Posts Tagged civil rights

In Memory: John Lewis

“Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America.”
— John Lewis (1940-2020) 

We at Mixed-Up Files join citizens around the world in mourning the loss of civil rights icon, Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), who died on July 17, 2020 at the age of 80. He leaves behind a legacy that has inspired — and will continue to inspire — Americans and people around the world.

If you would like to teach the children in your life more about this inspiring American and his role in the civil rights movement and his long career as a politician serving the people of Georgia, here are some ways to do that:

March by John Lewis

March by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (Illustrator)
This powerful, three-book, graphic autobiography written by Lewis (and Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell) is Lewis’ first-hand account of his fight for civil and human rights and the American civil rights movement he was a part of.






John Lewis: Good Trouble | A Magnolia Pictures Film | Now In ...

John Lewis: Good Trouble directed by Dawn Porter (watch at home) 
This documentary weaves together interviews with John Lewis, his family, friends, and colleagues, and archival footage to paint a picture of Lewis’ life, his fight for social justice, and his long career as a U.S. representative.
(Rated PG.) 




Freedom Riders: John Lewis and Jim Zwerg on the Front Lines of the Civil Rights Movement by Ann Bausum  

Here, middle grade readers can learn about the childhoods of John Lewis and James Zwerg and the story of the Freedom Riders, civil rights activists who rode buses throughout the South in 1961 to test a Supreme Court decision that declared segregated facilities for interstate passengers illegal.








John Lewis in the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement by Benny Andrews and Kathleen Benson

Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis by Jabari Asim (author) and E. B. Lewis (illustrator)


Two biographies, one for middle-graders (John Lewis in the Lead) and a picture book for younger children (Preaching to the Chickens) teach kids more about Lewis and his life.

John Lewis: An Icon on the March (watch at home)
In 2014, journalist Gwen Ifill interviewed John Lewis at The Aspen Institute on a range of topics. The Institute explains, “On the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, witness a conversation with longtime congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis about his latest journey using graphic novels to move young people to embrace nonviolence. In the late 1950s, his own mentors, Rev. Jim Lawson and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., used a remarkable comic book to teach young people the fundamental principles of nonviolent social resistance. Now, following in their footsteps, Congressman Lewis has embarked on a nationwide campaign to use his award-winning graphic memoir series March to inspire a new generation to take up the fight against injustice in America.”



Celebrating Black History Month

Dr. Carter G._Woodson

“Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.”
~Dr. Mae Jemison, first African-American female astronaut

As we near the end of Black History Month, I hope everyone has been following the Brown Bookshelf, which spends every day in February posting about fabulous books by authors of color. What an awesome way to celebrate!

Another great way to celebrate the month with your children or students is to research the history of this month-long celebration. One of the first people to realize the need to honor black culture and history, Carter G. Woodson (1875–1950), along with the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASALH), came up with the idea of Negro History Week in 1926. They chose the second week of February because it fell between the birthdays of Frederick Douglass (1818–1895) and Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865).

Frederick Douglass
Credit: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [reproduction number, LC-USZ62-15887]

Fifty years later in 1976, the first presidential proclamation declared February as Black History Month. Every year, a theme is established to focus attention on an important historical topic central to the black experience. For 2020, ASALH chose the theme “African Americans and the Vote.” Their website provides additional information about the history of the month and the themes, and includes a downloadable pdf.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Fifteenth Amendment (1870), which gave black men the right to vote. Fifty years later, women received that right, so in 2020, we’re also recognizing the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment. Because both of these landmark celebrations occur this year, the emphasis on the right to vote is important. This month’s celebration also honors “the rise of black elected and appointed officials at the local and national levels, campaigns for equal rights legislation, as well as the role of blacks in traditional and alternative political parties,” according to the ASALH.

The Fifteenth Amendment and its results / drawn by G.F. Kahl
Credit: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-USZ62-90145

Some websites to explore with middle graders include:’s “Voting Rights Act of 1965”

Library of Congress’s primary source document: “15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution”

Pathways to Freedom

Rosa Parks: How I Fought for Civil Rights

Timeline of African American History

Top Ten African American Inventors

African American History Challenge

African American Inventors

Biographies of Great African Americans

Black History from A to Z

Black Inventors Online Museum


“Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.”

~Langston Hughes

I Have a Dream…

MLKToday we honor Martin Luther King Jr., a civil rights leader who encouraged people to use peaceful protests to fight injustice. Listen to one of his famous speeches, I Have a Dream. King dreamed of a world where all people could live in peace and harmony. To find out more about Dr. King, his beliefs, his speeches, and his life, check out at this selection of books.

King’s niece, Angela Farris Watkins, has written several books about her famous uncle. Using his speeches and beliefs, she provides information about his public and private life. Although these are picture books, the content is better suited for elementary school students.

LoveLove Will See You Through: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Six Guiding Beliefs

After describing each principle, Watkins gives an example of how King followed that principle in his own life.

Angela 2

My Uncle Martin’s Words for America: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Niece Tells How He Made a Difference

Watkins focuses on key words, such as justice, freedom, and equality, to tell the inspirational story of King’s civil rights efforts.

big heart

Uncle Martin’s Big Heart

In this heartwarming account of King and his family, Watkins shows her uncle’s caring spirit and her own love for him as she runs into his arms after church.March

King’s sister, Christine King Farris, has also written books about her brother, including March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World, an account of the 1963 March on Washington.

I amOther biographies for middle-grade readers include the I Am Martin Luther King, Jr. by Grace Norwich. Part of the I Am series, this book includes King’s words, interesting facts, maps, sidebars, and a timeline. A good introduction to King’s important contributions. Free

Free At Last: The Story of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Angela Bull details King’s life and contributions. This short book contains excellent pictures, comprehensive facts, and fact-filled sidebars.



Martin Luther King Jr. by Dona Herweck features informational text, good pictures, and a timeline of King’s life. Best for younger readers.

Nat Geo

National Geographic Readers: Martin Luther King, Jr. by Kitson Jazynka is a high-interest biography that explains King’s life and accomplishments in an easy-to-understand format. Colorful design and illustrations help hold reader interest.

CapstonespeechOne book contains King’s writing and speeches, and the other makes them accessible to middle grade readers.

For more great information on King, visit the King Center online or in Atlanta, Georgia. A booklist from the center includes suggested titles, which provide excellent reference materials for teachers, librarians, and parents who are planning programs or presentations.

Books by Martin Luther King, Jr.
Collections of Dr. King’s Writings & Speeches
Books about Martin Luther King, Jr. – Extended Citations
Books about Martin Luther King, Jr.
Books by Family Members
Books about The Civil Rights Movement
Books about Nonviolence