The most recommended books on SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee)

Who picked these books? Meet our 6 experts.

6 authors created a book list connected to SNCC, and here are their favorite SNCC books.
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By John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell (illustrator)

Book cover of March: Book Three

Robert H. Mayer Author Of In the Name of Emmett Till: How the Children of the Mississippi Freedom Struggle Showed Us Tomorrow

From the list on history that engage and even excite young readers.

Who am I?

First a memory from my twelve years as a high school teacher: One day one of my ninth-grade history students remarked, “You are a nice guy Mr. Mayer. You can’t help it if you teach a boring subject.” That comment energized me, pushing me to show my students just how exciting the discipline of history was. I wanted my students to come to know historical actors, to hear their voices, and to feel their humanity. I then took that same project into my twenty-nine years as a teacher educator and finally into my life as a writer of historical non-fiction for young people. 

Robert's book list on history that engage and even excite young readers

Why did Robert love this book?

I had the honor of meeting John Lewis and introducing him when he spoke at the college where I taught.

You can have no better guide to the civil rights movement than the saintly John Lewis. And Lewis’ insider’s look is conveyed as a graphic novel. The images enhance the drama introduced through narration and dialogue. (I was excited to see depictions of places I had visited from my travels in the South.)

March Three begins with the bombing of Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, includes a discussion of the Mississippi movement, and concludes with a powerful telling of the event Lewis is best known for, the Selma voting rights campaign. You can broaden what you learn from March Three by also reading Books One and Two.

By John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

2016 National Book Award Winner for Young People's Literature2017 Printz Award Winner2017 Coretta Scott King Author Award Winner2017 Sibert Medal Winner2017 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction Winner2017 Walter Award Winner
"One of the Best Books of 2016" - Publishers Weekly
Welcome to the stunning conclusion of the award-winning and best-selling MARCH trilogy. Congressman John Lewis, an American icon and one ofthe key figures of the civil rights movement, joins co-writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell to bring the lessons of history to vivid life for a new generation, urgently relevant for today's world.
By the fall of 1963,…

Radical Vision

By Soyica Diggs Colbert,

Book cover of Radical Vision: A Biography of Lorraine Hansberry

Jonathan Shandell Author Of The American Negro Theatre and the Long Civil Rights Era

From the list on Black culture and history in the Civil Rights era.

Who am I?

I am a theater historian whose research focuses on African American theater of 1940s-50s. While other periods and movements—the Harlem Renaissance (1920s), the Federal Theatre Project (1930s), the Black Arts Movement (1960s), and contemporary theater—have been well studied and documented, I saw a gap of scholarship around the 1940s-50s; I wondered why those years had been largely overlooked. As I dived deeper, I saw how African American performance culture (ie. theater, film, television, music) of the later-20th Century had its roots in the history of those somewhat overlooked decades. I’m still investigating that story, and these books have helped me do it.

Jonathan's book list on Black culture and history in the Civil Rights era

Why did Jonathan love this book?

I’ve taught Lorraine Hansberry’s landmark 1959 play A Raisin in the Sun many times in my university courses. That play transformed African American theater in the Civil Rights era and marked a phenomenal debut for its 29-year-old writer. In her too-short life (she died a few years later from pancreatic cancer), Hansberry built an extraordinary life as a writer, intellectual, and political activist. This biography tells that rich, remarkable story.

By Soyica Diggs Colbert,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A "loving, lavishly detailed" (New York Times) and captivating portrait of Lorraine Hansberry's life, art, and political activism-one of O Magazine's best books of April 2021

"A devoted and deeply felt account of the development of an artist's mind."-Dave Itzkoff, New York Times Book Review (2021 Summer Reading issue)

In this acclaimed biography of Lorraine Hansberry, Soyica Diggs Colbert narrates a life at the intersection of art and politics, arguing that for Hansberry the theater operated as a rehearsal room for her political and intellectual work. Celebrated for her play A Raisin in the Sun, Hansberry was also the author…

Hands on the Freedom Plow

By Faith S. Holsaert (editor), Martha Prescod Norman Noonan (editor), Judy Richardson (editor), Betty Garman Robinson (editor), Jean Smith Young (editor), Dorothy M. Zellner (editor)

Book cover of Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC

Paul Lauter Author Of Our Sixties: An Activist's History

From the list on how we made change in the 1960's.

Who am I?

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

Why did Paul love this book?

Fifty-five stories of dedication, terror, rage, and faith make up Hands on the Freedom Plow. These narratives by women, black and white, describe their devotion to the activist Civil Rights work of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, SNCC—“snick.” I found myself powerfully drawn to accounts with which I was familiar—door-to-door organizing, singing meetings in the hot Mississippi summer, police and Klan assaults, jail time, but above all the solidarity of women (and men) fervent about the cause of achieving “freedom now.” Brief historical overviews of legendary 60s campaigns knit these accounts, as do the short bios that trace the enduring work—as singers, lawyers, preachers, organizers—of these women over the past 50 years.   

By Faith S. Holsaert (editor), Martha Prescod Norman Noonan (editor), Judy Richardson (editor), Betty Garman Robinson (editor), Jean Smith Young (editor), Dorothy M. Zellner (editor)

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Hands on the Freedom Plow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Hands on the Freedom Plow, fifty-two women--northern and southern, young and old, urban and rural, black, white, and Latina--share their courageous personal stories of working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement. The testimonies gathered here present a sweeping personal history of SNCC: early sit-ins, voter registration campaigns, and freedom rides; the 1963 March on Washington, the Mississippi Freedom Summer, and the movements in Alabama and Maryland; and Black Power and antiwar activism. Since the women spent time in the Deep South, many also describe risking their lives through beatings…

Freshwater Road

By Denise Nicholas,

Book cover of Freshwater Road

Rob Bauer Author Of Theodora

From the list on historical fiction featuring women who aren’t queens.

Who am I?

I have a PhD in history and used to be a college professor. I decided to write historical fiction novels so that I could reach a larger audience than college students and share incredible stories from history with more people. The reason I created this list of books about women is because the farther back in history we look, the more invisible women seem to become. That’s why I wanted to tell Theodora’s story—it’s an amazing tale, first, but it also allowed me to share how different conditions were for women in the past. The other books I’ve recommended do the same.

Rob's book list on historical fiction featuring women who aren’t queens

Why did Rob love this book?

The setting of the book was a huge draw for me—1960s Mississippi. Celeste is a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and she goes to rural Mississippi in 1964 to take part in Freedom Summer, a major event of the Civil Rights Movement.

I enjoyed this because, for all its drama, heroism, and moral righteousness, the Civil Rights Movement doesn’t get a lot of attention in historical fiction. I feel like it should.

Readers will be drawn in by the all-encompassing scope of segregation in 1960s Mississippi. Add in some characters with secrets, some people who unexpectedly rise to the occasion, and the overall climate of fear that pervaded Mississippi at the time, and you’ll enjoy this book if you care about civil rights at all.

By Denise Nicholas,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The critically acclaimed debut novel from pioneering actress and writer Denise Nicholas tells the story of one young woman's coming of age via the political and social upheavals of the civil rights movement. Nineteen-year-old Celeste Tyree leaves Ann Arbor to go to Pineyville, Mississippi, in the summer of 1964 to help found a voter registration project as part of Freedom Summer. As the summer unfolds, she confronts not only the political realities of race and poverty in this tiny town, but also deep truths about her family and herself. Drawing on Nicholas' own involvement in the movement, Freshwater Road was…