10 books like I've Got the Light of Freedom

By Charles M. Payne,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like I've Got the Light of Freedom. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission (learn more).

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…


Dividing Lines

By J. Mills Thornton,

Book cover of Dividing Lines: Municipal Politics and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Montgomery, Birmingham, and Selma

Black southern mass action against segregation commenced in Montgomery, AL with the 1955-56 bus boycott that catapulted Martin Luther King, Jr., to national fame, then finally broke through U. S. presidential ambivalence with the 1963 protests in Birmingham that were met with heavily-photographed police violence, and culminated with the 1965 Selma marches that led to the enactment of the Voting Rights Act. These three Alabama cities represent the cornerstones of that dramatic 1955-1965 decade, and Thornton’s magisterial account of those movements’ local roots make it perhaps the most interpretively significant work of civil rights history ever written. A very close second is Adam Fairclough’s Race and Democracy: The Civil Rights Struggle in Louisiana, 1915-1972.

Dividing Lines

By J. Mills Thornton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

With this bold offering from two decades of research, J. Mills Thornton III presents the story of the civil rights movement from the perspective of community-municipal history at the grassroots level. Thornton demonstrates that the movement had powerful local sources in its three birth cities - Montgomery, Birmingham, and Selma. There, the arcane mechanisms of state and city governance and the missteps of municipal politicians and civic leaders - independent of emerging national trends in racial mores - led to the great swell of energy for change that became the civil rights movement.


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…


For Freedom's Sake

By Chana Kai Lee,

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

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.

For Freedom's Sake

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…


A Voice That Could Stir an Army

By Maegan Parker Brooks,

Book cover of A Voice That Could Stir an Army: Fannie Lou Hamer and the Rhetoric of the Black Freedom Movement

Maegan Parker Brooks’ work on Fannie Lou Hamer was indispensable as I wrote my book. A Voice That Could Stir an Army focuses on Hamer’s use of rhetorical symbols and her public persona in a way that helps elevate Hamer’s legacy and demonstrates the importance of rhetoric to social movements. Brooks has helped bring Hamer’s words and ideas to a broader audience.

A Voice That Could Stir an Army

By Maegan Parker Brooks,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Voice That Could Stir an Army as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A sharecropper, a warrior, and a truth-telling prophet, Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977) stands as a powerful symbol not only of the 1960s black freedom movement, but also of the enduring human struggle against oppression. A Voice That Could Stir an Army is a rhetorical biography that tells the story of Hamer's life by focusing on how she employed symbols - images, words, and even material objects such as the ballot, food, and clothing - to construct persuasive public personae, to influence audiences, and to effect social change. Drawing upon dozens of newly recovered Hamer texts and recent interviews with Hamer's…


An Easy Burden

By Andrew Young,

Book cover of An Easy Burden: The Civil Rights Movement and the Transformation of America

Few reflect on Dr. King more insightfully than Young, from strategy sessions to reflective late-night talks with Dr. King. His memories from campaigns like Birmingham are invaluable. There is both humor and great depth in the tale of Young’s life, from theological school and parish ministry to being at the center of the civil rights movement. 

An Easy Burden

By Andrew Young,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Andrew Young is one of the most important figures of the U.S. civil rights movement and one of America's best-known African American leaders. Working closely with Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, he endured beatings and arrests while participating in seminal civil rights campaigns. In 1964, he became Executive Director of the SCLC, serving with King during a time of great accomplishment and turmoil. In describing his life through his election to Congress in 1972, this memoir provides revelatory, riveting reading. Young's analysis of the connection between racism, poverty, and a militarized economy will resonate with…


Scalawag

By Edward H. Peeples, Nancy MacLean (editor),

Book cover of Scalawag: A White Southerner's Journey through Segregation to Human Rights Activism

Raised in a working-class white family in segregated Richmond in the 1930s and 1940s, Peeples grows up to challenge the racism around him. His transformation – how he learned to think critically and become a “traitor to the race” – is both unusual and compelling. He spends the rest of his life fighting for racial equality, first in the U.S. Navy and later at the university where he teaches. His perspective as someone who rejects his upbringing and energetically defends equal treatment for all races, as well as broader human rights, shows how much one individual can do to overcome the hate in his past and improve the world.

Scalawag

By Edward H. Peeples, Nancy MacLean (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Scalawag tells the surprising story of a white working-class boy who became an unlikely civil rights activist. Born in 1935 in Richmond, where he was sent to segregated churches and schools, Ed Peeples was taught the ethos and lore of white supremacy by every adult in his young life. That message came with an equally cruel one-that, as the child of a wage-earning single mother, he was destined for failure.

But by age nineteen Peeples became what the whites in his world called a ""traitor to the race."" Pushed by a lone teacher to think critically, Peeples found his way…


Why We Can't Wait

By Martin Luther King Jr.,

Book cover of Why We Can't Wait

Why We Can't Wait is an easy way to get into the psychology of MLK. It is a 1964 book by Martin Luther King Jr. about the nonviolent movement against racial segregation in the United States, and specifically the 1963 Birmingham campaign. The way it is written makes it understandable from a 1:1 perspective. I am connected to this because it helps a person be actionable in their own way about causes they care about. No frills, just action!

Why We Can't Wait

By Martin Luther King Jr.,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Why We Can't Wait as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'He changed the course of history' Barack Obama

'Lightning makes no sound until it strikes'

This is the momentous story of the Civil Rights movement, told by one of its most powerful and eloquent voices. Here Martin Luther King, Jr. recounts the pivotal events in the city of Birmingham, Alabama in 1963 that propelled his non-violent campaign for racial justice from a movement of lunch counter sit-ins and prayer meetings to a phenomenon that 'rocked the richest, most powerful nation to its foundations'.

As inspiring and resonant as it was upon publication, Why We Can't Wait is both a unique…


On the Road to Freedom

By Charles E. Cobb Jr.,

Book cover of On the Road to Freedom: A Guided Tour of the Civil Rights Trail

In a clever move, Charlie Cobb uses the form of a travel guide—I love it better than a Lonely Planet—to introduce the events and people of the 1960s Civil Rights struggles. An active participant, Cobb takes us into, behind, and around the sit-ins, the formation of SNCC, campaigns for voting rights, Mississippi Summer of 1964, and other day-by-day battles for Civil Rights. We meet close up and learn about the work of the young people, many unknown and unsung, whose determination and daring carried the Movement forward. And, yes, the book also provides many pictures and documents, as well as a “guided tour” of the homes, churches, shops, and bars where the real action happened.   

On the Road to Freedom

By Charles E. Cobb Jr.,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked On the Road to Freedom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Award-winning journalist Charles E. Cobb Jr., a former organizer and field secretary for SNCC (Student Non violent Coordinating Committee), knows the journey intimately. He guides us through Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee, back to the real grassroots of the movement. He pays tribute not only to the men and women etched into our national memory but to local people whose seemingly small contributions made an impact. We go inside the organizations that framed the movement, travel on the "Freedom Rides" of 1961, and hear first-person accounts about the events that inspired Brown…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Mississippi, civil rights, and the Civil Rights Movement?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Mississippi, civil rights, and the Civil Rights Movement.

Mississippi Explore 54 books about Mississippi
Civil Rights Explore 117 books about civil rights
The Civil Rights Movement Explore 76 books about the Civil Rights Movement