11 books directly related to racial segregation 📚

All 11 racial segregation books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

Cycle of Segregation: Social Processes and Residential Stratification

By Maria Krysan, Kyle Crowder,

Book cover of Cycle of Segregation: Social Processes and Residential Stratification

Why this book?

In The Cycle of Segregation offer a major breakthrough in our understanding of the roots of residential segregation in U.S. society today. Their social-structural sorting perspective elegantly and convincingly explains how black and Hispanic segregation can persist even as minority incomes rise and discrimination and prejudice in housing markets decline.

Let the Children March

By Monica Clark-Robinson, Frank Morrison (illustrator),

Book cover of Let the Children March

Why this book?

Beautifully written and illustrated, this book portrays the story and the outcome of thousands of African American children who volunteered to march for their civil rights after hearing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak. I think it will be inspiring to children to find out that kids their own age were so brave and were able to make a significant impact on our history.

Buried in the Bitter Waters: The Hidden History of Racial Cleansing in America

By Elliot Jaspin,

Book cover of Buried in the Bitter Waters: The Hidden History of Racial Cleansing in America

Why this book?

Here is a book about history that is horrific, often referenced, and not as fully understood as it should be. It’s about entire towns erased from existence or whole segments of a population violently displaced in one night. Full of terrifying tales, the author began looking into the subject thinking there’d be several historical incidents and instead found too many to include in the book. It is a harrowing accounting of racial cleansing right here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. and a potent reminder of how this country operated well into the twentieth century. Again, this sort of thing is good background to inform my character’s current attitude and makes for ripe pickings in flashbacks or background stories.

The Quickest Kid in Clarksville

By Pat Zietlow Miller, Frank Morrison (illustrator),

Book cover of The Quickest Kid in Clarksville

Why this book?

This is another book about Wilma Rudolph, but this one focuses on how Wilma inspired two young girls in Clarksville, Tennessee, Wilma’s birthplace. Alta is The Quickest Kid in Clarksville, but worries about Charmaine, the new girl with brand-new, “stripes down the sides” shoes. The author’s writing is fast-paced with a rhythm to it, perfect for a running book about winning, losing, and friendship. Yes, friendship, as when Wilma Rudolph arrives for a parade to celebrate her Olympic wins, the girls finally agree to carry Alta's big banner to the parade in a relay race like Wilma won at the Olympics.

The South Strikes Back

By Hodding Carter,

Book cover of The South Strikes Back

Why 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.  

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America

By Richard Rothstein,

Book cover of The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America

Why this book?

When I was trying to figure out how the city of Charlotte became segregated, this book was a godsend. Rothstein explodes the myth that segregation in America grew primarily from individual choices, such as White people fleeing a neighborhood when a Black family moved in. He shows how local, state, and federal governments passed laws and made policies that created the housing and school segregation that much of the nation lives with today.  

Making Whiteness: The Culture of Segregation in the South, 1890-1940

By Grace Elizabeth Hale,

Book cover of Making Whiteness: The Culture of Segregation in the South, 1890-1940

Why this book?

In this academic work, Hale explores what she terms as “spectacle lynchings” and the shift from private to public violence. Hale considers how newspapers, photographs, and radio broadcasts brought news of these brutal scenes to an audience of tens of thousands. Through her careful examination, Hale lays out how the media shaped a national narrative that is relevant for both understanding conversations about racial violence and for considering how mass media shapes our current perspectives.

The Highest Tribute: Thurgood Marshall's Life, Leadership, and Legacy

By Kekla Magoon, Laura Freeman (illustrator),

Book cover of The Highest Tribute: Thurgood Marshall's Life, Leadership, and Legacy

Why this book?

The through-line in this picture book biography is Thurgood Marshall's quest for change, which the author says started early in his life. Marshall grew up in Baltimore under segregation. His parents wanted greater opportunities for their children. Marshall pushed against racial boundaries in college and beyond. As a young lawyer he won an early court order desegregating a school, and went on to argue a series of landmark desegregation cases before the Supreme Court. After becoming the first Black U.S. Supreme Court Justice, he continued to push for change by persuading his colleagues on the bench. This book highlights the Court's ability to make change and honors a trailblazing man who left a lasting legacy. Helpful back matter includes a timeline and list of important Supreme Court cases.

The Strange Career of Jim Crow

By C. Vann Woodward,

Book cover of The Strange Career of Jim Crow

Why 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.

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice

By Phillip Hoose,

Book cover of Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice

Why this book?

Claudette Colvin best summarized making good trouble when she said, “When it comes to justice, there is no easy way to get it. You can’t sugarcoat it. You have to take a stand and say, ‘This is not right.’” In this beautiful book, Philip Hoose shines a light on the extraordinary, but little-known teenager, Claudette Colvin, who sparked the historic bus boycott, even before Rosa Parks. Through Colvin’s own words, Hoose brings to life the segregated world in Montgomery, Alabama in the 1950s. I picked this book so that readers will learn that many who change the world receive little recognition.

Motor City Green: A Century of Landscapes and Environmentalism in Detroit

By Joseph Stanhope Cialdella,

Book cover of Motor City Green: A Century of Landscapes and Environmentalism in Detroit

Why this book?

Nature takes on different meanings in the landscape of the post-industrial city. On a city block in the middle of a shrinking city, the return of green space can signify abandonment, disinvestment, and decay instead of healing, flourishing, or balance. Cialdella brings much needed nuance and historical context to the place of nature in postindustrial Detroit, providing a wider range of stories about the ways in which gardens and green, from the wide expanse of Belle Isle to urban potato patches and backyard sunflowers, have helped connect communities to the city and each other. Nature in the city doesn’t replace people; it helps them flourish.