prominent Birmingham family, weaves together police and FBI records, interviews with black activists and Klansmen, and personal memories into this extraordinary narrative. A major work of history, investigative journalism, and personal memoir that won the Pulitzer Prize, Carry Me Home demonstrates that Alabama remains a civil rights crucible.

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Walking with the Wind
by John Lewis

Congressman John Lewis was at the epicenter of the civil rights movement in the late ‘50s and ‘60s. Arrested more than forty times, he was one of its youngest and most courageous leaders. Writing with charm, warmth, and honesty, Lewis’s memoir moves from the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins as he reflects on the era to the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, where he led more than five hundred marchers on what became known as “Bloody Sunday.” The story of a boy from rural Alabama whose journey led him to Washington, Lewis’s profound personal story is a classic of civil rights literature.

Walking with the Wind
John Lewis

Congressman John Lewis was at the epicenter of the civil rights movement in the late ‘50s and ‘60s. Arrested more than forty times, he was one of its youngest and most courageous leaders. Writing with charm, warmth, and honesty, Lewis’s memoir moves from the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins as he reflects on the era to the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, where he led more than five hundred marchers on what became known as “Bloody Sunday.” The story of a boy from rural Alabama whose journey led him to Washington, Lewis’s profound personal story is a classic of civil rights literature.

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Passing
by Nella Larsen

This groundbreaking and candid exploration of shifting racial boundaries, first published in 1929, tells the story of two childhood friends whose paths have diverged: Clare Kendry, who passes as white despite her African American heritage, and Irene Redfield, who has chosen to remain within the black community.

Passing
Nella Larsen

This groundbreaking and candid exploration of shifting racial boundaries, first published in 1929, tells the story of two childhood friends whose paths have diverged: Clare Kendry, who passes as white despite her African American heritage, and Irene Redfield, who has chosen to remain within the black community.

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The People Could Fly
by Virginia Hamilton

Breathtaking and beautifully readable retellings of Black American folk tales of slaves who possessed ancient magic that enabled them to fly away to freedom. At the same time, this is a tale of those who did not have the ability to fly but had to rely upon their imaginations to set them free.

The People Could Fly
Virginia Hamilton

Breathtaking and beautifully readable retellings of Black American folk tales of slaves who possessed ancient magic that enabled them to fly away to freedom. At the same time, this is a tale of those who did not have the ability to fly but had to rely upon their imaginations to set them free.

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The Bluest Eye
by Toni Morrison

Pecola Breedlove is a young black girl who prays every day for the blonde hair and blue eyes that she believes will allow her to fit in with her peers. This novel is a powerful examination of beauty, conformity, race, class, and gender from the legendary Toni Morrison.

The Bluest Eye
Toni Morrison

Pecola Breedlove is a young black girl who prays every day for the blonde hair and blue eyes that she believes will allow her to fit in with her peers. This novel is a powerful examination of beauty, conformity, race, class, and gender from the legendary Toni Morrison.

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