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Seven Important Books to Help Celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Observed on the third Monday of January, Martin Luther King Jr. Day honors a civil rights icon who worked tirelessly to make a change in the world. Martin Luther King Jr. stood up for what he believed in, helped organize others to improve their communities, and combated racial inequality and oppression through his words and actions. 

Today, Martin Luther King, Jr. remains a powerful example for people all over the world. This collection of titles from Astra Books for Young Readers will help kids understand this impactful figure from our American history and demonstrate how he continues to inspire all of us through his activism and memory.

Evicted! The Struggle for the Right to Vote by Alice Faye Duncan, illustrated by Charly Palmer – With a story told through the eyes of a child, this critical civil rights book for middle-graders examines Tennessee’s Fayette County Tent City Movement in the late 1950s and reveals what is possible when people unite and fight for the right to vote. Powerfully conveyed through interconnected stories, Evicted! combines poetry, prose, and stunning illustrations to shine light on this forgotten history. Debuting January 11, 2022.

Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968 by Alice Faye Duncan, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie – This multiple award-winning picture book will help young readers understand the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It tells the story of a nine-year-old girl who in 1968 witnessed the Memphis sanitation strike—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final stand for justice before his assassination—when her father, a sanitation worker, participated in the protest.

The Teachers March! How Selma’s Teachers Changed History by Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace, illustrated by Charly Palmer – In the 1960s, Reverend F.D. Reese was a leader of the Voting Rights Movement in Selma, Alabama. As a teacher and principal, he recognized that his colleagues were greatly respected in the city. But, could he convince them to risk their jobs—and perhaps their lives—by organizing a teachers-only march to the county courthouse to demand their right to vote? Demonstrating the power of protest and standing up for a just cause, this acclaimed picture book is an exciting tribute to the educators who participated in the 1965 Selma Teachers’ March.

Seeking Freedom: The Untold Story of Fortress Monroe and the Ending of Slavery in America written by Selene Castrovilla, illustrated by E.B. Lewis – In this dramatic Civil War story, a courageous enslaved fugitive teams up with a cunning Union general to save a Union fort from the Confederates–and triggers the end of slavery in the United States. This is the first children’s nonfiction book about the unsung Black hero who remains relevant today and to the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Lizzie Demands a Seat! Elizabeth Jennings Fights for Streetcar Rights by Beth Anderson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis – Elizabeth “Lizzie” Jennings, a Black schoolteacher, fought back when she was unjustly denied entry to a New York City streetcar in 1854, sparking the beginnings of the long struggle to gain equal rights on public transportation. This acclaimed picture book brings to life an inspiring and little-known story from American History–one that took place one hundred years before Rosa Parks took her stand.

Voices from the March on Washington by George Ella Lyon and J. Patrick Lewis – A poignant collection of powerful poems weaves together multiple voices to tell the story of the March on Washington, DC, in 1963. Each character in the book brings a unique perspective to their experience of being at the march—walking shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers, hearing Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech, heading home inspired.

Ordinary Hazards by Nikki Grimes – This memoir in verse by Printz Honor and Sibert Honor-winning author Nikki Grimes takes place during Grimes’s tumultuous childhood in the 1950s and 1960s. It gives young readers a first-person perspective to the drama of Grimes’s family’s life as it unfurls during critical moments in the Civil Rights-era New York City area.