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Black Lives Matter: A Reading List for Young Adults

As the Black Lives Matter movement grows in the wake of ongoing racial injustice and police brutality against black Americans, it can be difficult to understand current events. The books on this list offer a starting place for exploring racism, prejudice, discrimination, and inequity in a manner accessible to teens and young adults.

  • From #blacklivesmatter to black liberation

    2016 by Taylor, Keeanga-Yamahtta

    With a strong voice, this book analyses the Black Lives Matter movement in the larger struggle for racial justice and social equality. An important primer for budding activists wanting to get involved in the movement.

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  • All American Boys

    2015 by Jason Reynolds

    After a misunderstanding in a convenience store, a young black man is horrifically beaten up by a police officer and one of the only witnesses is a white classmate, who also happens to know the police officer well. This dramatic, fast-paced story, told from the perspective of the victim and the bystander, illustrates a variety of issues confronted by young people in today's society.

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  • Understanding Mass Incarceration : a people's guide to the key civil rights struggle of our time

    2015 by James William Kilgore

    How did the criminal justice system get to where it is now-- where people of color, immigrants, and transgender individuals are so disproportionately imprisoned? This book lays out the roadmap that got us to where we are and offers directions for where we might go to correct these injustices.

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  • March

    2013 by John Lewis

    This vivid graphic novel chronicles the story of Georgia Congressman John Lewis' political awakening as a young man, through his participation and leadership in the Civil Rights Movement. The book highlights the nonviolent processes that directed the public eye to the injustices faced by the black community and drove social change through the eyes of a true American hero. The first two books of the planned trilogy are already on the shelves-- look out for the final volume soon.

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  • What Are My Rights? : Q&A about teens and the law

    2011 by Thomas A Jacobs

    Even as a young person, you have rights. It's important to educate yourself about your rights before you find yourself in a situation where you may have to call on them. This book is a good primer to navigating issues that many young people may face.

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  • Let nobody turn us around : voices of resistance, reform, and renewal : an African American anthology

    2000 by Manning Marable, Leith Mullings

    A treasure trove of primary sources and historical writings and that span three centuries of the African American struggle for social justice. If you are looking for a starting place to understand the larger context of racial inequality and societal power structures, this book is it.

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  • How It Went Down

    2014 by Kekla Magoon

    When a young black teenager is shot and killed by a white man, a community comes together to process the events that led to the shooting. The reader is introduced to a broad cast of characters who all bring their own perspectives and biases to the table and a picture emerges of a complex young man who is forced to be defined by the eyes of everyone around him.

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  • Hush

    2002 by Jacqueline Woodson

    After her father testifies against fellow police officers in the shooting of a young black man, Toswiah Green's family is whisked away through the witness protection program to start a new life. The family struggles with their new identities and the violence that plagues their past.

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  • Monster

    1999 by Walter Dean Myers

    The story of a young man accused of being an accomplice to murder chronicles his thoughts throughout the trial as an emotionally moving film script. The first hand accounts of his incarceration and trial are riveting and should not be missed.

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  • Claudette Colvin : twice toward justice

    2009 by Phillip M Hoose

    You probably learned about the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott, but did you know that nearly a year before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat for a white passenger, a fifteen-year-old girl named Claudette Colvin took the same defiant stance? This book examines racial discrimination and one young person's experience navigating the social and legal ramifications of challenging the status quo.

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  • The Silence of Our Friends

    2012 by Mark Long

    An intimate look into the lives of two families growing up in the 1960s-- one black and one white. As the Civil Rights Movement blossoms around them, each character must consult their conscience for how to best speak out against the atrocities they have witnessed.

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  • Teenage Rebels : successful high school activists, from the Little Rock 9 to the Class of Tomorrow

    2015 by Dawson Barrett

    Despite the persisting stereotype that young people are disengaged, we can see today that youth are speaking out against injustice--and that isn't a new phenomenon. In short, beautifully illustrated stories, 'Teenage Rebels' describes the experiences of high school aged activists in a variety of social movements in the U.S., from 1777 to the present. Read on to learn about how teens have examined their own values, formed their own opinions, and taken action to shape their world.

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  • People Who Said No : courage against oppression

    2012 by Laura Scandiffio

    This book goes through key examples in the global history of civil disobedience to show how different movements have used nonviolent processes to create social change. Budding activists will find plenty of role models for movement-building in this concise introduction.

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