10 books like Dividing Lines

By J. Mills Thornton,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Dividing Lines. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Simple Justice

By Richard Kluger,

Book cover of Simple Justice: The History of Brown V. Board of Education and Black America's Struggle for Equality

How do you get the Supreme Court to revisit its 1896 ruling that upheld Jim Crow laws as “separate but equal”? That was the question that divided officials in the NAACP, and Kluger’s book shows them coalescing around a plan that aims first at racist admissions policies in professional and graduate institutions before turning to the even more politically sensitive matter of segregated public schools. To pursue this incremental strategy, civil-rights activists developed Howard University’s law school with the goal of training black lawyers to mount desegregation cases. The most prominent of them — the NAACP’s Thurgood Marshall, later a Supreme Court justice himself — ended up arguing the Brown v. Board of Education appeal that in 1954 led the court to rule the separate-but-equal doctrine was unconstitutional.

Simple Justice

By Richard Kluger,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Simple Justice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Simple Justice is generally regarded as the classic account of the U.S. Supreme Court's epochal decision outlawing racial segregation and the centerpiece of African-Americans' ongoing crusade for equal justice under law.

The 1954 Supreme Court ruling in the case of Brown v. Board of Education brought centuries of legal segregation in this country to an end. It was and remains, beyond question, one of the truly significant events in American history, "probably the most important American government act of any kind since the Emancipation Proclamation," in the view of constitutional scholar Louis H. Pollak. The Brown decision climaxed along, torturous…


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

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.

I've Got the Light of Freedom

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.


Malcolm X

By Manning Marable,

Book cover of Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention

This was political scientist Marable's life work, finished right before his death --  and what an accomplishment! Marable dives so deeply into and verifies previously unknown territory. Though supportive of his subject, Marable offers complex and sometimes embarrassing information with no apologies. As a result, he produces the fullest portrait of Malcolm X to date, and the best case about why both the man and his ideas matter.

Malcolm X

By Manning Marable,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Malcolm X as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for History and a New York Times bestseller, the definitive biography of Malcolm X

Hailed as "a masterpiece" (San Francisco Chronicle), Manning Marable's acclaimed biography of Malcolm X finally does justice to one of the most influential and controversial figures of twentieth-century American history. Filled with startling new information and shocking revelations, Malcolm X unfolds a sweeping story of race and class in America. Reaching into Malcolm's troubled youth, it traces a path from his parents' activism as followers of Marcus Garvey through his own work with the Nation of Islam and rise in the…


Family Properties

By Beryl Satter,

Book cover of Family Properties: How the Struggle Over Race and Real Estate Transformed Chicago and Urban America

Purposefully racist policies in major Northern cities often focused on the financial exploitation of upwardly-aspiring African Americans, with government-endorsed predatory lending practices impoverishing—and often leaving homeless—thousands of Black home-buying families. “Redlining” may be a familiar word, but the actual mechanisms of financial discrimination require a penetrating, clear-eyed examination, and Beryl Satter’s powerful account of how last-resort ‘contract buying’ left newly-arrived Black residents in the West Side Chicago neighborhood of Lawndale vulnerable to being fleeced by racist manipulators is one of the most important books ever written about the Black freedom struggle in the north.

Family Properties

By Beryl Satter,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“Beryl Satter's Family Properties is really an incredible book. It is, by far, the best book I've ever read on the relationship between blacks and Jews. That's because it hones in on the relationship between one specific black community and one specific Jewish community and thus revels in the particular humanity of all its actors. In going small, it ultimately goes big.” ―Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic

Part family story and part urban history, a landmark investigation of segregation and urban decay in Chicago -- and cities across the nation

The "promised land" for thousands of Southern blacks, postwar Chicago quickly…


Origins of the Civil Rights Movements

By Aldon D. Morris,

Book cover of Origins of the Civil Rights Movements

Although a little older, this remains in my view the best book on the civil rights movement of the late 1950s and early 1960s, the heroic period of Dr. King and the student sit-ins. Born and raised in rural Mississippi during that time, Morris tells a rich story of the influence of religion: the songs, prayers, and scriptural references, but also the material resources such as churches to meet in, networks of preachers to spread information, and the conduit for funds to flow from more affluent Black communities to those battling on the frontline during the bloody fight for civil rights.

Origins of the Civil Rights Movements

By Aldon D. Morris,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A “valuable, eye-opening work” (The Boston Globe) about the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s.

On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Mrs. Rosa Parks, weary after a long day at work, refused to give up her bus seat to a white man…and ignited the explosion that was the civil rights movement in America. In this powerful saga, Morris tells the complete story behind the ten years that transformed America, tracing the essential role of the black community organizations that was the real power behind the civil rights movement. Drawing on interviews with more than fifty key leaders,…


Eyes on the Prize

By Juan Williams,

Book cover of Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965

Eyes on The Prize, sets out the main events and other occurrences across America, in the Civil Rights period from 1954 to 1965. While a companion book to the PBS documentary of the same name, the book serves as an introduction, intriguing read, and springboard for further research on specific events or areas of particular interest.

The time-lined events ‘roadmaps’ are particularly helpful at providing context for the events covered and demonstrate the evolving nature of each event explored. These along with segments of oral histories and interviews conducted for the documentary provide additional interest.

Eyes on the Prize

By Juan Williams,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Eyes on the Prize as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The 30th-anniversary edition of Juan Williams's celebrated account of the tumultuous early years of the civil rights movement

From the Montgomery bus boycott to the Little Rock Nine to the Selma-Montgomery march, thousands of ordinary people who participated in the American civil rights movement; their stories are told in Eyes on the Prize. From leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., to lesser-known figures such as Barbara Rose John and Jim Zwerg, each man and woman made the decision that somethinghad to be done to stop discrimination. These moving accounts and pictures of the first decade of the civil rights…


Let It Shine

By Andrea Davis Pinkney,

Book cover of Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters

I met the author Andrea Davis Pinkney and her husband at a conference. I’ve always admired the Pinkney family and their award-winning books for children, so when Andrea shared about her book, I wanted an autographed copy for my own home library. A book for older readers, it contains the biographies of 10 amazing women who took a stand and made a difference in our world. The art is beautiful, too!

Let It Shine

By Andrea Davis Pinkney,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus and sparked a boycott that changed America.Harriet Tubman helped more than three hundred slaves escape the South on the Underground Railroad.Shirley Chisholm became the first black woman elected to the U.S.House of Representatives.
The lives these women led are part of an incredible story about courage in the face of oppression; about the challenges and triumphs of the battle for civil rights; and about speaking out for what you believe in--even when it feels like no one is listening.Andrea Davis Pinkney's moving text and Stephen Alcorn's glorious portraits celebrate…


Colored Travelers

By Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor,

Book cover of Colored Travelers: Mobility and the Fight for Citizenship Before the Civil War

Rosa Parks is an essential icon of the Civil Rights Movement, but the history of Black women and men turning segregation and discrimination during travel into a platform to negotiate the rights of citizenship has a long arc. Pryor gives us the longer backstory to the 20th-century Civil Rights Movement and 21st-century movement for Black lives when she traces how 19th-century Black men and women traveling in stage coaches, rail cars, and steam ships were often on the front lines of the struggle for Americans’ equal protection under the law.

Colored Travelers

By Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Americans have long regarded the freedom of travel a central tenet of citizenship. Yet, in the United States, freedom of movement has historically been a right reserved for whites. In this book, Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor shows that African Americans fought obstructions to their mobility over 100 years before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus. These were "colored travelers," activists who relied on steamships, stagecoaches, and railroads to expand their networks and to fight slavery and racism. They refused to ride in "Jim Crow" railroad cars, fought for the right to hold a U.S. passport…


The Struggle Is Eternal

By Joseph R. Fitzgerald,

Book cover of The Struggle Is Eternal: Gloria Richardson and Black Liberation

Joseph Fitzgerald’s powerful biography highlights the work and activism of Gloria Richardson. Her leadership of the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee demonstrated not only her commitment to human rights, but also her willingness to embrace alternatives to nonviolent tactics. Fitzgerald delves into Richardson’s beliefs and strategies to capture her efforts to build a grassroots movement.

The Struggle Is Eternal

By Joseph R. Fitzgerald,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Struggle Is Eternal as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Many prominent and well-known figures greatly impacted the civil rights movement, but one of the most influential and unsung leaders of that period was Gloria Richardson. As the leader of the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee (CNAC), a multifaceted liberation campaign formed to target segregation and racial inequality in Cambridge, Maryland, Richardson advocated for economic justice and tactics beyond nonviolent demonstrations. Her philosophies and strategies -- including her belief that black people had a right to self--defense -- were adopted, often without credit, by a number of civil rights and black power leaders and activists. The Struggle Is Eternal: Gloria Richardson…


Parting the Waters

By Taylor Branch,

Book cover of Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63

As I drove through the South researching my guidebook to civil rights sites, my back seat was filled with books. Atop the pile was Taylor Branch’s magisterial three-volume history – America in the King Years 1954-1968: Parting the Waters, Pillar of Fire, and At Canaan’s Edge.

Though encyclopedic, Branch’s story-telling is riveting—weaving together personalities, legalities, strategies, and geography in a way that made me feel as if I were there witnessing history as it was made. Taylor’s detail, reflecting a journalist’s quest for who, what, where, when, how, and why, showed me that these stories could best be told, understood, and felt where they happened.

Parting the Waters

By Taylor Branch,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Parting the Waters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Parting the Waters, the first volume of his essential America in the King Years series, Pulitzer Prize winner Taylor Branch gives a “compelling…masterfully told” (The Wall Street Journal) account of Martin Luther King’s early years and rise to greatness.

Hailed as the most masterful story ever told of the American Civil Rights Movement, Parting the Waters is destined to endure for generations.

Moving from the fiery political baptism of Martin Luther King, Jr., to the corridors of Camelot where the Kennedy brothers weighed demands for justice against the deceptions of J. Edgar Hoover, here is a vivid tapestry of…


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