11 Books About Civil Rights Heroes You’ve Never Heard Of

July 2nd, 2021 marks the 57th anniversary since Lyndon B. Johnson signed the famous Civil Rights Act of 1964. When you think of the Civil Rights movement that swept the nation, names such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X come to mind as the pivotal leaders who worked to bring about change. But in the mighty shadow cast by Dr. King stand numerous others who contributed. Though Dr. King took arguably the most publicized action to see his dream through, it was one that many shared and contributed to. And their stories are brought to light for you to appreciate on this July 2nd. Here are 11 books either written by or about civil rights leaders you haven’t heard of until now.

 

 

Pauli Murray | Proud Shoes (Black Women Writer’s Series)

 

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She not only proved decisive in the famous case of Brown vs Board of Education through her writings, she also cofounded the National Organization for Women. Despite such achievements, it would be years later that she was recognized for her spectacular contributions to the progress of the Civil Rights Movement, according to an article by Hadley Meares on History.com.

In her book, Proud Shoes, Murray puts forth the life stories of her grandparents, who lived as slaves in the time before the Civil War. The book demonstrates the hardships caused by the institution, as well as glimpses of hope, namely through the marriage that took place between a black man and a white woman in 1840!

 

 

Mamie Till Mobley | Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime That Changed America

 

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Considering the resurgent rise of hate crime in today’s age, this haunting book by activist Mamie Till Mobley is more relevant than ever. The book revolves around the heinous killing of her son Emmett Louis Till for “allegedly offending a cashier,” according to Wikipedia. He was only fourteen when the incident occurred. In the name of preserving the memory of her son and spreading word of the threat that hate crime imposes, she wrote Death of Innocence.

 

 

Claudette Clovin | Forgotten Mother of the Civil Rights Movement

 

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Just as with every major historical wave of change, there are the people at the forefront and those who, for whatever reason, were overshadowed despite being equally significant. One such woman was Claudette Clovin, who preceded Rosa Parks and her famous refusal to give up her seat by nine months, according to an NPR article by Margot Adler.

By the power of books, she can be remembered and appreciated for the pivotal role she played in the changing of the nation.

 

 

Bayard Rustin | Time on Two Crosses: The Collected Writings of Bayard Rustin

 

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He fought for change on two fronts: Civil Rights and LGBTQ+ Rights. Being one of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s mentors and allies, he taught him the ways of nonviolent activism, which determined the atmosphere of change for the Civil Rights Movement.

Considering how influential Bayard Rustin was toward bringing about change and affecting those who prompted such change, his writings are certain to contain a store of valuable information that will aid the continuation of the Civil Rights Movement and the fight against hate that our country is currently in the midst of.

 

Fannie Lou Hamer | America’s Freedom Fighting Woman (Library of African American Biography)

 

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She literally moved the nation through her speech to the Democratic National Conventions and induced panic in the heart of President Lyndon B. Johnson, ultimately leading to the signing of the Civil Rights Act. In this account of her life, you can witness the circumstances that led to the formation of such a major figure of the Civil Rights Movement.

 

 

Dorothy Height | Open Wide The Freedom Gates: A Memoir

 

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Though the Civil Rights Movement succeeded at ensuring the national aim of equality, it was by no means a movement of total perfection. Dorothy Height’s services to the cause and her relative lack of credit demonstrates how she was indirectly left out of the big picture portrait of the time of change due to her sex and other factors.

In her memoir, you will get to see the Civil Rights Movement through a once lost perspective, giving new insights from someone who, despite being unknown for so long, was in the middle of the action the whole time.

 

 

Charles Hamilton Houston | Groundwork: Charles Hamilton And The Struggle For Civil Rights

 

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As the title of his biography by Genna Rae McNeil suggests, Charles Hamilton Houston created the tough bedrock on which the Civil Rights Movement was built. Undeterred by the American Bar Association’s denial of his admission, he went and started his own called the National Bar Association, according to Wikipedia. Throughout his life, Houston would be responsible for equipping figures such as Thurgood Marshall with the intellectual and legal munitions to take on the Jim Crow segregation laws. In Groundwork, you will get a closer look at the man who sparked the flame that so many carried to victory on July 2nd, 1964.

 

 

Jo Ann Robinson | Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It: The Memoir of Jo Ann Robinson

 

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We’ve all heard of the famous bus boycotts that happened in the heat of the Civil Rights Movement, but have you heard of the person responsible for initially organizing it? Jo Ann Robinson, after being verbally abused and driven off a bus by the white driver, set her sights on galvanizing the African American community within Montgomery to boycott bus transport. Her success caught the attention of none other than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. whose association assumed responsibility for organizing other boycotts, according to Biography.com.

What better way to learn about the Civil Rights Movement than to absorb the writing of one of its catalyzing women?

 

 

Asa PhilLip Randolph | Reframing Randolph: Labor, Black Freedom, and the Legacies of A. PhiLlip Randolph

 

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He rose to national fame during the 1960s for starting the first labor union for African Americans, before descending into the abyss of time. However, with this book in hand, Asa Phillip Randolph’s legacy may continue to be heralded and the benefits from his hard work and persistence reaped by new generations.

 

 

Ella Baker | Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision (Gender and American Culture)

 

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She was just as vital to the Civil Rights Movement as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. but is barely recognized to this day despite her contributions and achievements, according to Time Magazine. The biography by Barbara Ransby provides an inside look at the mastermind who helped to organize the movement from the shadows.

 

 

Amelia Boynton Robinson | Tuskegee, by Dr. Amalia K. Amaki and Amelia Boynton Robinson

 

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Cowritten by activist Amelia Boynton, this book describes the place and the school that gave hope to African Americans seeking secondary education before the signing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. Its pages reveal how Tuskegee served as the place where the tides gathered for the Civil Rights Movement and the battleground for the landmark court cases that would change history.

 

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