In honor of Guy Fawkes Day (in England), we’ve compiled a list of ten books about political protest. From The Gunpowder Plot to the March on Washington, the event surrounding Tiananmen Square to Martin Luther changing religion forever, these books will remind you why history class was so important. And, if for some reason you weren’t paying attention, they’ll give you a refresher course!
The well-known graphic novel that inspired this post was most recently turned into a film starring Natalie Portman in 2006, is loosely tied to The Gunpowder Plot, and follows V—an anarchist in a Guy Fawkes mask—who attempts to bring down his former captors, take down the government, and inspire people to govern themselves. The dystopian/post-apocalyptic society takes place in 1990s England after much of the world was destroyed by a nuclear war in the 1980s. This novel has had a huge impact on society—in which people now sometimes wear Guy Fawkes masks during protests. This epic adventure is definitely a must-read—especially for all you revenge lovers out there.
While this novel is not an obvious choice for “political protests”, Kundera’s philosophical love story does take place during the Prague Spring in 1968. Living in Czechoslovakia, the characters face many challenges due to the civil unrest. Tomas, for example, is fired from his post as a doctor for refusing to recant a letter to the editor he writes about the protests, comparing Czech Communists to Oedipus. Additionally, Tereza photographs the Soviet occupation of Prague and the cruelty during that time. While not a fast read, The Unbearable Lightness of Being will educate you on the Prague Spring—being that Kundera lived through it.
A history lesson American children learn very early in life, Rosa Parks was the brave woman who would not give up her seat on the bus during segregation in 1955. This then generated the Montgomery Bus Boycott which became an important symbol of the Civil Rights Movement. Rosa Parks: My Story was written by Parks in 1983 and does a great job of expressing what it was really like living during a time of such inequality. She has become a figure that we associate with civil rights, and to hear her talk candidly about it is truly a gift.
This book debuted in 1993 and made for great middle school reading material when it came to learning about the Revolutionary War. A fictional novel surrounding the events of the Boston Massacre, a riot between British soldiers and Boston civilians, follows the life of indentured servant Rachel Marsh and her relationship with a British soldier who is involved in the massacre. While fictional, it’s a great opportunity to get to know more about the people surrounding the events and how the interaction between British soldiers stationed in Boston and those who lived there might have been. Written by Ann Rinaldi, author of many other historical novels, it was well-researched and perfect for younger readers looking for a glance at what it would be like to be a young girl during this time.
Jones’ recent depiction of the Civil Rights Movement focuses on A. Philip Randolph who first called for a march on Washington in 1941. While the most remembered aspect of the March on Washington was the profound and moving speech Martin Luther King Jr. gave at the end of the day, Randolph also spoke and gave the opening speech. He spoke of ending segregation and giving an equal wage to all Americans. Randolph’s long-standing vision of economic and social citizenship for all people is one that is extremely important when looking at the March on Washington. It’s great to explore a different angle when looking at political events, and Jones does this very well.
The Boston Tea Party involved Bostonians (known as the Sons of Liberty) boarding three merchant ships and dumping over forty-six pounds of tea into the Boston Harbor to protest high tea taxes by the British government. Written by an American History professor at Tufts University, this is a great read for someone interested in learning about the start of the American Revolution. The novel contains many well-research, unknown facts and is a great find for history lovers.
England celebrates Guy Fawkes Day to commemorate the failed plan to blow up the House of Parliament and King James I in 1605. Seeking to introduce Catholicism back into England, a group of radicals placed thirty-six barrels of gunpowder under Westminster Abbey, but were discovered by authorities. Guy Fawkes, though not the leader, became the most famous due to his capture and revealing the names of his conspirators under torture. The book by Antonia Fraser details the events surrounding this event and reads like a transfixing detective novel. Be sure to check out this novel to discover why protesters now wear Guy Fawkes masks.
The events on June 4, 1989 forever changed the nation of China when People’s Liberation Army soldiers opened fire on Tiananmen Square—killing hundreds of people. Louisa Lim discusses how the events are buried in China’s modern history and reveals details about the days following it. A riveting read, Lim gives us a closer look at the lives of families affected by the events, including one of the country’s most senior politician’s loss of a family member. She reopens the discussion on what happened and how it has shaped China as a nation today.
One of the earliest documented protesters, Martin Luther—father of the Protestant Reformation—nailed his Ninety-Five Theses on the doors of Catholic Churches. Luther was against the Catholic church’s policy of paying for the forgiveness of sins and started a revolution throughout Europe. Anyone looking for more information on this historical figure will enjoy Bainton’s recount of his life.
Winning the Vote describes the Women’s Suffrage movement by using photographs, ballots, protest posters, and campaign buttons from that time as evidence of how women fought for the vote in the early 1900s. The book contains 78 profiles of men and women who fought for equal rights during that time. Finally “winning the vote” in 1920, Robert P.J. Cooney Jr.’s representation of how they got there is spectacular.