100 books like Dividing Lines

By J. Mills Thornton,

Here are 100 books that Dividing Lines fans have personally recommended if you like Dividing Lines. 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 Simple Justice: The History of Brown V. Board of Education and Black America's Struggle for Equality

Claudia Smith Brinson Author Of Stories of Struggle: The Clash over Civil Rights in South Carolina

From my list on revealing what is hidden, lost, forgotten.

Who am I?

I lived in sixteen places by the time I was twenty-two. A peripatetic youth may teach you that different is interesting, that stereotypes don’t hold, that the emperor has no clothes. When I moved South and worked as a journalist, I found black elders’ stories so different from the official stories of white authorities. Horrified that these men and women would die with their heroism untold, I interviewed more than 150 black activists for Stories of Struggle. I want to know what is missing; I want it found. Like a detective, an anthropologist, a scientist, and yes, a journalist, I want to know, and I want others to know.

Claudia's book list on revealing what is hidden, lost, forgotten

Claudia Smith Brinson Why did Claudia love this book?

Monumental, extraordinary, a landmark: only superlatives would do in 1975 to praise Simple Justice by Richard Kluger.

If you want to understand education in America, race in America, the absence of equity in America, Simple Justice gets you there. The book begins with the South Carolina heroes of Briggs v. Elliott, impoverished rural petitioners who filed the first of five lawsuits composing Brown v. Board of Education. The book ends with the 1954 and 1955 US Supreme Court’s decisions declaring unconstitutional the legal segregation of public schools.

Kluger focuses on people, beginning with tenant farmers and sharecroppers who defied the white men controlling their every breath and petitioned for “equal everything.” Kluger’s vivid storytelling was among my inspirations, forty years after Brown, to seek South Carolina’s forgotten heroes. 

By Richard Kluger,

Why should I read it?

3 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…

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 my 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

David J. Garrow 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.

Book cover of Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention

Paul Bass Author Of Murder in the Model City: The Black Panthers, Yale, and the Redemption of a Killer

From my list on Black protest and government resistance.

Who am I?

Paul Bass is the co-author with Douglas W. Rae of Murder in the Model City: The Black Panthers, Yale, and the Redemption of A Killer. Paul has been a reporter and editor in New Haven, Conn., for over 40 years. He is the founder and editor of the online New Haven Independent.

Paul's book list on Black protest and government resistance

Paul Bass Why did Paul love this book?

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.

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…

Book cover of Family Properties: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America

Deborah Dash Moore Author Of Urban Origins of American Judaism

From my list on Jewish lives in urban America.

Who am I?

I grew up in New York City on the corner of 16th Street and 7th Avenue in an apartment on the 11th floor. I loved the city’s pace, diversity, and freedom. So, I decided to study New York Jews, to learn about them from not just from census records and institutional reports but also from interviews. After publishing my first book, I followed New York Jews as they moved to other cities, especially Miami and Los Angeles. Recently, I’ve been intrigued by what is often called street photography and the ways photographs let you see all sorts of details that potentially tell a story. 

Deborah's book list on Jewish lives in urban America

Deborah Dash Moore Why did Deborah love this book?

The key to Beryl Satter’s book lies in her title, Family Properties. The book grew out of a daughter’s desire to know her father, who died when she was young. Satter peels back layers of her Jewish father’s fierce advocacy for Blacks in Chicago, his relentless effort to uncover and hold accountable the white men (both Jewish and Christian) who were profiting from the housing segregation that made Blacks desperate to move out of the ghetto. Satter follows her father’s ultimate failure to prevent the exploitation of Blacks. She also reveals the anger directed at him by many Jews who were on the other side. Satter writes with empathy, showing her father’s complexity (he was a landlord as well as a lawyer), and resists the impulse to judge him. 

By Beryl Satter,

Why should I read it?

2 authors 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…

Book cover of Origins of the Civil Rights Movements

James M. Jasper Author Of The Emotions of Protest

From my list on what drives protestors.

Who am I?

James M. Jasper has written a number of books and articles on politics and social movements since the 1980s, trying to get inside them to see what participants feel and think. In recent years he has examined the many emotions, good and bad, involved in political engagement. He summarizes what he has learned in this short book, The Emotions of Protest, taking the reader step by step through the emotions that generate actions, to those that link us to groups, down to the emotional and moral impacts of social movements. The book is hopeful and inspiring but at the same time also clear-eyed about the limitations of protest politics.

James' book list on what drives protestors

James M. Jasper Why did James love this book?

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.

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,…

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

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

From my 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

Derek R. King Why did Derek love this book?

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.

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…

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

Nancy I. Sanders Author Of D Is for Drinking Gourd: An African American Alphabet

From my list on inspirational African American history.

Who am I?

As a bestselling and award-winning KidLit author of more than 100 books, I’ve been blessed to specialize in writing for kids about the amazing and inspiring legacy of African Americans. From an alphabet book for even the youngest readers to biographies with hands-on activities for middle graders and up, both nonfiction and fiction as well, these stories are my passion because many of these individuals are my personal heroes as well. I want kids to love and honor these men and women who have made a difference in our world as much as I do!

Nancy's book list on inspirational African American history

Nancy I. Sanders Why did Nancy love this book?

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!

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. This book is for kids age 6, 7, 8, and 9.

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…

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

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

From my 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

Keisha N. Blain Why did Keisha love this book?

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.

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…

Book cover of Lizzie Demands a Seat! Elizabeth Jennings Fights for Streetcar Rights

Mara Rockliff Author Of Sweet Justice: Georgia Gilmore and the Montgomery Bus Boycott

From my list on civil rights heroes.

Who am I?

I am a children’s author best known for digging up fascinating stories about famous people—and forgotten people who deserve to be famous again. As a kid, I loved reading about the old days, but I wasn’t very interested in “history,” which seemed to be dull facts about a few Great Men. In college, though, I studied social movements and discovered that we all make history together, and that it takes the combined efforts of countless unsung heroes—just as brave, hardworking, and persistent as the big names everybody knows—to achieve real change. 

Mara's book list on civil rights heroes

Mara Rockliff Why did Mara love this book?

More than a century before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, sparking the Montgomery bus boycott, a schoolteacher named Elizabeth Jennings did the same on a streetcar in New York City. Her act of courage didn’t lead to a mass movement, but it did lead to a court case—which she won with the help of her lawyer, future U.S. president Chester A. Arthur.

I chose this book because it’s so important to recall that segregation wasn’t only in the South, and that the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s built on a long history of resistance going back to the first slave ships that arrived on America’s shores.

By Beth Anderson, E.B. Lewis (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lizzie Demands a Seat! Elizabeth Jennings Fights for Streetcar Rights as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, 9, and 10.

What is this book about?

NCSS/CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book
ILA Children's Book Award Nonfiction Honor
Winner of Bank Street College of Education's Flora Stieglitz Straus Award for excellence in nonfiction
Chicago Public Library Best Informational Book for Older Readers
Shortlist for inaugural Goddard Riverside CBC Youth Book Prize for Social Justice 
Finalist, Jane Addams Children’s Book Award

In 1854, Elizabeth "Lizzie" Jennings, an African American schoolteacher, fought back when she was unjustly denied entry to a New York City streetcar, sparking the beginnings of the long struggle to gain equal rights on public transportation.

One hundred years before Rosa Parks took her stand,…

Book cover of Parting the Waters

Jim Carrier Author Of A Traveler’s Guide to the Civil Rights Movement

From my list on understanding the South’s Civil Rights Movement.

Who am I?

As a journalist who learned his craft on the job in the tumultuous 1960s, I happened to find myself living in states where racial history was being written. Reporting that story required me to understand why discrimination, poverty, and violence remained so deeply rooted in modern America. I wrote Ten Ways to Fight Hate, I made a movie about civil rights martyrs, and, after seeing people from around the world making a pilgrimage to the sites of the civil rights struggle, published my guidebook. Over the course of a 50-year career, I have written a million words. I am proudest of those that tried to right wrongs, and sometimes did.

Jim's book list on understanding the South’s Civil Rights Movement

Jim Carrier Why did Jim love this book?

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.

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…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Civil Rights Movement, Montgomery Alabama, and civil rights?

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