Whether in the classroom or at home, kids ages 9 – 12 (middle-grade readers) need quality historical fiction chapter books that illuminate our history. In this case, the Civil Rights Movement. These novels contain memorable characters and plots. Although they’re fiction, this often helps bring the history to life in a way that kids won’t soon forget.
Historical Fiction Books About The Civil Rights Movement
Melody: No Ordinary Sound by Denise Lewis Patrick, illustrated by Juliana Kolesova
This story is set in the 1960s in Detroit, Michigan during the times of the civil rights movement. Melody is excited to sing a solo for her church inspired by inspirational words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. When a horrible tragedy happens in the South, Melody feels like she has no voice. How will she overcome the unfairness and unjustness to sing once again?
The Watson’s Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis
The Watson family drives from Flint, Michigan to Birmingham, Alabama to visit relatives in the 1960s where they hope to set son, Bryon, straight. The car trip builds up to the deeply disturbing church bombing where their grandma goes to church. This is a moving story filled with hope and humor. Newbery Award Winner.
The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine
Two good friends are separated by segregation in 1958 Arkansas. But their friendship is becoming dangerous with the KKK, phone threats, and a police force that does nothing.
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
Sent to live with the mother that abandoned them, these sisters are in Oakland, California for the summer. There they go to a Black Panther day camp and try to connect with their distant mother. Newbery Honor Book.
It All Comes Down to This by Karen English
Experience the 60s in Los Angeles, a turbulent time of racism and burgeoning activism, from the perspective of Sophie, a sweet black girl who lives in an all-white neighborhood. Her parents’ marriage is in trouble, her sister is about to leave for college, and her best (white) friend has moved on. Surprisingly, Sophie’s strict, disapproving housekeeper becomes an ally, something Sophie needs during the challenges of life and growing up. Well-crafted story and characters.
Betty Before X by Ilyasha Shabazz and Renee Watson
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Written in verse, Woodson shares her experience of growing up as an African American girl in the 1960s and 1970s. Newbery Honor Book.
Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood
It’s the summer of 1964 in Mississippi. Glory’s older sister ignores her, things are awkward with her best friend, Frankie, and the town is in an uproar about the segregated pool, closing it down for “repairs”.
Midnight Without a Moon by Linda Williams Jackson
Linda Williams Jackson masterfully shares a story that makes the history of the 1950s in Mississippi come to life through her compelling characters and plot. Rose Lee Carter is a girl who is raised by her grandma and father. She works in the cotton fields and is best friends with the preacher’s son. She dreams of leaving Mississippi for the north like her mom and aunt, especially after the white men who killed Emmett Till are found not-guilty in a real-life historical trial.
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