Books to help students understand race relations in America

Students today will be returning to schools with questions, “Why are young black boys being shot down on the streets?”, “Why are police officers being killed?”, “Why do black lives matter?”and “Why do Blue Lives Matter?” For many including me, trying to explain these issues can be a huge job.  Where do you start?  You could begin with slavery or even the Civil Rights Movement or let the literature do the work for you.  Here are a few books that tackle topics related to the issues occurring on the news today.

Just Mercy- By Bryan Stevenson

Stevenson chronicles his work as a pro-bono attorney for young black men who were wrongly accused.  You will be astounded at the lack of evidence that was used to incriminate young black men.  Not only does Stevenson represent these men but he also represents other underrepresented, mistreated, and underprivileged people.  He along with his team work on cases and make great strides.  This novel is perfect because it shows the history of the abuse of the justice system.


How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon



Tariq Johnson is gunned down by a white shooter and his community is outraged.  His community struggles to find answers and the truth behind his murder. This novel hits close to home to recent events like the Trayvon Martin murder and Mike Brown’s murder.

Copper Sun by Sharon Draper

When you start talking about slavery, many students yawn and start to tune you out because they feel it does not matter to them.  However, Draper does an excellent job of making the subject accessible for young people.  The story of a young black girl from Africa,   a white indentured servant, and their journey to freedom.  One may ask how does this relate to police brutality or black lives matter and the answer is this is where it all began.  The effects of slavery are still plaguing the black community.  This novel is a great way to introduce student to the topic of slavery and begin the discussion.copper sun

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams Garcia


Three sisters travel to visit their estranged mother who is a member of the Black Panther party.  They leave the comfort of their grandmother’s home to forge a relationship with their mother;however, they are surprised at what they discover.  This story breaks down myths and preconceived notions about many topics we have just accepted to be true. The readers sees the black power resistance movement through the eyes of three little girls.  It is a breathtaking story that will both uplift and educate.

Native Son by Richard Wright

Native Son is the story of Bigger Thomas, a young African-American growing up in poverty in Chicago.  Wright shows that there is no black problem or white problem but it is our problem, because Bigger is our native son.  It is a powerful story of injustice, rage, and hopelessness.  nativeson

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds, Brendan Kiely

All American Boys-4466

This is the story of a violent act that is depicted by a young white boy and young African-American boy.   The community is torn apart by the violence and so is the country.  The novel is coauthored by two award winning authors and provides two perspectives to one act.  This is a must read for students and parents.  This novel is a great way to help students realize that not all police officers are bad and not all blacks are thugs.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Sarah Jorgenson says:

    Thank you for this post. “All Americans Boys” is one I recommend often.


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