The African American Experience: Fight for Your Rights (Ages 9 and Up)

The African American Experience blog photo

The current racist events in the U.S. and protests against them is the latest part of a long history of Black American fights for rights. This list offers stories from Post-Civil War America to now in an attempt to show just how fundamental and fierce this struggle remains to the African-American experience. 

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander

The Newbery Award-winning author of The Crossover pens an ode to black American triumph and tribulation, with art from a two-time Caldecott Honoree

From Slaves to Soldiers by Joanne Randolph

The period of time including the Civil War and Reconstruction in the United States was an era that involved a lot of change. For many African Americans, this transition included going from a life of slavery to becoming a soldier

Hearth Streetcar to Justice; How Elizabeth Jennings won the Right to Ride in New York City by Amy Hill Hearth 

In 1854, a young African American woman named Elizabeth Jennings won a major victory against a New York City streetcar company, a first step in the process of desegregating public transportation in Manhattan.

Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper

When a burning cross set by the Klan causes panic and fear in 1932 Bumblebee, North Carolina, fifth-grader Stella must face prejudice and find the strength to demand change in her segregated town.

Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday and the Power of a Protest Song by Gary Golio 

Discover how two outsiders- Billie Holiday, a young black woman raised in poverty, and Abel Meeropol, the son of Jewish immigrants- combined their talents to create a song that challenged racism and paved the way for the civil rights movement

What Were the Negro Leagues? By Varian Johnson 

Introduces the Negro Leagues of baseball, highlighting the players, coaches, owners, and teams that dominated the leagues during the 1930s and 1940s.

Betty Before X by Ilyasah Shabazz

Raised by her aunt until she is six, Betty, who will later marry Malcolm X, joins her mother and stepfamily in 1940s Detroit, where she learns about the civil rights movement.

How High the Moon by Karyn Parsons

Eleven-year-old Ella seeks information about her father while enjoying a visit with her mother, a jazz singer, in Boston in 1944, then returns to the harsh realities of segregated, small-town South Carolina.

Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome 

Discovering a book of Langston Hughes’ poetry in the library helps Langston cope with the loss of his mother, relocating from Alabama to Chicago as part of the Great Migration, and being bullied.

The Girl from the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the Advent of the Civil Rights Movement by Teri Kanefield 

Before the Little Rock Nine, before Rosa Parks, before Martin Luther King Jr. and his March on Washington, there was Barbara Rose Johns, a teenager who used nonviolent civil disobedience to draw attention to her cause. In 1951, witnessing the unfair conditions in her racially segregated high school, Barbara Johns led a walkout–the first public protest of its kind demanding racial equality in the U.S.–jumpstarting the American civil rights movement.

A Sky Full of Stars by Linda Williams Jackson

In Stillwater, Missippi, in 1955, thirteen-year-old African American Rose Lee Carter looks to her family and friends to understand her place in the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement. 

This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality by Jo Ann Allen Boyce 

In 1956, one year before federal troops escorted the Little Rock 9 into Central High School, fourteen year old Jo Ann Allen was one of twelve African-American students who broke the color barrier and integrated Clinton High School in Tennessee.

Night on Fire by Ronald Kidd 

“Personally I don’t mind them coming here but they might bother some of my customers.” Thirteen-year old Billie Sims has heard things like this all her life, from the grocer down the road, from her neighbors at church, from her parents. But Billie never understood what all the fuss was about. Why do blacks and whites have separate entrances to the bus station in her town of Anniston, Alabama? Why can’t her friend Jarmaine, have a milk shake with her at Wikle’s? When Billie hears about a group calling themselves the Freedom Riders passing through Anniston to protest segregation on buses, she thinks change could be coming. But instead of embracing change, Billie’s town responds with violence, and she finds herself at Forsyth & Sons Grocery watching a bus burn. Shocked by the actions of people she thought she knew, she realizes that freedom has a cost. But is she brave enough to stand up and fight for it?

The March on Washington by Bonnie Bader

In 1933, people from all over the country came together calling for equal rights for African Americans. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was a peaceful protest and the setting for Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I have a dream’ speech. Learn about the inspiring people and incredible acts of courage that led to this historic moment.

Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood

In the summer of 1964 as she is about to turn twelve, Glory’s town of Hanging Moss, Mississippi, is beset by racial tension when town leaders close her beloved public pool rather than desegregating it.

Revolution: A Novel by Deborah Wiles

It’s 1964 in Greenwood, Mississippi, and Sunny’s town is being invaded by people from up north who are coming to help people register to vote. Her personal life isn’t much better, as a new stepmother, brother, and sister are crowding into her life, giving her little room to breathe

Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: the Sanitation Strike of 1968 by Alice Faye Duncan 

In February 1968, two African American sanitation workers were killed by unsafe equipment in Memphis, Tennessee. Outraged at the city’s refusal to recognize a labor union that would fight for higher pay and safer working conditions, sanitation workers went on strike.

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford

Presents a collage-illustrated treasury of poems and spirituals inspired by the life and work of civil rights advocate Fannie Lou Hamer. 

Armstrong & Charlie by Steven Frank

During the pilot year of a Los Angeles school system integration program, two sixth grade boys, one black, one white, become best friends as they learn to cope with everything from first crushes and playground politics to the loss of loved ones and racial prejudice in the 1970s 

Love Like Sky by Leslie Youngblood

Eleven-year-old Georgie is still adjusting to leaving Atlanta for a small town, having a stepfather, and being unable to get close to her stepsister when her six-year-old sister, Peaches, suddenly becomes very ill. 

A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramee

After attending a powerful protest, Shayla starts wearing an armband to school to support the Black Lives Matter movement, but when the school gives her an ultimatum, she is forced to choose between her education and her identity.


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