The most recommended Brown v. Board of Education books

Who picked these books? Meet our 13 experts.

13 authors created a book list connected to Brown v. Board of Education, and here are their favorite Brown v. Board of Education books.
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Book cover of Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America

David Schweickart Author Of After Capitalism

From my list on climate change and seeing it through new eyes.

Who am I?

I have a certain degree of scientific expertise deriving from the education leading to my Ph.D. in mathematics and a deep interest in ethical issues, which led to my pursuing a second Ph.D. in philosophy. I am passionate about the issue of climate change, because (among other reasons) I have four grandchildren who will be living in the new world that is being created now. As I often said to my students during my last few years of teaching, “You are living at the time when the most momentous event in human history is unfolding. Historians of the future—if there are any remaining—will write extensively about this period, about what happened and why, about what those of us alive today did or did not do.”

David's book list on climate change and seeing it through new eyes

David Schweickart Why did David love this book?

This is a brilliant book by a professor of history holding an endowed chair at Duke University, a scholar who took a year off from her academic duties to tour the country, giving talks about this book. It is the other book that has most affected me since the publication of my last book, After Capitalism. It’s a very readable scholarly study, not explicitly focused on climate change, but which explains more compellingly than any other book I’ve read, as to why, given what we know about the causes of, and solutions to, climate change, we are not doing what needs to be done. This book goes well beyond my own long-held belief that we don’t really live in a democracy, focusing on specific elements I’d never thought about, but which are causally implicated in so much of the systemic disfunction that we observe today in our political and economic…

By Nancy MacLean,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the Lillian Smith Book Award
Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize
Finalist for the National Book Award
The Nation's "Most Valuable Book"

"[A] vibrant intellectual history of the radical right."-The Atlantic

"This sixty-year campaign to make libertarianism mainstream and eventually take the government itself is at the heart of Democracy in Chains. . . . If you're worried about what all this means for America's future, you should be."-NPR

An explosive expose of the right's relentless campaign to eliminate unions, suppress voting, privatize public education, stop action on climate change, and alter the Constitution.

Behind today's…

Book cover of Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary

Ian Zack Author Of Odetta: A Life in Music and Protest

From my list on understanding Black history.

Who am I?

Ian Zack is a New York-based journalist who has written two critically acclaimed biographies. The subjects of both his books—Say No to the Devil: The Life and Musical Genius of Rev. Gary Davis and Odetta: A Life in Music and Protest—began their lives in the Jim Crow South before venturing North and making their voices heard.

Ian's book list on understanding Black history

Ian Zack Why did Ian love this book?

Before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, there was Thurgood Marshall. As a young lawyer and head of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund, Marshall spearheaded the civil rights organization’s slow but steady legal course in challenging and defeating segregation in the courts. Risking his life to represent black plaintiffs in the South and slowly building the legal precedents that led to Brown vs. Board of Education, Marshall had a profound effect on the course of history. This excellent biography takes you there.

By Juan Williams,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK • The definitive biography of the great lawyer and Supreme Court justice, from the bestselling author of Eyes on the Prize
“Magisterial . . . in Williams’ richly detailed portrait, Marshall emerges as a born rebel.”—Jack E. White, Time
Thurgood Marshall was the twentieth century’s great architect of American race relations. His victory in the Brown v. Board of Education decision, the landmark Supreme Court case outlawing school segregation in the United States, would have made him a historic figure even if he had never been appointed as the first African-American to serve on…

Book cover of Unceasing Militant: The Life of Mary Church Terrell

Elisabeth Griffith Author Of Formidable: American Women and the Fight for Equality: 1920-2020

From my list on formidable Black women, whose lives mattered.

Who am I?

As an academic, activist, author, and a student of American women’s history, I’m passionate about recognizing the contributions of diverse American women. I graduated from Wellesley College, on the cusp of the 1970s women’s movement. My doctoral dissertation, a biography of suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, in Her Own Right, hailed by both Oprah and the Wall Street Journal, was the basis of Ken Burns’ documentary, Not for Ourselves Alone. My career centered on women: working to advance women’s rights, writing and teaching women’s history, and leading a girls’ school. As a cisgender white woman, I’m a member of the Society of American Historians and Veteran Feminists of America. 

Elisabeth's book list on formidable Black women, whose lives mattered

Elisabeth Griffith Why did Elisabeth love this book?

This pathbreaking work is the first in-depth biography of Terrell (1863-1954). It challenges common stereotypes about Black women and identifies common ground among women who struggle to balance work and family. Mary Church, born during the Civil War, had two white grandfathers, who impregnated enslaved women and then allowed their offspring to marry. After Emancipation, Molly’s father became a wealthy Memphis land developer, which allowed her to attend Oberlin, earn a master’s degree, and travel in Europe. She married a graduate of Harvard and Howard Law, whom Theodore Roosevelt named the first Black justice of the peace in Washington, DC. She did not allow her distrust of Susan B. Anthony to derail her fight for Black voting rights, before and after the Nineteenth Amendment passed. A founder and the first president of the National Association of Colored Women in 1896, Terrell used her lace and pearls and Republican connections…

By Alison M. Parker,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Unceasing Militant as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Born into slavery during the Civil War, Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954) would become one of the most prominent activists of her time, with a career bridging the late nineteenth century to the civil rights movement of the 1950s. The first president of the National Association of Colored Women and a founding member of the NAACP, Terrell collaborated closely with the likes of Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells, and W. E. B. Du Bois. Unceasing Militant is the first full-length biography of Terrell, bringing her vibrant voice and personality to life. Though most accounts of Terrell focus almost exclusively on her…

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 The South Strikes Back

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?

While many books are written after the event or events contained in the book, this book is contemporary to the events it relates to. In this case the birth and growth of the Citizens Councils in the Deep South in the mid-1950s. 

The author and then managing editor of the Greenville Democratic Times sets out, in a clear and readily understood way, the mood of the day among the white-collar political and business classes in the months and years immediately following the Brown v Board of Education decision.

It’s a worthy read and a touchstone of the rising political temperatures of those times.  

By Hodding Carter,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The South Strikes Back as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In The South Strikes Back, Hodding Carter III describes the birth of the white Citizens' Council in the Mississippi Delta and its spread throughout the South. Carter begins with a brief historical overview and traces the formation of the Council, its treatment of African Americans, and its impact on white communities, concluding with an analysis of the Council's future in Mississippi.

Through economic boycott, social pressure, and political influence, the Citizens' Council was able to subdue its opponents and dominate the communities in which it operated. Carter considers trends working against the Council-the federal government's efforts to improve voting rights…

Book cover of The Nuremberg Legacy: How the Nazi War Crimes Trials Changed the Course of History

Judith Armatta Author Of Twilight of Impunity: The War Crimes Trial of Slobodan Milosevic

From my list on war crimes trials and international justice.

Who am I?

I am a tired activist and recovering attorney. My professional focus on violence and humanity’s response to it began when, as a seven-year-old, the nuns at my Catholic school showed us newsreels of the liberation of Nazi concentration camps. This led me to adopt as my life’s guiding principle Julian Beck’s admonition “to redeem our share of the universal cruelty.” After 20 years in the U.S. Violence Against Women Movement, I absconded to the former Yugoslavia and found myself in the middle of a war during which I ran a war crimes documentation project (memoir in progress). I later reported on the international war crimes trial of Slobodan Milosevic.

Judith's book list on war crimes trials and international justice

Judith Armatta Why did Judith love this book?

I found Ehrenfreund’s book compelling because he applied his legal expertise as a lawyer and judge to what he personally witnessed at the trial. His research included numerous conversations with Germans who lived through the Nazi regime. I also valued his insights as they were informed by his personal journey to learn his grandfather’s fate many years after he disappeared into the Holocaust. While Ehrenfreund reveals how U.S. law heavily influenced the law applied at Nuremberg, I found his analysis of the trial’s subsequent influence on U.S. law revealing. For example, Justice Robert Jackson, chief prosecutor at Nuremberg and U.S. Supreme Court Justice, was impacted by the racial hatred that underlies the crimes of the Holocaust in Brown v. Board of Education, The U.S. Court’s school desegregation decision.

By Norbert Ehrenfreund,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Sixty years have passed since the Nuremberg trials of the major Nazi war criminals, but that event still stands as the foundation of international justice. Nuremberg not only ignited a revolution in international law but affected domestic law as well with its simple but profound principle that every individual accused of crime is entitled to a full and fair hearing. This book reveals how the precedents set at Nuremberg have affected human rights, race relations, medical practice, big business and even Germany's post-war development. It also examines the Nuremberg trials' influence on the modern war crimes trials of tyrants like…

Book cover of In Search of the Racial Frontier: African Americans in the American West 1528-1990

Charlotte Hinger Author Of Nicodemus

From my list on African Americans in the West after the Civil War.

Who am I?

I’m a multi-award-winning novelist and Kansas historian. Through reading letters written by African Americans in Kansas, I realized that black people were a major political force. In fact, with the settlement of Nicodemus, for the first time in American history, enough black people had gathered in one place to dominate political decisions and prevail over the white community. No one had told the story of the three black powerhouses who shaped politics on a county, state, and national level. I was thrilled when University of Oklahoma Press published my academic book. It won second place in the Westerner’s International Best Book contest.

Charlotte's book list on African Americans in the West after the Civil War

Charlotte Hinger Why did Charlotte love this book?

The scope of Racial Frontier is enormous. I was impressed with the timeline (1528-1990) and Taylor’s analysis of the relationships of black people with American Indians and immigrants from various regions. There’s an excellent chapter on black towns in the west. The book explores racial prejudices and challenges and triumphs in urban cultures. Racial Frontier broadened my understanding of the perilous journey of black people beyond Kansas to California and states in between. Not all were interested in owning land and Taylor provides a comprehensive overview of African Americans in occupations requiring specialized skills. 

By Quintard Taylor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In Search of the Racial Frontier as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A landmark history of African Americans in the West, In Search of the Racial Frontier rescues the collective American consciousness from thinking solely of European pioneers when considering the exploration, settling, and conquest of the territory west of the Mississippi. From its surprising discussions of groups of African American wholly absorbed into Native American culture to illustrating how the largely forgotten role of blacks in the West helped contribute to everything from the Brown vs. Board of Education desegregation ruling to the rise of the Black Panther Party, Quintard Taylor fills a major void in American history and reminds us…

Book cover of Justice for All: Earl Warren and the Nation He Made

Cliff Sloan Author Of The Court at War: FDR, His Justices, and the World They Made

From my list on understanding the Supreme Court.

Who am I?

I have been fortunate to have had many Supreme Court experiences–seven arguments, a clerkship for Justice John Paul Stevens, head of Justice Stephen Breyer’s confirmation team, two books on the Court, analysis for the media, and my current Georgetown Law School position teaching constitutional law. I love to read about the Supreme Court and write and talk about the Court and its Justices. The vivid sagas that underlie the Justices and their cases help us to understand this powerful institution about which we know less than our other branches. It has never been more important to understand the Supreme Court and its role in American life and our constitutional democracy.

Cliff's book list on understanding the Supreme Court

Cliff Sloan Why did Cliff love this book?

Earl Warren was one of our most consequential Chief Justices.

Serving from 1953 to 1969, he led the way on many country-changing decisions. He deftly forged the Court’s unanimous opinion in Brown v. Board of Education and oversaw other landmark cases, establishing one-person, one-vote for our democracy; banning prayer in public schools; and presiding over a criminal justice revolution, including the famous Miranda decision that gave us warnings that every American knows by heart.

Jim Newton’s lively biography is indispensable in understanding these momentous developments, as well as the intriguing character of Warren, who also served as California’s Governor and the Republican Vice-Presidential nominee in 1948.

Perhaps more than any other Justice, Warren launched the modern era of our jurisprudence.

By Jim Newton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An account of the career of the former chief justice and chairman of the Warren Commission draws on previously unavailable government documents and new interviews to evaluate his integral roles in the evolutions of defining political moments from the past half century, from school desegregation to the support of Japanese Americans interred during World War II. 40,000 first printing.

Book cover of The Strange Career of Jim Crow

Eric Nellis Author Of Shaping the New World: African Slavery in the Americas, 1500-1888

From my list on African slavery in the Americas.

Who am I?

I taught American, European, and World History at the University of British Columbia for over 30 years. I was constantly reminded of the dynamics and consequences of slavery and how a history of black America should be more prevalent in understanding the development of American culture, institutions, and identity over time. In writing two books on colonial America and the American Revolution, the roots of America’s racial divide became clearer and the logic of permanence seemed irresistible. My Shaping the New World was inspired by a course I taught for years on slavery in the Americas. Compiling the bibliography and writing the chapters on slave women and families helped to refine my understanding of the “peculiar institution” in all its both common and varied characteristics throughout the Americas.

Eric's book list on African slavery in the Americas

Eric Nellis Why did Eric love this book?

This succinct and persuasive study of the profound failure to integrate the freed slave population in the U.S. after 1865 is a rare example of a scholarly work’s direct influence on governments and the process of reform.  The author’s premise and analysis is that popular and local official antipathy to emancipation led to enforced, violent segregation (Jim Crow) that was constitutionally affirmed in the 1896 Plessy case.  The book’s three editions follow the history of civil rights reform from the 1950s to the 1970s and the Supreme Court’s gradual dismantling of the Plessy rule. While Jim Crow law has been overturned, versions of real-life Jim Crow conditions remain.

By C. Vann Woodward,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Strange Career of Jim Crow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Strange Career offers a clear and illuminating analysis of the history of Jim Crow laws and American race relations. This book presented evidence that segregation in the South dated only to the 1880s. It's publication in 1955, a year after the Supreme Court ordered schools be desegregated, helped counter arguments that the ruling would destoy a centuries-old way of life. The commemorative edition includes a special afterword by William S. McFeely, former
Woodward student and winner of both the 1982 Pulitzer Prize and 1992 Lincoln Prize. As William McFeely describes in the new afterword, 'the slim volume's social consequence far…