A picture book tribute to a seminal event in the civil rights story, a collection of poems about the Underground Railroad, and a nonfiction account of the civil rights era for older readers: three recent books pay homage to the struggles and triumphs of African Americans — just in time for honoring black history next month.
Shane W. Evans introduces Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic march on Washington for very young listeners and readers in We March. Opening with a family waking that morning, the story covers each stage of the event — from preparation (praying at church, making signs, boarding a bus) to the crowded march and Dr. King’s speech at the Lincoln Memorial — while simple, small details anchor it to a small child’s perspective. Quietly dramatic illustrations bring context to the spare text, and an author’s note fills in historic details. (4–8 years)
Spanning the entire freedom-seeking journey, Ntozake Shange’s poems in Freedom’s a-Callin Me begin with a man in a cotton field, dreaming of freedom, and end with three newly free African Americans in Canada posing for a photograph with white abolitionists, Rod Brown’s tension-filled paintings, most of which are necessarily dark (as escapes happened at night), accompany each poem and perfectly complement the sense of urgency in the text. (8–12 years)
In To the Mountaintop: My Journey Through the Civil Rights Movement, journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault, one of the first two students to successfully desegregate an all-white college in the South, weaves her own experience into a larger history of the U.S. civil rights movement. Hunter-Gault chronicles, year-by-year, events of the movement that paved a way for Barack Obama’s groundbreaking election. New York Times reproductions, photographs from the period, and extensive, informative back matter nicely supplement this gracefully written history of an important struggle. (12 years and up)