The most recommended books about the Montgomery bus boycott

Who picked these books? Meet our 4 experts.

4 authors created a book list connected to the Montgomery bus boycott, and here are their favorite Montgomery bus boycott books.
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Freedom's Teacher

By Katherine Mellen Charron,

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

Anya Jabour Author Of Sophonisba Breckinridge: Championing Women's Activism in Modern America

From the list on American women activists.

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.

Anya's book list on American women activists

Why did Anya love this book?

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.

By Katherine Mellen Charron,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Freedom's Teacher as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the mid-1950s, Septima Poinsette Clark (1898-1987), a former public school teacher, developed a citizenship training program that enabled thousands of African Americans to register to vote and then to link the power of the ballot to concrete strategies for individual and communal empowerment. In this vibrantly written biography, Katherine Charron demonstrates Clark's crucial role--and the role of many black women teachers--in making education a cornerstone of the twentieth-century freedom struggle. Using Clark's life as a lens, Charron sheds valuable new light on southern black women's activism in national, state, and judicial politics, from the Progressive Era to the civil…

The Race Beat

By Gene Roberts, Hank Klibanoff,

Book cover of The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation

Claudia Smith Brinson Author Of Stories of Struggle: The Clash over Civil Rights in South Carolina

From the 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

Why did Claudia love this book?

The Race Beat quickly turns to open conflict. White-owned media wake up to the atrocities of racism. (It was way past time to pay attention. Exploring that is among the reasons I appreciate the book.) What follows seem like war movies.

We learn just how hard it was to get the story, photograph, or film; get the story out; get yourself out. Journalists for the white-owned Northern press, black-owned press, and TV networks are assaulted by enraged mobs during the Montgomery bus boycott, Central High School’s desegregation in Little Rock, Arkansas; James Meredith’s enrollment at the University of Mississippi; and Freedom Rides into Anniston and Birmingham, Alabama.

They dodge attack dogs and fire hoses in Birmingham and club-wielding ”posse men” in Selma. They persist. They make a daily record. Without them, the movement would have been “a bird without wings,” said John Lewis, Freedom Rider (and later, US senator). 

By Gene Roberts, Hank Klibanoff,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An unprecedented examination of how news stories, editorials and photographs in the American press—and the journalists responsible for them—profoundly changed the nation’s thinking about civil rights in the South during the 1950s and ‘60s.

Roberts and Klibanoff draw on private correspondence, notes from secret meetings, unpublished articles, and interviews to show how a dedicated cadre of newsmen—black and white—revealed to a nation its most shameful shortcomings that compelled its citizens to act. Meticulously researched and vividly rendered, The Race Beat is an extraordinary account of one of the most calamitous periods in our nation’s history, as told by those who…

Jesus and the Disinherited

By Howard Thurman,

Book cover of Jesus and the Disinherited

Decoteau J. Irby Author Of Stuck Improving: Racial Equity and School Leadership

From the list on equity-focused school reform for educators.

Who am I?

Every teacher from pre-Kindergarten to higher education, who has experienced and understands what it means to be committed to equity and to practice transformation but still not see the kinds of outcomes expected, needed, or deserved among students of color. These students of color, particularly Black and Brown students, tend to be grossly underserved in and through the educational system. Decoteau Irby amplifies the humanity of those young people and situates them in the context of suburbia, an understudied place and space among Black and Brown communities. 

Decoteau's book list on equity-focused school reform for educators

Why did Decoteau love this book?

This book is a profound reflection on the relationship between Christianity and social justice.

Thurman argues that Jesus was himself a member of an oppressed minority and that his teachings were aimed at empowering the disenfranchised. He goes on to explore the ways in which the African American community can draw on the teachings of Jesus to find strength and hope in the face of systemic injustice.

One of the most striking aspects of the book is the way in which Thurman uses language; his writing is poetic and evocative, and he has a gift for articulating complex ideas in a way that is both accessible and profound. It's no wonder that this book was such an important influence on Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement as a whole.

By Howard Thurman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Famously known as the text that Martin Luther King Jr. sought inspiration from in the days leading up to the Montgomery bus boycott, Howard Thurman’s Jesus and the Disinherited helped shape the civil rights movement and changed our nation’s history forever.

In this classic theological treatise, the acclaimed theologian and religious leader Howard Thurman (1900-1981) demonstrates how the gospel may be read as a manual of resistance for the poor and disenfranchised. Jesus is a partner in the pain of the oppressed and the example of His life offers a solution to ending the descent into moral nihilism. Hatred does…

To Stand and Fight

By Martha Biondi,

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

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

From the list on race and policing.

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.

Clarence's book list on race and policing

Why did Clarence love this book?

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.

By Martha Biondi,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The story of the civil rights movement typically begins with the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955 and culminates with the 1965 voting rights struggle in Selma. But as Martha Biondi shows, a grassroots struggle for racial equality in the urban North began a full ten years before the rise of the movement in the South. This story is an essential first chapter, not only to the southern movement that followed, but to the riots that erupted in northern and western cities just as the civil rights movement was achieving major victories.

Biondi tells the story of African Americans who mobilized…