100 books like A Chance for Change

By Crystal R. Sanders,

Here are 100 books that A Chance for Change fans have personally recommended if you like A Chance for Change. Shepherd is a community of 9,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision

Keisha N. Blain Author Of Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer's Enduring Message to America

From the list on Black women in the Civil Rights Movement.

Who am I?

I first learned about Fannie Lou Hamer more than a decade ago, and I have been deeply inspired by her life story and her words. I didn’t initially think I would write a book about her. But the uprisings of 2020 motivated me to do so. Like so many people, I struggled to make sense of everything that was unfolding, and I began to question whether change was possible. The more I read Hamer’s words, the more clarity I found. Her vision for the world and her commitment to improving conditions for all people gave me a renewed sense of hope and purpose.

Keisha's book list on Black women in the Civil Rights Movement

Why did Keisha love this book?

This is a book that inspired me as a historian and in my approach to activism. Barbara Ransby’s biography of Ella Baker excavates the activist’s life, placing the reader at the nexus of some of the most important moments in civil rights history. Ella Baker’s life also provides a blueprint for local activism and group-centered leadership. It’s a compelling story of how Ella Baker became a mentor, inspiring, listening to, and supporting local activists. 

By Barbara Ransby,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the most important African American leaders of the twentieth century and perhaps the most influential woman in the civil rights movement, Ella Baker (1903-1986) was an activist whose remarkable career spanned fifty years and touched thousands of lives. In this deeply researched biography, Barbara Ransby chronicles Baker's long and rich political career as an organizer, an intellectual, and a teacher, from her early experiences in depression-era Harlem to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Ransby paints a vivid picture of the African American fight for justice and its intersections with other progressive struggles worldwide across…

For Freedom's Sake

By Chana Kai Lee,

Book cover of For Freedom's Sake: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer

Katherine Mellen Charron Author Of Freedom's Teacher: The Life of Septima Clark

From the list on women in the civil rights movement.

Who am I?

Having studied the civil rights movement for over twenty years, I can attest that it is infinitely more complex, more nuanced, and more inspiring than how it has come to be remembered and celebrated. Students in my civil rights seminar always ask “Why did we never learn this in high school?!” They do so because they discover what becomes possible when ordinary people united around the goals of freedom and justice undertake extraordinary challenges. For those concerned about our contemporary historical moment, both the movement’s successes and shortcomings help explain how we got here. Yet they also suggest how we might best adapt the lessons from that era to our own as the struggle continues.

Katherine's book list on women in the civil rights movement

Why did Katherine love this book?

Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977) rose from obscurity as a sharecropper and plantation time-keeper to become a key player in the Mississippi movement. After joining the Student Non-Violent Committee in 1962, she helped with voter registration; arrested a year later, Hamer endured a horrible beating in a jail in Winona that left her with permanent injuries. In 1964, she helped organize Freedom Summer and co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which challenged the seating of the state’s all-white delegation at the Democratic National Convention that fall. Seeking to empower her rural African American neighbors, and drawing on long-standing traditions of self-determination, Hamer founded the Freedom Farm Cooperative in 1969. Lee’s biography of this one incredible activist underscores the everyday racial and sexual violence—including forced sterilization—that accompanied life as a Black woman in the segregated South. It also demonstrates how they overcame it.

By Chana Kai Lee,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked For Freedom's Sake as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The youngest of twenty children of sharecroppers in rural Mississippi, Fannie Lou Hamer witnessed throughout her childhood the white cruelty, political exclusion, and relentless economic exploitation that defined African American existence in the Delta.

In this intimate biography, Chana Kai Lee documents Hamer's lifelong crusade to empower the poor through collective action, her rise to national prominence as a civil rights activist, and the personal costs of her ongoing struggle to win a political voice and economic self-sufficiency for blacks in the segregated South. Lee looks at Hamer's early work as a field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee…

At the Dark End of the Street

By Danielle L. McGuire,

Book cover of At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance—A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power

Kimberly A. Hamlin Author Of Free Thinker: Sex, Suffrage, and the Extraordinary Life of Helen Hamilton Gardener

From the list on women fighting for bodily and political autonomy.

Who am I?

I was born in 1974 and grew up in a time when, at least on paper, women had equal rights. I also grew up not far from Harriet Tubman’s home, not far from Seneca Falls, not far from Susan B. Anthony’s house. I became a historian of women’s rights and, I sometimes joke, a secular evangelical for women’s history. Writing Free Thinker was, professionally, the most fun I have ever had. I can think of no better time than right now to study the histories of women who understood that bodily autonomy and political autonomy are two sides of the same coin and who dedicated their lives to securing both. 

Kimberly's book list on women fighting for bodily and political autonomy

Why did Kimberly love this book?

Rosa Parks is one of a handful of American women whose names make it into our textbooks and social studies curriculum. However, the textbook version of Parks tends to sanitize her activism and skim the surface of her remarkable life. As one of my students observed, Parks’ powerful story has been reinterpreted “to make white people feel good about themselves,” as if somehow all the problems exposed by the Civil Rights movement were fixed after Parks refused to give up her seat. Danielle McGuire’s At the Dark End of the Street restores the fullness of Parks’ life and work, and places Black women and their fight against sexual violence at the center of the ongoing Civil Rights movement. This book transforms how we understand ourselves as a nation and as people. 

By Danielle L. McGuire,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked At the Dark End of the Street as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Here is the courageous, groundbreaking story of Rosa Parks and Recy Taylor—a story that reinterprets the history of America's civil rights movement in terms of the sexual violence committed against Black women by white men.

"An important step to finally facing the terrible legacies of race and gender in this country.” —The Washington Post

Rosa Parks was often described as a sweet and reticent elderly woman whose tired feet caused her to defy segregation on Montgomery’s city buses, and whose supposedly solitary, spontaneous act sparked the 1955 bus boycott that gave birth to the civil rights movement. The truth of…

Hands on the Freedom Plow

By Faith S. Holsaert (editor), Martha Prescod Norman Noonan (editor), Judy Richardson (editor), Betty Garman Robinson (editor), Jean Smith Young (editor), Dorothy M. Zellner (editor)

Book cover of Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC

Paul Lauter Author Of Our Sixties: An Activist's History

From the list on how we made change in the 1960's.

Who am I?

Over the past 50 years, I've been one of those “tenured radicals” the right-wing loved to bash. But before that, during the 1960s, I worked, often full-time, in the social movements that did change America: civil rights, anti-war, feminism. I was older, so I became a “professor-activist.” As a teacher, I applied what I had learned in the movements to reconstruct ideas about which writers mattered—women as well as men, minorities as well as whites: Zora Neale Hurston, Frederick Douglass, Adrienne Rich as well as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Ernest Hemingway. Using that principle, I led a team that created a very successful collection, The Heath Anthology of American Literature.     

Paul's book list on how we made change in the 1960's

Why did Paul love this book?

Fifty-five stories of dedication, terror, rage, and faith make up Hands on the Freedom Plow. These narratives by women, black and white, describe their devotion to the activist Civil Rights work of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, SNCC—“snick.” I found myself powerfully drawn to accounts with which I was familiar—door-to-door organizing, singing meetings in the hot Mississippi summer, police and Klan assaults, jail time, but above all the solidarity of women (and men) fervent about the cause of achieving “freedom now.” Brief historical overviews of legendary 60s campaigns knit these accounts, as do the short bios that trace the enduring work—as singers, lawyers, preachers, organizers—of these women over the past 50 years.   

By Faith S. Holsaert (editor), Martha Prescod Norman Noonan (editor), Judy Richardson (editor), Betty Garman Robinson (editor), Jean Smith Young (editor), Dorothy M. Zellner (editor)

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Hands on the Freedom Plow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Hands on the Freedom Plow, fifty-two women--northern and southern, young and old, urban and rural, black, white, and Latina--share their courageous personal stories of working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement. The testimonies gathered here present a sweeping personal history of SNCC: early sit-ins, voter registration campaigns, and freedom rides; the 1963 March on Washington, the Mississippi Freedom Summer, and the movements in Alabama and Maryland; and Black Power and antiwar activism. Since the women spent time in the Deep South, many also describe risking their lives through beatings…

I've Got the Light of Freedom

By Charles M. Payne,

Book cover of I've Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle

David J. Garrow Author Of Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama

From the list on U. S. Black freedom struggle of the 1950s & 1960s.

Who am I?

I’m a legal historian, best-known for Bearing the Cross, my Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Martin Luther King, Jr., but I’ve also written the standard history of Roe v. Wade (Liberty and Sexuality) as well as books on the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (Protest at Selma) and the FBI’s pursuit of Dr. King (The FBI and Martin Luther King, Jr.). I’ve been a top advisor for both the landmark PBS documentary series Eyes on the Prize and for the Library of America’s two-volume Reporting Civil Rights. More recently I’ve been featured in both the Academy Award-shortlisted documentary film MLK/FBI (Hulu) and in the Emmy Award-nominated documentary series Who Killed Malcolm X? (Netflix)

David's book list on U. S. Black freedom struggle of the 1950s & 1960s

Why did David love this book?

Outside cities like that famous Alabama trio, most of the civil rights movement’s actual work took place in rural counties and small towns where combatting segregation could be even more dangerous than in Birmingham. Leading that charge was SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and Mississippi was the centerpiece of SNCC’s courageous local organizing. Charles Payne powerfully and poignantly captures the beauty and the perils of that work while also painfully reporting how in subsequent decades memories of that bravery too quickly faded. Clayborne Carson’s In Struggle remains the best organizational history of SNCC, and Francoise N. Hamlin’s Crossroads at Clarksdale is like Payne’s great book a valuable chronicle of Black courage and commitment in the Mississippi Delta.

By Charles M. Payne,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I've Got the Light of Freedom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This momentous work offers a groundbreaking history of the early civil rights movement in the South with new material that situates the book in the context of subsequent movement literature.

An American Insurrection

By William Doyle,

Book cover of An American Insurrection: James Meredith and the Battle of Oxford, Mississippi, 1962

Derek R. King Author Of The Life and Times of Clyde Kennard

From the list on lesser-known Civil Rights.

Who am I?

I’ve been fascinated by the Civil Rights Movement in the Deep South in the 1950s and 60s for many years. Keen to understand not just events in that timeframe, I also needed to understand how those entrenched and diametrically opposed positions had occurred. What triggered the responses of water cannon, German shepherd dogs, and Billy clubs to seemingly peaceful students marching or seated in a particular section of a café? Over a period of seventeen years, I amassed a private collection of books, magazines, newspapers, over two hundred in all, along with material from various state-run Departments of Archives of History, further amplifying my fascination and providing fodder for my book.

Derek's book list on lesser-known Civil Rights

Why did Derek love this book?

While this is a non-fiction book, with the story that unfolds, you could be forgiven for believing it’s a work of fiction. That a US president, would send tens of thousands of US Army personnel into a state to quell an insurrection in the 20th Century is barely believable, but this is indeed what happened.

The remarkable book sets out the events which surrounded the heated and impassioned debate which evolved around the admission of James Meredith into the University of Mississippi, known as Ole Miss. 

The facts alone make this a compelling read, written in a journalist styling, making the read fast-paced and highly informative.

By William Doyle,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked An American Insurrection as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1961, a black veteran named James Meredith applied for admission to the University of Mississippi — and launched a legal revolt against white supremacy in the most segregated state in America. Meredith’s challenge ultimately triggered what Time magazine called “the gravest conflict between federal and state authority since the Civil War,” a crisis that on September 30, 1962, exploded into a chaotic battle between thousands of white civilians and a small corps of federal marshals. To crush the insurrection, President John F. Kennedy ordered a lightning invasion of Mississippi by over 20,000 U.S. combat infantry, paratroopers, military police, and…

Until I Am Free

By Keisha N. Blain,

Book cover of Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer's Enduring Message to America

Judith Reifsteck Author Of Memoried and Storied: Healing our Shared History of Racial Violence

From the list on the power of memory to heal racial trauma.

Who am I?

I love writing and teaching about topics that help me understand my life and my community better. And I love to contemplate the question - How do we come to care about the same things? As a psychotherapist I have firsthand experience in the disruption that any type of violence causes until it's repaired. One way to advocate for the vulnerable who do not have protection in their communities is to tell the story of the silent, unknown victims of lynching and other acts of racism and racial violence. Only by memorializing the stories of the victims of racial injustice can we repair the trauma and tell the true story of structural racism in America today.

Judith's book list on the power of memory to heal racial trauma

Why did Judith love this book?

After reading this book, I felt closer to the remarkably courageous Fannie Lou Hamer and better able to talk with others about race and the history of the civil rights movement in the United States.

We cannot promote tolerance and heal racism unless we know each other's life stories and come to care about the same things. In sharing Mrs. Hamer’s life story in great detail, Keisha Blain made me a co-owner of the trauma experienced by this inspirational historical figure.

This book details the mundane and the heroic aspects of one racial justice warrior's life. It describes the beatings, injustice, forced sterilizations, sexual assaults, and other degradations Mrs. Hamer and her fellow racial justice advocates suffered and lived to tell about. They did this so that we could change such injustice and live in a country that lives up to its creed and follows the rule of law.


By Keisha N. Blain,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Until I Am Free as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

National Book Critics Circle 2021 Biography Finalist

53rd NAACP Image Award Nominee: Outstanding Literary Work - Biography/Autobiography

“[A] riveting and timely exploration of Hamer’s life. . . . Brilliantly constructed to be both forward and backward looking, Blain’s book functions simultaneously as a much needed history lesson and an indispensable guide for modern activists.”—New York Times Book Review

Ms. Magazine “Most Anticipated Reads for the Rest of Us – 2021” · KIRKUS STARRED REVIEW · BOOKLIST STARRED REVIEW · Publishers Weekly Big Indie Books of Fall 2021

Explores the Black activist’s ideas and political strategies, highlighting their relevance for tackling…

Silver Rights

By Constance Curry, Marian Wright Edelman (illustrator),

Book cover of Silver Rights

Anthony Grooms Author Of Bombingham

From the list on to teach about the civil rights movement.

Who am I?

I grew up in the American South during the Civil Rights Movement. The movement was nearly constant conversation, approached with cautious optimism, in my household. Years later, I met my wife, whose family lived in Birmingham, Alabama, and participated in various ways in the movement in that city. Soon after I began to study and write about the Civil Rights Movement, especially the Birmingham movement. I’ve published two books of fiction that reflect on the Movement and I’ve taught college courses and given many lectures in the States and abroad about literature and film set during the Civil Rights Movement.

Anthony's book list on to teach about the civil rights movement

Why did Anthony love this book?

When I was twelve, my father said to me, “Stick and stones might break your bones, but words will never hurt you. You are going to a white school.” It was with those words that I became a part of a complicated integration plan called “Freedom of Choice.” Connie Curry, one of the first white members of SNCC, the student-run civil rights activist group, writes beautifully of the Carter family as they integrate the schools of Sunflower County, Mississippi. The book emphasizes that access to education was a cornerstone of the Civil Rights Movement. The Carter children learned, as I did, that words can both hurt and heal.

By Constance Curry, Marian Wright Edelman (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Silver Rights as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1965, the Carters, an African American sharecropping family with thirteen children, took public officials at their word when they were offered “Freedom of Choice” to send their children to any school they wished, and so began their unforeseen struggle to desegregate the schools of Sunflower County, Mississippi. In this true account from the front lines of the civil rights movement, four generations of the Carter family speak to author and civil rights activist Constance Curry, who lived this story alongside the family—a story of…

Book cover of Coming of Age in Mississippi: The Classic Autobiography of Growing Up Poor and Black in the Rural South

Stephane Dunn Author Of Snitchers

From the list on Black girl coming of age everybody should read.

Who am I?

I was a book-loving Black Girl and am now a Black woman, professor-writer, and lifelong books and popular culture junkie. As a young reader, I marveled at the storytelling in books that took us into the diverse lives and deep interior of teen girls - from Are You There God It’s Me Margaret to especially ones like the five books I name which place Black girls and women at the center of the narrative. In most of the films and writings that I teach and my own book Snitchers, there’s some tragedy and pain, some blues, and perspectives that add to the truth and richness of our human and American story. 

Stephane's book list on Black girl coming of age everybody should read

Why did Stephane love this book?

I almost chose a fifth book by an author more readers will likely have heard of (Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower), but I’m going with a second autobiography, Anne Moody’s, Coming of Age in Mississippi.

Between ages 13 and 16, I read my blue paperback cover of this book more times than I can remember. It’s about Anne Moody’s growing up amid poverty and Jim Crow, beset by sexism and danger from within and outside her community due to her gender and race.

It chronicles her childhood in Mississippi to her evolution into a Civil Rights Activist as a teen and college student. It’s so unforgivingly honest, detailed, and visually rich on the page - it humanizes the history like an Eyes on the Prize documentary but way more personalized.

I think it taught me further about the value of writing very visually,  the power of our individual…

By Anne Moody,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Coming of Age in Mississippi as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The unforgettable memoir of a woman at the front lines of the civil rights movement—a harrowing account of black life in the rural South and a powerful affirmation of one person’s ability to affect change.
“Anne Moody’s autobiography is an eloquent, moving testimonial to her courage.”—Chicago Tribune
Born to a poor couple who were tenant farmers on a plantation in Mississippi, Anne Moody lived through some of the most dangerous days of the pre-civil rights era in the South. The week before she began high school came the news of Emmet Till’s lynching. Before then, she had “known the fear…

Let Justice Roll Down

By John M. Perkins,

Book cover of Let Justice Roll Down

Mae Elise Cannon Author Of Beyond Hashtag Activism: Comprehensive Justice in a Complicated Age

From the list on justice that you don’t need a PhD to understand.

Who am I?

Growing up in rural Southern Maryland, I first began to notice a difference between Blacks and whites because of the way I was treated when I hung out with my African American friends. South of the Mason Dixon line, racial differences are often clear. Throughout my childhood and young adult life some of the most influential people who invested in me were African American. As I began to learn about their stories, my heart grew with a love for racial justice and equality. My work and adult life has focused on righting wrongs, responding to global and domestic poverty, to writing and working against inequality and oppression.

Mae's book list on justice that you don’t need a PhD to understand

Why did Mae love this book?

John Perkins has been a mentor and friend. Born in 1930, the life of this native Mississippi man remains compelling and an inspiration! As a civil rights activist who watched his brother die before his eyes, Perkins' storytelling motivates us to respond to injustice with love and vigorous opposition, but never with hate. I often hear Dr. Perkins’ voice saying, “that man loved the hatred right out of me,” about the white doctor who brought him back to life after he was brutally beaten for his civil rights activities. A book not to be missed! 

By John M. Perkins,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Let Justice Roll Down as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

His brother died in his arms, shot by a deputy marshal. He was beaten and tortured by the sheriff and state police. But through it all he returned good for evil, love for hate, progress for prejudice, and brought hope to black and white alike. The story of John Perkins is no ordinary story. Rather, it is a gripping portrayal of what happens when faith thrusts a person into the midst of a struggle against racism, oppression, and injustice. It is about the costs of discipleship--the jailings, the floggings, the despair, the sacrifice. And it is about the transforming work…

5 book lists we think you will like!

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