100 books like Scalawag

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

Here are 100 books that Scalawag fans have personally recommended if you like Scalawag. 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 Warriors Don't Cry: The Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock's Central High

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?

One of nine Black students to integrate the high school in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957, Beals faces threats to her life as well as constant cruelty not only from white people but also from members of her own community, who disapprove of her decision. Her book gives us an unflinching account of what it feels like to be inside the maelstrom. Education seems almost beside the point when she needs protection from the National Guard. Most resonant to me, Beals admits that being a warrior for social change is exhausting. “Sometimes,” she writes in her diary, “I just need to be a girl.”

By Melba Pattillo Beals,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Warriors Don't Cry as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

In this essential autobiographical account by one of the Civil Rights Movement’s most powerful figures, Melba Pattillo Beals of the Little Rock Nine explores not only the oppressive force of racism, but the ability of young people to change ideas of race and identity.

In 1957, well before Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Melba Pattillo Beals and eight other teenagers became iconic symbols for the Civil Rights Movement and the dismantling of Jim Crow in the American South as they integrated Little Rock’s Central High School in the wake of the landmark 1954 Supreme Court ruling, Brown…


Book cover of Coming of Age in Mississippi: The Classic Autobiography of Growing Up Poor and Black in the Rural South

Stephane Dunn Author Of Snitchers

From my list on Black girl coming of age everybody should read.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was a book-loving Black Girl and am now a Black woman, professor-writer, and lifelong books and popular culture junkie. As a young reader, I marveled at the storytelling in books that took us into the diverse lives and deep interior of teen girls - from Are You There God It’s Me Margaret to especially ones like the five books I name which place Black girls and women at the center of the narrative. In most of the films and writings that I teach and my own book Snitchers, there’s some tragedy and pain, some blues, and perspectives that add to the truth and richness of our human and American story. 

Stephane's book list on Black girl coming of age everybody should read

Stephane Dunn Why did Stephane love this book?

I almost chose a fifth book by an author more readers will likely have heard of (Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower), but I’m going with a second autobiography, Anne Moody’s, Coming of Age in Mississippi.

Between ages 13 and 16, I read my blue paperback cover of this book more times than I can remember. It’s about Anne Moody’s growing up amid poverty and Jim Crow, beset by sexism and danger from within and outside her community due to her gender and race.

It chronicles her childhood in Mississippi to her evolution into a Civil Rights Activist as a teen and college student. It’s so unforgivingly honest, detailed, and visually rich on the page - it humanizes the history like an Eyes on the Prize documentary but way more personalized.

I think it taught me further about the value of writing very visually,  the power of our individual…

By Anne Moody,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Coming of Age in Mississippi as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The unforgettable memoir of a woman at the front lines of the civil rights movement—a harrowing account of black life in the rural South and a powerful affirmation of one person’s ability to affect change.
 
“Anne Moody’s autobiography is an eloquent, moving testimonial to her courage.”—Chicago Tribune
 
Born to a poor couple who were tenant farmers on a plantation in Mississippi, Anne Moody lived through some of the most dangerous days of the pre-civil rights era in the South. The week before she began high school came the news of Emmet Till’s lynching. Before then, she had “known the fear…


Book cover of Black Like Me

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?

Griffin’s account of his journey through the Deep South as a white man disguised to look Black, originally published in 1960, has stood the test of time because it reveals Griffin’s keen insight into a society riddled with racism. Griffin’s humanity shines through in his descriptions of his encounters with people of all races. He encounters ignorance, cruelty, and threats, but also kindness. His perspective from both sides of the color line reveals the desperate need for the change that would soon come during the Civil Rights movement.

By John Howard Griffin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

New edition with a foreword by Bernardine Evaristo


'A brutal record of segregated America ... essential reading' Guardian

'An anti-racist classic' Bernardine Evaristo

In the autumn of 1959, a white Texan journalist named John Howard Griffin travelled across the Deep South of the United States disguised as a working-class black man. Black Like Me is Griffin's own account of his journey.
Published in book form two years later it sold over five million copies, revealed to a white audience the daily experience of racism and became one of the best-known accounts of racial injustice in Jim Crow-era America. Embraced by…


Book cover of When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir

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?

Growing up in a community of color where police harassment and brutality is the norm, Khan-Cullors learns early in life about racial inequality. This point is reinforced when her father and her mentally ill brother cycle in and out of prison. She clearly and poignantly tells us how her hurt and outrage about the treatment of her family members expands into activism and co-founding the Black Lives Matter movement. Her struggles to build a loving, supportive community around her as she challenges racial violence and unequal justice show her enormous personal and political challenges. The message, she writes, of “building power and ensuring healing” teaches me how important it is to balance the two.

By Patrisse Khan-Cullors, Asha Bandele,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked When They Call You a Terrorist as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From one of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement comes a poetic memoir and reflection on humanity. Necessary and timely, Patrisse Cullors' story asks us to remember that protest in the interest of the most vulnerable comes from love. Leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement have been called terrorists, a threat to America. But in truth, they are loving women whose life experiences have led them to seek justice for those victimised by the powerful. In this meaningful, empowering account of survival, strength, and resilience, Patrisse Cullors and asha bandele seek to change the culture that declares…


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

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?

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.   

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…


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 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 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 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…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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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