100 books like From Jim Crow to Civil Rights

By Michael J. Klarman,

Here are 100 books that From Jim Crow to Civil Rights fans have personally recommended if you like From Jim Crow to Civil Rights. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Southern Judicial Tradition: State Judges and Sectional Distinctiveness, 1790-1890

Joseph A. Ranney Author Of Bridging Revolutions: The Lives of Chief Justices Richmond Pearson and John Belton O'Neall

From my list on the role states played in American law and history.

Who am I?

I'm a retired trial lawyer and a legal history professor and fellow at Marquette Law School in Wisconsin. As a young lawyer, I was struck by how much Americans focus on federal lawmakers and judges at the expense of their state counterparts, even though state law has a much greater effect on people's daily lives than federal law. The scholar Leonard Levy once said that without more study of state legal history, “there can be no … adequate history of [American] civilization.” I want to help fill that need through my books and articles, and I enjoy sharing this fascinating world with my readers.  

Joseph's book list on the role states played in American law and history

Joseph A. Ranney Why did Joseph love this book?

The South is endlessly fascinating to history fans, and Prof. Huebner gives us short, thought-provoking biographies of six important Southern state judges. He recounts the contributions that each judge made to American law – for example, Virginia chief justice Spencer Roane's ultimately futile effort to persuade Americans that state courts could interpret the federal Constitution for themselves, independent of federal authority; Tennessee Justice John Catron's efforts to embed Jacksonian principles in American law; and North Carolina chief justice Thomas Ruffin's clear-eyed assessment of the inherent conflict between slaveowners' views of slaves as human beings and as tools for maximizing agricultural production and profit. Huebner skillfully combines fascinating personal stories with sharp insights into each judge's legal legacy. 

By Timothy S. Huebner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Southern Judicial Tradition as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An exploration of the emergence of a southern judiciary and the effects of regional attitudes on legal development. It draws on the opinions and correspondence of six chief justices to analyze their conception of their roles and the substance of their attitudes to various cases.


Book cover of Closing the Gate: Race, Politics, and the Chinese Exclusion Act

Joseph A. Ranney Author Of Bridging Revolutions: The Lives of Chief Justices Richmond Pearson and John Belton O'Neall

From my list on the role states played in American law and history.

Who am I?

I'm a retired trial lawyer and a legal history professor and fellow at Marquette Law School in Wisconsin. As a young lawyer, I was struck by how much Americans focus on federal lawmakers and judges at the expense of their state counterparts, even though state law has a much greater effect on people's daily lives than federal law. The scholar Leonard Levy once said that without more study of state legal history, “there can be no … adequate history of [American] civilization.” I want to help fill that need through my books and articles, and I enjoy sharing this fascinating world with my readers.  

Joseph's book list on the role states played in American law and history

Joseph A. Ranney Why did Joseph love this book?

In 1882, only a few years after it enacted a series of landmark civil rights laws, Congress passed an Exclusion Act slamming the door on Chinese immigration. Why the dramatic turnaround? A powerful anti-Chinese movement, driven by racism and fear of economic competition, had taken hold among whites in the West and had produced a wave of anti-Asian state laws. Americans east of the Rockies didn't share Western sentiments, but eventually Eastern politicians yielded in order to attract Western votes. Gyory gives us an absorbing picture of the exclusion movement, of Western anti-Chinese leaders, and of the Easterners who went along with them. His book is a stark reminder that good people's indifference can contribute to the triumph of evil.

By Andrew Gyory,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 barred nearly all Chinese from US shores for ten years. Gyory traces the origins of the Act, contending that rather than confronting divisive problems such as class conflict, politicians sought a safe, non-ideological solution to the nation's industrial crisis.


Book cover of James Kent: A Study in Conservatism, 1763-1847

Joseph A. Ranney Author Of Bridging Revolutions: The Lives of Chief Justices Richmond Pearson and John Belton O'Neall

From my list on the role states played in American law and history.

Who am I?

I'm a retired trial lawyer and a legal history professor and fellow at Marquette Law School in Wisconsin. As a young lawyer, I was struck by how much Americans focus on federal lawmakers and judges at the expense of their state counterparts, even though state law has a much greater effect on people's daily lives than federal law. The scholar Leonard Levy once said that without more study of state legal history, “there can be no … adequate history of [American] civilization.” I want to help fill that need through my books and articles, and I enjoy sharing this fascinating world with my readers.  

Joseph's book list on the role states played in American law and history

Joseph A. Ranney Why did Joseph love this book?

Although he is virtually unknown today, New York chancellor James Kent ranks as one of America's greatest state judges. Kent was an old-time Federalist, a believer in government by gentlemen. During his lifetime his views steadily lost ground to Jeffersonian and Jacksonian democracy, but he made a permanent imprint on American law. Among other things, he authored the first general treatise on American law and arranged for national circulation of New York judicial decisions, thus giving his state an outsize role in shaping American law, and he helped preserve the central place of federal authority and protection of private property in the law. Kent deserves a modern biography, but until one is written, readers interested in New York history and legal history will find John Horton's older 1939 biography a lively and easy-to-read book, well worth their time.

By John Theodore Horton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Reprint of the first and only edition. Originally published: New York: D. Appleton-Century Co., [1939]. xi, 354 pp. Well-annotated, with a thorough bibliography and index.


Book cover of Jefferson's Louisiana: Politics and the Clash of Legal Traditions

Joseph A. Ranney Author Of Bridging Revolutions: The Lives of Chief Justices Richmond Pearson and John Belton O'Neall

From my list on the role states played in American law and history.

Who am I?

I'm a retired trial lawyer and a legal history professor and fellow at Marquette Law School in Wisconsin. As a young lawyer, I was struck by how much Americans focus on federal lawmakers and judges at the expense of their state counterparts, even though state law has a much greater effect on people's daily lives than federal law. The scholar Leonard Levy once said that without more study of state legal history, “there can be no … adequate history of [American] civilization.” I want to help fill that need through my books and articles, and I enjoy sharing this fascinating world with my readers.  

Joseph's book list on the role states played in American law and history

Joseph A. Ranney Why did Joseph love this book?

Jefferson's Louisiana is an absorbing study of a clash of cultures that helped to shape America's legal empire as it moved westward. Louisiana, governed by Spain and France under civil law codes for nearly a century before it became part of the United States, was a crossroads at which English law (dominant elsewhere in the new nation) and European law collided. Prof. Dargo first describes the uneasy cultural accommodation that French and Spanish settlers made with American immigrants at the turn of the nineteenth century, an accommodation made more challenging by Aaron Burr's simultaneous efforts to foment revolution in the trans-Appalachian West. Dargo then tells the story of how American and old-settler jurists collaborated to shape a new Louisiana code amalgamating common and civil law. 

By George Dargo,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Purchase of all of Louisiana in 1803 brought the new American nation into contact with the French Creole population of the Lower Mississippi Basin. The Spanish called it Baja Luisiana. While the settlement in and around the city of New Orleans (the capital of the province when it was ruled by Spain) was not large, it had well established governmental and legal institutions. Which system of law would prevail in this volatile corner of the North American continent, a region that was distant and strategically vulnerable to rival European powers -- Spain, France and Great Britain - who still…


Book cover of The Highest Tribute: Thurgood Marshall's Life, Leadership, and Legacy

Christy Mihaly Author Of The Supreme Court and Us

From my list on how the U.S. Supreme Court works.

Who am I?

As a former lawyer, I want young readers to understand the judicial system and to appreciate how the structure of our government, with its three branches, buttresses our freedoms. That's why I wrote The Supreme Court and Us. My book surveys the court, its function, and some of its important cases. Reading it together with the other recommended titles will offer a multi-dimensional picture of the Court, its Justices, and its work. Each Supreme Court case is a fascinating story. I want to share these stories with kids. We need a knowledgeable new generation to be engaged in civic life – and these books are a good place to start.

Christy's book list on how the U.S. Supreme Court works

Christy Mihaly Why did Christy love this book?

The through-line in this picture book biography is Thurgood Marshall's quest for change, which the author says started early in his life. Marshall grew up in Baltimore under segregation. His parents wanted greater opportunities for their children. Marshall pushed against racial boundaries in college and beyond. As a young lawyer he won an early court order desegregating a school, and went on to argue a series of landmark desegregation cases before the Supreme Court. After becoming the first Black U.S. Supreme Court Justice, he continued to push for change by persuading his colleagues on the bench. This book highlights the Court's ability to make change and honors a trailblazing man who left a lasting legacy. Helpful back matter includes a timeline and list of important Supreme Court cases.

By Kekla Magoon, Laura Freeman (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Highest Tribute as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

A brilliant picture book biography about Thurgood Marshall, who fought for equality during the Civil Rights Movement and served as the first Black justice on the Supreme Court, from Coretta Scott King Honor winners Kekla Magoon and Laura Freeman.

Growing up in Baltimore, Thurgood Marshall could see that things weren’t fair. The laws said that Black and white people couldn’t use the same schools, parks, or water fountains.

When Thurgood had to read the Constitution as punishment for a prank at school, his eyes were opened. It was clear to him that Jim Crow laws were wrong, and he was…


Book cover of The Devil You Know: A Black Power Manifesto

Ernest Owens Author Of The Case for Cancel Culture: How This Democratic Tool Works to Liberate Us All

From my list on modern-day Black social consciousness.

Who am I?

I’m a Philadelphia-based journalist and new author. I’m the Editor at Large for Philadelphia Magazine and President of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists. As an openly Black gay journalist, I’ve headlined for speaking frankly about intersectional issues in society regarding race, LGBTQIA, and pop culture. Such experiences have awakened my consciousness as an underrepresented voice in the media and have pushed me to explore societal topics. My new book The Case for Cancel Culture, published by St. Martin's Press, is my way of staking my claim in the global conversation on this buzzworthy topic. 

Ernest's book list on modern-day Black social consciousness

Ernest Owens Why did Ernest love this book?

This book was the kind of post-Trump election awakening that made me feel unapologetic about the way I saw myself as a Black American.

The writing vividly expresses the rage and determination of marginalized voices in a way that’s beyond poignant, but intentional.

Blow, a respected journalist in his own right, pulls from history and current events to make a case for something ambitious: Reverse Black migration as a means of combating racial injustice in the South. 

By Charles M Blow,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Devil You Know as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

A New York Times Editor's Choice | A Kirkus Best Nonfiction Book of the Year

From journalist and New York Times bestselling author Charles Blow comes a powerful manifesto and call to action, "a must-read in the effort to dismantle deep-seated poisons of systemic racism and white supremacy" (San Francisco Chronicle).

Race, as we have come to understand it, is a fiction; but, racism, as we have come to live it, is a fact. The point here is not to impose a new racial hierarchy, but to remove an existing one. After centuries of waiting…


Book cover of Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism

Beverly Moran Author Of Race and Wealth Disparities: A Multidisciplinary Discourse

From my list on understanding critical race theory.

Who am I?

Every author writing about race and tax in the United States uses my article with William Whitford, “A Black Critique of the Internal Revenue Code.” Using census data, Bill and I showed that blacks and whites who earn the same income, live in the same geographic areas, have the same education and marital status, pay different amounts of federal income tax because of the race and wealth disparities outlined in Race and Wealth Disparities: A Multidisciplinary Discourse edited by Beverly Moran. 

Beverly's book list on understanding critical race theory

Beverly Moran Why did Beverly love this book?

Faces at the Bottom of the Well is the book that created Critical Race Theory. It lays out the central problem of Critical Race Theory: how does racism consistently defeat law? For example, in 1954 Brown v. the Board of Education held that segregated schools are unlawful. Yet, sixty-nine years later, US schools, housing, and employment all remain segregated. This is the book that inspired every other critical race theory scholar.

By Derrick Bell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Faces at the Bottom of the Well as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The noted civil rights activist uses allegory and historical example to present a radical vision of the persistence of racism in America. These essays shed light on some of the most perplexing and vexing issues of our day: affirmative action, the disparity between civil rights law and reality, the racist outbursts of some black leaders, the temptation toward violent retaliation, and much more.


Book cover of As Good as Anybody: Martin Luther King, Jr., and Abraham Joshua Heschel's Amazing March toward Freedom

Cathy Goldberg Fishman Author Of When Jackie and Hank Met

From my list on diversity and social justice for children.

Who am I?

I am a teacher, a mom, a bubbe, and a writer. I taught elementary school and college courses, directed a daycare, and owned a children’s bookstore, but my favorite job is scribbling words on paper. I have two grown children and four wonderful granddaughters who love to listen as I read to them. Many of my ideas come from my experiences with my granddaughters and from their questions. Our family and friends are a mix of religions and cultures, and most of my books reflect the importance of diversity, acceptance, and knowledge.

Cathy's book list on diversity and social justice for children

Cathy Goldberg Fishman Why did Cathy love this book?

As Good as Anybody is the story of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. Martin Luther King, Jr. grew up in the south and experienced racial discrimination.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel was born in Europe and experienced anti-Semitism. These two men formed a close friendship. They marched together and prayed together. They became leaders for social justice and acceptance.

I am recommending this book because it is a wonderful story about two men who tried to break the barriers of race and religion.

By Richard Michelson, Raul Colon (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked As Good as Anybody 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?

MARTIN LUTHER KING, Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel. Their names stand for the quest for justice and equality.Martin grew up in a loving family in the American South, at a time when this country was plagued by racial discrimination. He aimed to put a stop to it. He became a minister like his daddy, and he preached and marched for his cause.Abraham grew up in a loving family many years earlier, in a Europe that did not welcome Jews. He found a new home in America, where he became a respected rabbi like his father, carrying a message of peace…


Book cover of Black Is a Country: Race and the Unfinished Struggle for Democracy

Jonathan Shandell Author Of The American Negro Theatre and the Long Civil Rights Era

From my list on Black culture and history in the Civil Rights era.

Who am I?

I am a theater historian whose research focuses on African American theater of 1940s-50s. While other periods and movements—the Harlem Renaissance (1920s), the Federal Theatre Project (1930s), the Black Arts Movement (1960s), and contemporary theater—have been well studied and documented, I saw a gap of scholarship around the 1940s-50s; I wondered why those years had been largely overlooked. As I dived deeper, I saw how African American performance culture (ie. theater, film, television, music) of the later-20th Century had its roots in the history of those somewhat overlooked decades. I’m still investigating that story, and these books have helped me do it.

Jonathan's book list on Black culture and history in the Civil Rights era

Jonathan Shandell Why did Jonathan love this book?

We often learn about African American history in the 20th Century in terms of a conflict between nonviolent resistance vs. violent radicalism, integrationism vs. separatism, Martin vs. Malcolm. But this is an over-simplification of a complex and dynamic moment in the history of our nation. More than any other work, Black is a Country helped me think differently about the period that I study, and see African American history and culture of the mid-20th Century in a new way.

By Nikhil Pal Singh,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Black Is a Country as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Despite black gains in modern America, the end of racism is not yet in sight. Nikhil Pal Singh asks what happened to the worldly and radical visions of equality that animated black intellectual activists from W. E. B. Du Bois in the 1930s to Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960s. In so doing, he constructs an alternative history of civil rights in the twentieth century, a long civil rights era, in which radical hopes and global dreams are recognized as central to the history of black struggle.

It is through the words and thought of key black intellectuals, like…


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,…


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