100 books like On the Road to Freedom

By Charles E. Cobb Jr.,

Here are 100 books that On the Road to Freedom fans have personally recommended if you like On the Road to Freedom. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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

Why am I passionate about this?

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

Paul Lauter 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…


Book cover of Crash Course: From the Good War to the Forever War

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

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

Why am I passionate about this?

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

Paul Lauter Why did Paul love this book?

Want to understand today’s America? Noam Chomsky, Dan Ellsberg, Jane Anne Phillips, Kim Stanley Robinson, John Dower all recommend Crash Course, Bruce Franklin’s 20th book. Bruce went from working on tugboats during the bloody war for control of New York Harbor to flying as Air Force intelligence officer and Arctic navigator. Then he became a major figure in "revolutionary" movements of the sixties and seventies, getting fired from his tenured job. FBI documents reveal efforts “neutralize” him, including framing him for various crimes. This book discloses some of his actual underground activities, including helping to set up a Vietnam deserter network in France. As exciting as a thriller novel, Crash Course rewards readers with its deep analysis of modern American history. 

By Howard Bruce Franklin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Growing up during the Second World War, H. Bruce Franklin believed what he was told: that America’s victory would lead to a new era of world peace. Like most Americans, he was soon led to believe in a world-wide Communist conspiracy that menaced the United States, forcing the nation into a disastrous war in Korea. But once he joined the U.S. Air Force and began flying top-secret missions as a navigator and intelligence officer, what he learned was eye-opening. He saw that even as the U.S. preached about peace and freedom, it was engaging in an endless cycle of warfare,…


Book cover of Making History/Making Blintzes: How Two Red Diaper Babies Found Each Other and Discovered America

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

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

Why am I passionate about this?

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

Paul Lauter Why did Paul love this book?

Mickey and Dick Flacks enjoyed a 60-year marital and political partnership that featured blintzes along with activism. Their joint memoir traces a century of American left history as they and their families created and lived it. Raised in the rich but insulated culture of the communist “old left” in the Bronx and Brooklyn, these founding figures of the "new left,” helped construct a post-sixties progressive movement in a once-conservative region of California. They have been trailblazers in the struggles for affordable housing, and leaders and mentors—including mein the on-going efforts to democratize higher education. Their activist left perspective on American possibilityunimaginable for too many Americansbelongs on our bookshelves. 

By Mickey Flacks, Dick Flacks,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Making History/Making Blintzes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Making History/Making Blintzes is a chronicle of the political and personal lives of progressive activists Richard (Dick) and Miriam (Mickey) Flacks, two of the founders of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). As active members of the Civil Rights movement and the anti-Vietnam War movement in the 1960s, and leaders in today's social movements, their stories are a first-hand account of progressive American activism from the 1960s to the present.

Throughout this memoir, the couple demonstrates that their lifelong commitment to making history through social activism cannot be understood without returning to the deeply personal context of their family history-of…


Book cover of Voice Lessons

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

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

Why am I passionate about this?

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

Paul Lauter Why did Paul love this book?

Alice Embree’s story features growth and change. From a home-town girl in a once-sleepy college town, Austin, she becomes an early Students for a Democratic Society activist, a participant in the best—and worst—of SDS campaigns, a central worker—first typist, then writer and printer—in influential underground papers like Rat and especially The Rag. Embree also supported Latin-American progressives, especially in Chile. Most powerfully, she becomes a fierce and energetic trailblazer in the women’s liberation movement and the many activities that movement continues to open for all of us, even in deep red states like her native Texas.  Important for Americans to read, especially those who cannot imagine that girl and mother next door is a Democrat, much less—gasp!—a still-active Socialist.  

By Alice Embree,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Voice Lessons explores the rich personal and political terrain of Alice Embree, a 1960s activist and convert to the women's liberation movement of the 1970s, bringing a woman's perspective to a transformational time in US history. This riveting memoir traces the author's roots in segregated Austin and her participation in efforts to integrate the University of Texas. It follows her antiwar activism from a vigil in front of President Lyndon Johnson's ranch in 1965 to a massive protest after the shootings at Kent State in 1970. Embree's activism brought her and the Students for a Democratic Society into conflict with…


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

Clara Silverstein Author Of White Girl: A Story of School Desegregation

From my list on memoirs from the front lines of standing up to racism.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a white child bused to African American schools in Richmond, Virginia in the 1970s, I unwittingly stepped into a Civil Rights experiment that would shatter social norms and put me on a path to learning history not taught in textbooks. At first, I never expected to look back at this fraught time. Then I had children. The more I tried to tell them about my past, the more I wanted to understand the context. Why did we fall so short of America’s founding ideals? I have been reading and writing about American history ever since, completing a master’s degree and publishing books, essays, and poems.

Clara's book list on memoirs from the front lines of standing up to racism

Clara Silverstein Why did Clara love this book?

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.

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…


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 my list on Black women in the Civil Rights Movement.

Why am I passionate about this?

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?

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…


Book cover of Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement

Paul Kendrick Author Of Nine Days: The Race to Save Martin Luther King Jr.'s Life and Win the 1960 Election

From my list on memoirs of the civil rights movement.

Why am I passionate about this?

My father and I have written three books of narrative history. We tell stories from the American past that have a theme of interracial collaboration. Not sentimentally, but so that in a clear-eyed way, we can learn from moments in our history that may offer us hopeful ways forward. Growing up, I was shaped by narrative history techniques such as Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America's Struggle for Equality by Richard Kluger and Taylor Branch’s America in the King Years trilogy. For this list, I wanted to share five favorite civil rights movement memoirs.

Paul's book list on memoirs of the civil rights movement

Paul Kendrick Why did Paul love this book?

There is a spiritual quality in Lewis’ beautiful writing as he remembers a historic life. Lewis’ testament is of his journey from an Alabama farm to meeting a young Dr. King to becoming a leader in the Nashville sit-in movements and SNCC, all the way to the White House after speaking at the March on Washington. This book should be read forever.

By John Lewis, Michael D'Orso,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An award-winning national bestseller, Walking with the Wind is one of our most important records of the American Civil Rights Movement. Told by John Lewis, who Cornel West calls a “national treasure,” this is a gripping first-hand account of the fight for civil rights and the courage it takes to change a nation.

In 1957, a teenaged boy named John Lewis left a cotton farm in Alabama for Nashville, the epicenter of the struggle for civil rights in America. Lewis’s adherence to nonviolence guided that critical time and established him as one of the movement’s most charismatic and courageous leaders.…


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

Paul Kendrick Author Of Nine Days: The Race to Save Martin Luther King Jr.'s Life and Win the 1960 Election

From my list on memoirs of the civil rights movement.

Why am I passionate about this?

My father and I have written three books of narrative history. We tell stories from the American past that have a theme of interracial collaboration. Not sentimentally, but so that in a clear-eyed way, we can learn from moments in our history that may offer us hopeful ways forward. Growing up, I was shaped by narrative history techniques such as Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America's Struggle for Equality by Richard Kluger and Taylor Branch’s America in the King Years trilogy. For this list, I wanted to share five favorite civil rights movement memoirs.

Paul's book list on memoirs of the civil rights movement

Paul Kendrick Why did Paul love this book?

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. 

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…


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

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.

Why am I passionate about this?

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?

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.

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…


Book cover of Why We Can't Wait

Christina Hawatmeh Author Of The Year Time Stopped: The Global Pandemic in Photos

From my list on to change your view on the world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have spent 10 years building Scopio, which stands for “Scope It Out” to build an accessible platform for anyone, anywhere to tell their story and share their images. I have used technology to change stereotypes and archive historical moments to our everyday imagery. I like to consume information easily and actionably and these are my recommendations! We did that in writing The Year Time Stopped so people can enjoy and get value out of 200 images and stories for the next century.

Christina's book list on to change your view on the world

Christina Hawatmeh Why did Christina love this book?

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!

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…


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

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about civil rights, the Civil Rights Movement, and the South.

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