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The Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement

Civil Rights March
As we continue to celebrate Black History Month, I’d like to highlight a few books that explore key moments in the civil rights movement. As we learn about this turning point in American history, let’s also remember that we should read the work of BIPOC authors all year round and defend the legacy of this movement in our own time.

A brief history of the civil rights movement

The civil rights movement earned early national attention in 1955 when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus, fighting segregation laws that festered in our country. Rosa Parks’ protest sparked a year-long Montgomery Bus Boycott, led by a charismatic young leader named Martin Luther King Jr. and other trailblazers from that brave generation. You can meet Parks in an award-winning biography called “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks.”A few years later, efforts to end school segregation climaxed in Little Rock, Arkansas, as nine Black students entered a newly desegregated school in 1957. The “Little Rock Nine” faced terrible prejudice during that tumultuous period. You can read about the sacrifices made by families and communities battling the American caste system in Carlotta Walls’s memoir, “A Mighty Long Way.” At the dawn of the 1960s, the Freedom Riders risked their lives by boarding buses throughout the South to challenge segregation in interstate transport. These activists were jailed and beaten for simply riding a bus, but their journey forced politicians around the country to confront the legacy of segregation. You can read their inspiring and chilling story in “Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice.”The civil rights movement had another powerful moment with the 1963 March on Washington, ending with Martin Luther King Jr.’s immortal “I Have a Dream” speech. That journey was threatened by violence and hatred, but laid the groundwork for the 1964 Civil Rights Act that ensured equal employment and integrated public facilities. You can read about this historic march in “The March on Washington: Jobs, Freedom, and the Forgotten History of Civil Rights.”The great Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated in 1968. In the wake of this murder, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968, prohibiting housing discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, or sex, one of the landmark bills of the civil rights era. Taylor Branch wrote a three-volume biography of Dr. King, tracing the legacy of King and other civil rights pioneers into our own time. The Pulitzer Prize-winning series begins with “Parting the Waters.”It is so important to remember that the fight for civil rights has not ended. As we celebrate Black History Month, different groups are banning books about race in America and fighting to roll back the tremendous work of this influential movement. To read about our precarious present, I recommend reading “Caste” by Isabel Wilkerson. She won the Pulitzer Prize for her analysis of racism’s poisonous influence on American culture.
The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks by Jeanne Theoharis digital book - Fable

The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks

By Jeanne Theoharis

The definitive political biography of Rosa Parks examines her six decades of activism, challenging perceptions of her as an accidental actor in the civil rights movement.

A Mighty Long Way  by Carlotta Walls LaNier  digital book - Fable

A Mighty Long Way

By Carlotta Walls LaNier

"An emotionally gripping account of a young black girl growing up to become a strong black woman during the most difficult time of racial segregation."

Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice  by Raymond Arsenault digital book - Fable

Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice

By Raymond Arsenault

An acclaimed historian provides a gripping account of six pivotal months that jolted the consciousness of America.

The March on Washington: Jobs, Freedom, and the Forgotten History of Civil Rights  by William P. Jones digital book - Fable

The March on Washington: Jobs, Freedom, and the Forgotten History of Civil Rights

By William P. Jones

A fresh, compelling history that delivers a new understanding of this emblematic event and the broader civil rights movement it propelled.

Parting the Waters  by Taylor Branch digital book - Fable

Parting the Waters

By Taylor Branch

A vivid tapestry of America, torn and finally transformed by a revolutionary struggle unequaled since the Civil War.

Caste by Isabel Wilkerson digital book - Fable


By Isabel Wilkerson

A masterful portrait of how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings.

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