10. The Civil Rights Era

The Civil Rights Movement began in 1954 following Thurgood Marshall’s successful defense of Brown v. Board 0f Education. One of the pivotal moments of the Civil Rights Era came in 1963, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his eloquent I Have A Dream speech in the nation’s capital. The next year, approximately 800 volunteers from across America descended on Oxford, OH, for the historic Freedom Summer Project. Freedom Summer helped disenfranchised African Americans in Mississippi register to vote, and to set up Freedom Schools and Community Centers. Eleven days after the Ku Klux Klan murdered three Freedom Summer volunteers in Mississippi, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, ending legal segregation.

As the movement of liberation proceeded, many African- American children’s books were published by White companies. This increased the exposure of multicultural books to schools and libraries, leading to the initial integration of African-American children’s illustrated books into mainstream publishing. However, African-American children’s books were still largely neglected by mainstream publishers. Instead of highlighting the uniqueness of their cultural heritages, authors emphasized the homogeneity among different ethnicities in order to encourage other races to develop empathy for African-American children. Many illustrated books serve as an educational tools for depicting the long and arduous journey throughout the Civil Rights Era, and the many people who collectively brought about change.