Readings on African American History | Richland Library Skip to content
King Years, Taylor Branch, Marting Luther King, Jr.

Readings on African American History

At the Crossroads of Freedom & Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation & the March on Washington – This year’s National Black History Month theme highlights two pivotal moments in African American history. It was 150 years ago that the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln, providing freedom for over 3 million slaves in the United States. Fifty years ago on August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his compelling “I Have a Dream” speech, expressing his vision of equality for all mankind. To learn more about these remarkable events, check out some of the books listed below. For recommendations on where to begin your online research, see the Related Resources (online research tools) and Websites lists.


Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation, 1861-1865 by William K. Klingaman

Klingaman provides a much-needed popular history of the making of the Emancipation Proclamation and its subsequent impact on race relations in America.

African American Almanac: 400 Years of Triumph, Courage, and Excellence by Lean’tin Bracks

This excellent reference work on the contributions of African-Americans to the history and culture of the United States provides accessible reference and biographical information on a wide range of important events and people…The volume is a useful resource for students of American history at all grade levels.

Behind the Dream: The Making of the Speech that Transformed a Nation by Clarence B. Johnson & Stuart Connelly

Behind the Dream is a behind-the-scenes account of the weeks leading up to the great event [March on Washington], as told by Clarence Jones, a co-writer of the [I Have a Dream] speech.

The Dream: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Speech that Inspired a Nation by Drew D. Hansen

After a gripping reenactment of the March on Washington, "The Dream" proceeds to an unprecedented and fascinating analysis of the speech by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln & the Dawn of Liberty by Tonya Bolden

Published on the anniversary of when President Abraham Lincoln's order went into effect, this book offers readers a unique look at the events that led to the Emancipation Proclamation…It includes excerpts from historical sources, archival images, and new research that debunks myths about the Emancipation Proclamation and its causes.

The Emancipation Proclamation: Three Views (Social, Political, Iconographic) by Harold Holzer, Edna Greene Medford, and Frank J. Williams

This multidisciplinary study analyzes three distinct respects of Lincoln's edict of liberation: the influence of and impact upon African Americans; the legal, political, and military exigencies; and the role pictorial images played in establishing the document in public memory.

Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865 by James Oakes

Freedom National is a groundbreaking history of emancipation that joins the political initiatives of Lincoln and the Republicans in Congress with the courageous actions of Union soldiers and runaway slaves in the South…Fresh and compelling, this magisterial history offers a new understanding of the death of slavery and the rebirth of a nation.

The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement by Taylor Branch

The King Years delivers riveting tales of everyday heroes who achieved miracles in constructive purpose and yet poignantly fell short. Here is the full sweep of an era that still reverberates in national politics.

Marching on Washington: The Forging of an American Political Tradition by Lucy G. Barber

Barber scrutinizes the strategic uses of American citizenship and the changing spatial politics of the capital. From this perspective, it is a story not only about the power of American citizens but also about the shifting terrain of citizenship.

Nobody Turn Me Around: A People’s History of the 1963 March on Washington by Charles Euchner

On August 28, 1963…Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his iconic "I Have a Dream" oration. And just blocks away, President Kennedy and Congress skirmished over landmark civil rights legislation…Nobody Turn Me Around will challenge your understanding of the March on Washington, both in terms of what happened but also regarding what it ultimately set in motion.

The Slaves’ War: The Civil War in the Words of Former Slaves by Andrew Ward

In The Slaves' War, the acclaimed historian Andrew Ward delivers an unprecedented vision of the nation's bloodiest conflict. Woven together from hundreds of interviews, diaries, letters, and memoirs, here is a groundbreaking and poignant narrative of the Civil War as seen from not only battlefields, capitals, and camps, but from slave quarters, kitchens, roadsides, and fields as well.