Periods of social unrest can be difficult to understand and especially to live through; still, they make up the fabric of our nation.  For generations, protest and social activism have taken on many shapes and forms and have helped to create the world we live in today.   This book list, which includes books for even the very young  (found toward the top of the list and proceeding in order toward books for teens) highlights some of the people and events, both well-known and obscure, that have brought about change in the world.

  • We March

    Shane Evans addresses his readers saying "it takes people of all ages and cultural backgrounds to move a nation into a new era of freedom" and with this moving picture book he introduces even very young readers to the concept of peaceful protest and the incredible change that can come about when people work together toward a common goal.

  • We shall overcome

    It only takes a few people to believe that change is possible. When those people sing out, they can change the world. (From jacket)

  • Luna and me

    This is the story of Julia Butterfly Hill, who climbed 180 feet into an ancient California Redwood tree and stayed there for 738 days. This form of peaceful civil disobedience, known as tree-sitting, eventually resulted in the Pacific Lumber Company signing an agreement to protect the tree, known as Luna, and all those in the surrounding grove.

  • Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Maker's Strike of 1909

    When Clara Lemlich arrived in America, she couldn't speak English. She didn't know that poor young women had to go to work, that they traded an education for long hours of labor, that she was expected to grow up fast... but she never accepted that girls should be treated poorly and paid little. So Clara fought back and led the largest walkout of women workers in our country's history. (From jacket)

  • The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist

    Meet the youngest known child to be arrested for a civil rights protest in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963, in this moving picture book that proves you’re never too little to make a difference.

  • She Persisted
    Clinton, Chelsea

    Profiles the lives of thirteen American women who have left their mark on U.S. history, including Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, Margaret Chase Smith, and Oprah Winfrey.

  • The case for Loving

    Imagine not being able to marry the person you loved, just because they were of a race different from your own. This is the story of one brave family: Mildred Loving, Richard Perry Loving, and their three children. The Lovings refused to allow their children to get the message that their parents' love was wrong and so they fought the unfair law, taking their case all the way to the Supreme Court.

  • Sojourner Truth's step-stomp stride

    Following her from her courageous plantation escape to her meeting with Abraham Lincoln, this is a stirring portrait... A warrior for justice above all else, Sojourner Truth allowed no bias to cross her path without a fight. (From jacket).

  • Iqbal: a brave boy from Pakistan/ Malala: a brave girl from Pakistan

    One country. Pakistan. Two children. Iqbal Masih. Malala Yousafzai. Each unafraid to speak out. Each a victim of unspeakable violence. Each an inspiration to the world. Here are their stories. (From jacket)

  • Martin's big words

    When Martin was growing up, he saw the signs WHITE ONLY everywhere in his hometown. Every time he read the words he felt bad. Until he remembered what his mother told him: You are as good as anyone. Beautifully illustrated, this is a captivating narrative telling the story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (From jacket)

  • Red Bird sings

    Zitkala-Sa finds that she can sing and through music, writing stories and giving speeches, she builds a life as an activist fighting for for Native American rights.

  • Sit-In: How four friends stood up by sitting down

    A great book to start a discussion on what can be achieved through peaceful protest, both illustrations and text invite readers to imagine what it may have felt like to be on all sides of the counter during the 1960 Greensboro sit-in, which lasted five months and ended in the desegregation of the Greensboro N.C. Woolworth's.

  • Separate is never equal: Sylvia Mendez and her family's fight for desegregation

    This book, about an important but little known event in American history, tells the story of the Mendez family, whose organized efforts in the fight for educational equality in California helped to pave the way for the landmark case that would eventually end segregation across the country.

  • Elizabeth started all the trouble

    She called on women across the nation to stand together and demand to be treated as equal to men... It took nearly 75 years, but through words, action and pure determination, things were changed. (From jacket)

  • A march to the sea

    "This re-telling of a fascinating story introduces today's American children to a remarkable man who freed India and influenced the whole world, the United States included." Rajmohan Gandhi (grandson of Mahatma Gandhi)

  • She stood for freedom: the untold story of a civil rights hero, Joan Trumpauer Mulholland

    "Anyone can make a difference. It doesn't matter how old or young you are. Find a problem, get some friends together and go fix it... you don't have to change the world, just change your world." Joan Trumpauer Mulholland

  • As good as anybody

    This book, dedicated by the author to "anybody and everybody marching for justice" chronicles the story of a Rabbi and a Reverend who marched together to free a nation.

  • Nelson Mandela

    This is a biography of Nelson Mandela, whose words inspire activists and movements the world around: "We understand it still that there is no easy road to freedom. We know it well that none of us acting alone can achieve success. We must therefore act together as a united people, for national reconciliation, for nation building, for the birth of a new world. "

  • It's your world: Get informed, get inspired and get going!

    This book, combining facts, charts, photographs, and stories, describes how readers can enact change in the world around them and find solutions for such global problems as climate change, poverty, gender inequality, and homelessness.

  • Unsung heroes of social justice

    From disability services advocates to civil rights march organizers, this book introduces remarkable individuals whose contributions to social justice were often overlooked. Colorful spreads full of photographs and sidebars support reader engagement and celebrate each heros achievements.

  • Claudette Colvin: twice toward justice

    Based on extensive interviews with Colvin and many others, Phillip Hoose presents the first in-depth account of an important yet largely unknown teenage civil rights figure, skillfully weaving her dramatic story into the fabric of the historic Montgomery bus boycott and court case that would change the course of American history.

  • Fannie never flinched

    Fannie Sellins (1872–1919) lived during the Gilded Age of American Industrialization, when the Carnegies and Morgans wore jewels while their laborers wore rags. Fannie dreamed that America could achieve its ideals of equality and justice for all, and she sacrificed her life to help that dream come true. Fannie became a union activist, helping to create St. Louis, Missouri, Local 67 of the United Garment Workers of America. She traveled the nation and eventually gave her life, calling for fair wages and decent working and living conditions for workers in both the garment and mining industries. Her accomplishments live on today.

  • Nelson Mandela: South African revolutionary

    Get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what it takes to change the world in this comprehensive biography that tells the complete life story of internationally renowned peacemaker Nelson Mandela.

  • Voice of freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, spirit of the civil rights movement

    Despite fierce prejudice and abuse, even being beaten to within an inch of her life, Fannie Lou Hamer was a champion of civil rights from the 1950s until her death in 1977. Integral to the Freedom Summer of 1964, Ms. Hamer gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention that, despite President Johnson’s interference, aired on national TV news and spurred the nation to support the Freedom Democrats. Featuring vibrant mixed-media art full of intricate detail, Voice of Freedom celebrates Fannie Lou Hamer’s life and legacy with a message of hope, determination, and strength.

  • When thunder comes

    A collection of poetry inspired by various leaders of civil rights. Featuring Coretta Scott King, Harvey Milk, Mohandas Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Sylvia Mendez, Aung San Suu Kyi, Mamie Carthan Till, Helen Zia, Josh Gibson, Dennis James Banks, Mitsuye Endo, Ellison Onizuka, Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Yunus, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. Includes brief descriptions of each leader at the end of the book.

  • The art of the possible

    What is a politician? What if we said YOU were a politician? This book will show you why politics matters to you and why you matter to politics. (From back cover)

  • Why do we fight? Conflict, war and peace

    This book shows readers the ways in which small disagreements can escalate and progress to become bigger and more serious ones. Exhaustively researched and expert reviewed, Why Do We Fight? will give readers the voice and the confidence to talk about their world. (From jacket)

  • Fred Korematsu Speaks Up

    Fred Korematsu liked listening to music on the radio, playing tennis, and hanging around with his friends--just like lots of other Americans. But everything changed when the United States went to war with Japan in 1941 and the government forced all people of Japanese ancestry to leave their homes on the West Coast and move to distant prison camps. The story of Fred Korematsu's fight against discrimination explores the life of one courageous person who made the United States a fairer place for all Americans, and it encourages all of us to speak up for justice.

  • It's your world- if you don't like it, change it: Activism for teenages

    This book guides it's readers to act on their beliefs, no matter what they are, in order to make a difference. Information includes the basics of activism, activism projects and outreach ideas, real-world stories from young activists and much more. (From jacket)

  • Marching for Freedom

    Over the course of a five day March, peaceful protesters, some of them children, never gave up, even in the face of violence. Marching for Freedom tells the story of how ordinary kids helped change history. (From jacket)

  • Strike! The farm workers fight for thier rights

    "A skillful, compelling account of the complicated history of Cesar Chavez and the farm workers movement, set in the context of the social and political tensions of the times . . . With an appealing design and many black-and-white photographs, this paints a vivid, detailed picture of an important labor movement and its controversial yet inspiring leader." -Kirkus Reviews

  • The Port Chicago 50

    This is the dramatic story of prejudice and injustice in America's armed forces during World War II and a provocative look at a controversial group of young sailors who took a stand that helped change the course of history. (From jacket)

  • Freedom Riders

    As described by School Library Journal, this book details "the incredible courage and determination of young people, black, white, male and female, who risked great personal danger and even death as they participated in the freedom rides during the Civil Rights Movement... History is told through the experiences of two young men of disparate backgrounds, one black John Lewis, the other white Jim Zwerg."

  • Speak a word for freedom: Women against slavery

    From the early days of the antislavery movement, when political action by women was frowned upon, British and American women were tireless and uncompromising campaigners. Without their efforts, emancipation would have taken much longer. And the commitment of today's women, who fight against human trafficking and child slavery, descends directly from that of the early female activists. This book tells the story of fourteen of these women. (From jacket)

  • The boys who challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club

    At the outset of World War II, Denmark did not resist German occupation. Deeply ashamed of his nation's leaders, fifteen-year-old Knud Pedersen resolved with his brother and a handful of schoolmates to take action against the Nazis if the adults would not... Interweaving his own narrative with the recollections of Knud himself, here is author Phillip Hoose's inspiring story of these young heroes. (From jacket)

  • Stonewall: breaking out in the fight for gay rights

    "This powerful, well-researched work examines the Stonewall riots, which took place in 1969 in New York City when members of the gay community fought back in response to a police raid on a gay bar...A month later, a large group of protestors rallied to speak out in Washington Square Park and marched down Christopher Street to the Stonewall Inn in what became the nation's first gay pride march. In the following chapters, Bausum describes the growth of gay and lesbian activism and setbacks... bringing readers to the present day and expertly putting these struggles into historical context." -School Library Journal

  • Speak truth to power: Human rights defenders who are changing our world

    Told through interviews and powerful photographs, this book "gives us an insight into the power of the human spirit. It tells us why and how men and women all over the world struggle against oppression, injustice, and cruelty. There is horror but there is also immense hope in this world where dedicated people translate their commitment to human rights into action." Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Prize Laureate