This year to honor Dr. King’s birthday
I’ve decided to highlight three excellent biographies
that I’ve tremendously enjoyed.
I’m also highlighting a number of titles focused on voting rights
as our nation confronts once again,
front and center,
inequities in our voting systems
that were the focus of much of Dr. King’s work
as well as many others in the civil rights movement.
A number of these titles are geared for older readers and also make superb choices for adults.
Stories about Dr. King – click on the title to find my full review
I Have a Dream: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
A sumptuous rendition of King’s iconic speech for ages 5 and up.
A Place to Land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech that Inspired a Nation
A more in-depth look at King’s speech at the March on Washington,
gorgeously illustrated by the late, great Jerry Pinkney, for ages 8 and up.
Martin Rising: Requiem for a King
An emotive, stirring look at King’s final days and final speech for ages 10 and up.
Titles focused on voting rights for Black Americans.
Click on the title to find my original review.
Granddaddy’s Turn: A Journey to the Ballot Box
A poignant, beautiful story of the long wait for voting rights. Ages 5 and up.
Lillian’s Right to Vote
A panoramic look at the fight for voting rights as seen through the eyes of a 100-year-old woman, whose grandparents were enslaved, and who voted for our first Black president in 2008. Ages 7 and up.
The Teachers March: How Selma’s Teachers Changed History
A powerful story about the courageous teachers of Selma. Ages 7 and up.
Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement
Hamer’s life story told in free verse poems. This is an extraordinary, gut-wrenching look at 50 years of civil rights history and one immovable woman who fought for the right to vote. Ages 10 and up.
One brand new title!
Evicted: The Struggle for the Right to Vote
written by Alice Faye Duncan, illustrated by Charly Palmer
published in 2022 by Calkins Creek
This is somewhat of a cross between a picture book and a longer piece of nonfiction. I’ll set it here like a bridge.
1959. Fayette County, Tennessee. Thousands of Black sharecroppers struggled to make ends meet, endured Jim Crow, sent their children to segregated schools, and were unregistered to vote, which also meant they could not serve on a jury. Most Black citizens hadn’t even attempted to register to vote as the Klansmen terrorized any who dared.
In 1959, two Black landowners vowed to change that, urging their neighbors to line up at the courthouse and register. But when sharecroppers courageously did just that, their white landlords threw them off the land, white bosses fired them from their jobs, white businessmen refused to sell them groceries or gasoline.
Their salvation came in the form of tent cities. Hundreds of people including families with small children moved into canvas tent villages on the properties of a few Black landowners who welcomed them.
View this tremendously challenging moment, one simultaneously disturbing and inspiring, through the eyes of one young tent city dweller, James “Junior” Jamerson. Meet some of the key folks in the movement, experience the terror of a lynching, and watch the dramatic events unfold. It’s a lengthy narrative, told in picture book format with powerful, vibrant illustration work. Copious back matter includes a timeline, historic photos, an extensive resource guide, and some lovely current photographs of a trio of the folks we’ve met in the account, including James. This is a rich piece of Black history, though at times I found it a little tricky to follow the chronology. Recommended for ages 9-10 and up.
Lengthier nonfiction for older children thru adults.
Click on the title to read my full review.
Because They Marched: The People’s Campaign for Voting Rights that Changed America
A powerful, wrenching look at Selma. Ages 11 and up.
Freedom Summer: The 1964 Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi
A riveting account of the bloody struggle to register voters in Mississippi. Ages 12 and up.
Lifting as We Climb: Black Women’s Battle for the Ballot Box
An account of the difficult journey for Black Women to win suffrage.
An informative, albeit dense read for ages 14 and up.
Marching for Freedom: Walk Together, Children, and Don’t You Get Weary
Another excellent account of the traumatic suffering endured at Selma, this one focusing on the role of children in the movement. Ages 9 and up.
Stolen Justice: The Struggle for African American Voting Rights
An astonishing survey of the constitutional amendments related to voting rights, and the struggle to achieve those rights including the roles of the KKK and of the Supreme Court. Ages 14 and up.
Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March
The compelling, first-person account of Lynda Blackmon Lowery, the youngest marcher on the historic road from Selma to Montgomery. Fabulous for ages 10 and up.
You can find dozens more titles about Black History including many which touch on voting rights and the life of Dr. King, arranged in chronological order according to their subject matter, on my list here.