The best books about the Montgomery bus boycott

Many authors have picked their favorite books about the Montgomery bus boycott and why they recommend each book.

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Freedom's Teacher

By Katherine Mellen Charron,

Book cover of Freedom's Teacher: The Life of Septima Clark

Freedom’s Teacher traces the lifelong activism of South Carolina-born Septima Poinsette Clark (1898-1987), a public school teacher who developed a citizenship training program that empowered African Americans to register for the vote and cast their ballots. I love this book because it highlights African American women’s essential, if often overlooked, role in the “long Civil Rights Movement.” For instance, Rosa Parks participated in one of Clark’s workshops shortly before launching the Montgomery Bus Boycott. In addition, Charron’s study calls attention to the importance of education as a tool for activism.


Who am I?

I have always been drawn to biographies. Individual stories make the past personal. Biographies also transcend the usual boundaries of time and topic, illuminating multiple issues across an individual’s entire life course. I’m especially interested in feminist biography—not just biographies of feminists, but biographies that combine the personal and the political, showing how individuals’ personal experiences and intimate relationships shaped their professional choices and political careers. I also enjoy group biographies, especially when they weave multiple stories together to illuminate many facets of shared themes. Ideally, a great biography will introduce a reader to an interesting individual (or group of people) whose story illuminates important themes in their lifetime.


I wrote...

Sophonisba Breckinridge: Championing Women's Activism in Modern America

By Anya Jabour,

Book cover of Sophonisba Breckinridge: Championing Women's Activism in Modern America

What is my book about?

Sophonisba Breckinridge's remarkable career stretched from the Civil War to the Cold War. She took part in virtually every reform campaign of the Progressive and New Deal eras and became a nationally and internationally renowned figure. After earning advanced degrees in politics, economics, and law, Breckinridge established the University of Chicago's School of Social Service Administration, which became a feminist think tank that promoted public welfare policy and propelled women into leadership positions.

In 1935, Breckinridge’s unremitting efforts to provide government aid to the dispossessed culminated in her appointment as an advisor on programs for the new Social Security Act. A longtime activist in international movements for peace and justice, Breckinridge also influenced the formation of the United Nations and advanced the idea that "women’s rights are human rights." Her lifelong commitment to social justice created a lasting legacy for generations of progressive activists.

To Stand and Fight

By Martha Biondi,

Book cover of To Stand and Fight: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Postwar New York City

Biondi does not just examine the little-known history of police brutality against black New Yorkers. It is a history of how black New Yorkers, over decades, challenged abuse at the hands of “New York’s finest.” The black challenge to police brutality has been fierce, especially as New York City’s black communities grew. But the anti-police brutality campaign has also been extremely difficult.

Who am I?

I am Professor Emeritus of History at Baruch College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.  I grew up in Brooklyn, New York during the turbulent decades of the 1950s and 1960s where there were numerous social protest movements against the War in Vietnam, school segregation, and police brutality.  My books explore the men and women who battled institutional racism.


I wrote...

Fight the Power: African Americans and the Long History of Police Brutality in New York City

By Clarence Taylor,

Book cover of Fight the Power: African Americans and the Long History of Police Brutality in New York City

What is my book about?

I maintain that those in power have not taken the initiative to stop police brutality. Instead, the victims of police brutality have embarked on a crusade to stop police domination of black people. Groups that have not received enough attention have led the campaign to end police abuse.

Fight the Power looks at the efforts of the black press, especially the Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Jr.’s the People’s Voice, in the struggle to end police brutality. I argue that at the heart of police brutality is the amount of power police have over citizens, thus, reform measures, such as racial sensitivity training, diversity training, body cameras, and community policing will not work. A sure way of eliminating police brutality is to reduce the power of the police and to find ways to allow citizens to determine how police operate in their communities

Bookshelves related to the Montgomery bus boycott