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7 Important Books That Honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement

Observed on the third Monday of January, Martin Luther King Jr. Day honors a civil rights icon who worked tirelessly to make a change in the world. Martin Luther King Jr. stood up for what he believed in, helped organize others to improve their communities, and combated racial inequality and oppression through his words and actions. 

Today, Dr. King remains a powerful example for people all over the world. This collection of titles from Astra Books for Young Readers will help kids understand this impactful figure from our American history and demonstrate how he continues to inspire all of us through his activism and memory.

Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968 by Alice Faye Duncan, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie.

This multiple award-winning picture book will help young readers understand the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It tells the story of a nine-year-old girl who in 1968 witnessed the Memphis sanitation strike—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final stand for justice before his assassination—when her father, a sanitation worker, participated in the protest.

Evicted! The Struggle for the Right to Vote by Alice Faye Duncan, illustrated by Charly Palmer

With a story told through the eyes of a child, this critical civil rights book for middle-graders examines Tennessee’s Fayette County Tent City Movement in the late 1950s and reveals what is possible when people unite and fight for the right to vote. Powerfully conveyed through interconnected stories, Evicted! combines poetry, prose, and stunning illustrations to shine light on this forgotten history. Debuting January 11, 2022.

The Teachers March! How Selma’s Teachers Changed History by Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace, illustrated by Charly Palmer

In the 1960s, Reverend F.D. Reese was a leader of the Voting Rights Movement in Selma, Alabama. As a teacher and principal, he recognized that his colleagues were greatly respected in the city. But, could he convince them to risk their jobs—and perhaps their lives—by organizing a teachers-only march to the county courthouse to demand their right to vote? Demonstrating the power of protest and standing up for a just cause, this acclaimed picture book is an exciting tribute to the educators who participated in the 1965 Selma Teachers’ March.

Lizzie Demands a Seat! Elizabeth Jennings Fights for Streetcar Rights by Beth Anderson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis

Elizabeth “Lizzie” Jennings, a Black schoolteacher, fought back when she was unjustly denied entry to a New York City streetcar in 1854, sparking the beginnings of the long struggle to gain equal rights on public transportation. This acclaimed picture book brings to life an inspiring and little-known story from American History–one that took place one hundred years before Rosa Parks took her stand.

Let’s Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day by Barbara deRubertis, illustrated by Gershom Griffith (available in eBook)

The familiar story of this American hero is told for children. From Dr. King’s birth to the end of his short life, the values that he stood for so powerfully and the changes that he helped to bring about are presented here in terms that children can understand and personally relate to. Check out the whole Holidays & Heroes series.

Birmingham Sunday by Larry Dane Brimner

This nonfiction picture book focuses on Birmingham Sunday, a fateful day and significant part of the Civil Rights movement, and places it in historical context.

Rosa’s Bus: The Ride to Civil Rights by Jo S. Kittinger, illustrated by Steven Walker

Here is the remarkable story of Bus #2857 and its passengers, including Rosa Parks, who changed history in Montgomery, Alabama, in December 1955. Her arrest sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a major event in the Civil Rights moment, which was led by a young minister named Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. For 382 days, Black passengers chose to walk rather than ride the buses in Montgomery.

Coming Soon from Calkins Creek!

Preorder these Fall titles now from Calkins Creek and learn more about the Civil Rights movement. Watch our social media for cover reveals soon.

Coretta’s Journey: The Life and Times of Coretta Scott King by Alice Faye Duncan, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

Who was Coretta Scott King? Her black-veiled image at the funeral of her husband Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was moving and iconic. This book introduces readers to the woman behind the veil—a girl full of spunk and pluck, bravery and grit.

A Long Time Coming: A Lyrical Biography of Race in America from Ona Judge to Barack Obama by Ray Anthony Shepard, illustrated by: R. Gregory Christie

This collective biography-in-verse of six important Black Americans from different eras, including Ona Judge, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, Martin Luther King Jr., and Barack Obama, chronicles the diverse ways each fought racism and shows how much—and how little—has changed for Black Americans since our country’s founding.