12 Books about Riots & Revolts

In recent months, several protests around the U.S. have turned destructive or even violent. While these episodes are miniscule compared to the the non-violent, non-destructive protests taking place over the same issues, they have generated a large amount of news media coverage and social commentary. However, riots and revolts have always been a part of our history in the United States, from slave revolts and the Boston Tea Party of the colonial era, through numerous instances of horrific urban white mob violence during the Civil War and Jim Crow era, to a number of riots resulting from police brutality in New York and Los Angeles in the latter half of the twentieth century. The books below help place the these recent events in historical context.

front coverAmistad Rising : A Story Of Freedom

Chambers, Veronica

This fictional account is based on the true story of Joseph Cinqué and recounts an event that took place in 1839. Captured and transported to the Americas in a slave ship, Cinqué and others were sold to a slaver headed for Cuba. When circumstances turned a bit in their favor the slaves revolted and took over the ship. Eventually it landed in Connecticut, and then the struggle with the American judicial system began. It even brought John Quincy Adams out of retirement to argue the case before the Supreme Court. This is a fascinating piece of history, and the acrylics by Paul Lee are dark and somber, clearly echoing the desperate plight of Cinqué and his comrades. 1998, Harcourt, $16.00. Ages 6 up.
Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot (Children’s Literature)
ISBN(s): 0152018034, 9780152018030

(Additional reviews, award info, and reading program info available on CLCD.)

front coverWitness The Boston Tea Party

Landau, Elaine

Prior to the American Revolution, John Hancock was visiting friends, and they asked him if he’d like a cup of tea. He replied, “ Only if it was honestly smuggled.” This little volume on the Boston Tea Party contains a surprisingly good account of this seminal event that culminated in the American Revolution, especially considering the complexity of these events. Background information is provided that gives young students some idea as to what motivated our ancestors to behave in such an angry manner toward the British. It is done in a format similar to that of a children’s story and should keep the interest of young children. It is filled with pictures and photographs to illustrate these events. Probably the biggest drawback is the cartoon of the modern child and her dog–a bit much for a work on a subject of such gravity. But, this work is accurate, it is respectful of American heritage while not being hagiographic, and it is laid out well. It is highly recommended for a children’s book collection. Nonfiction, Highly Recommended. Grades 1-6. 2006, Enslow Elementary, 48p., $23.93. Ages 6 to 12.
Reviewer: Mat McConnell (The Lorgnette – Heart of Texas Reviews)
ISBN(s): 0766025535, 9780766025530

(Additional review, award info, and reading program info available on CLCD.)

front coverRiot

Myers, Walter Dean

The New York Draft Riots that took place in the 1860s as the Irish resisted being drafted to fight in the Civil War and blamed African-Americans for stealing their jobs are a shameful blot on the nation’s history. However, Walter Dean Myers, the prolific chronicler of black experience, mines this fertile field with some sympathy for the Irish. Written in the form of a screenplay and fictionalized, Myers examines how those several days of civil disturbance harmed both the Irish and African-Americans while the rich just got richer. Interesting characters populate the screenplay, one a girl who is black but looks white, finds herself searching for identity in a world gone topsy-turvy. She is pulled in several directions and after order is restored, realizes that she will never be able to simply look beyond skin color again. Well written and definitely an interesting look into the New York City of the 1860s with all its various and colorful occupants. 2009, Egmont, $16.99. Ages 12 up.
Reviewer: Myrna Dee Marler (Children’s Literature)
ISBN(s): 9781606840009, 9781606840429, 1606840002, 1606840428

(Additional reviews, award info, and reading program info available on CLCD.)

front coverSlave Rebellions

Doak, Robin S.

Over the years that human slavery flourished in North and South America, numerous instances of servile insurrection also occurred. Wherever people were brutally kept in a state of perpetual bondage some spark of resistance periodically rose to the surface and ignited slave rebellions. In this chapter of the six-volume illustrated “Slavery in the Americas” series, readers are introduced to some of the most noteworthy slave revolts that took place wherever slavery reared its ugly head. While Robin Santos Doak touches upon rebellions across the New World, her primary focus rests upon those slave revolts that took place in the Thirteen American Colonies and, subsequently, the United States. In this richly developed text the author presents figures such as Nat Turner, Gabriel Prosser, Denmark Vessey, and John Brown in ways that are illuminative. Throughout this well developed story, Robin Santos Doak takes great pains to point out not only the chronicle of events but also the human costs attached to them. Generally, slave revolts resulted in terrible retribution and defeat for the insurgents. Nevertheless, in the end slavery was swept away by the forces of emancipation. The story of the various slave rebellions and their legacies are well told in this fine historical work. 2006, Facts on File/Chelsea House, $35.00. Ages 10 to 14.
Reviewer: Greg M. Romaneck (Children’s Literature)
ISBN(s): 081606136X, 9780816061365

(Additional review and table of contents available on CLCD.)

front coverSmoky Night

Bunting, Eve

A young African-American child describes a night of fear when rioting occurs in his city neighborhood. “Rioting can happen when people get angry,” his mother explains to him. “They want to smash and destroy. They don’t care anymore what’s right and what’s wrong.” In the middle of the night, a fire forces the boy and his mother to flee their apartment building and take refuge in a shelter, where African-American, Korean-American and Latino neighbors, some of whom are strangers to one another, have gathered in the confusion. Tensions between African-American and Korean-American residents of the neighborhood are specifically addressed. The child’s anxiety is soothed but not extinguished by his mother’s deliberate calm for the sake of her child, and these are the most powerful elements of the text. David Diaz’ explosive artwork is a powerful complement – he sets his intense paintings against a multi-media backdrop that is suggested by elements of the text and created with items culled from everyday life. 1994, Harcourt Brace, 36 pages, $14.95. Ages 6-10.
Reviewer: CCBC (Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices)
ISBN(s): 0152699546, 9780152699543

(Additional reviews, award info, and reading program info available on CLCD.)

front coverThe Burning; Massacre, Destruction, And The Tulsa Race Riot Of 1921

Madigan, Tim

In 1921 in Tulsa, Okla., hundreds of black residents of the prosperous Greenwood community were massacred by a mob of white townspeople. Madigan, a reporter with the Fort Worth Star Telegram, deftly locates the carnage in its proper political and cultural setting. Unlike previous accounts, this one shows how the riot touched individual lives by creating full-scale portraits of black and white citizens of oil-rich Tulsa. He fashions absorbing narratives from his interviews with survivors and from information uncovered by the 1997 Tulsa Race Riot Commission. Individual voices combine to relate the tragic chain of events, the madness and atmosphere of hate that compelled the white mob to torch almost every building in Greenwood. The earnest Sheriff McCullough worried about vigilantes running amok; the racist publisher Richard Lloyd Jones sought to sell newspapers by appealing to white bias; the defiant ex-slave Townsend Jackson refused to comply with Jim Crow laws; and the hapless Dick Rowland’s arrest for accidentally bumping into a white girl triggers the slaughter. Madigan’s skill at description, dialogue and pacing keeps the reader’s interest at peak levels, and he does not gloss over brutal scenes of murder, arson and torture. Many other accounts have ignored the strong resistance of many Greenwood blacks against white marauders. Madigan draws implicit connections between one of the bloodiest racial atrocities in U.S. history and today’s racial climate by concluding his timely history lesson with an update of the Tulsa commission findings and the city’s move toward healing and reconciliation. Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press: 2001.
Reviewer: Publishers Weekly
ISBN(s): 0312272839, 9780312272838, 0312302479, 9780312302474

(Additional review & table of contents available on CLCD.)

front coverHarlem At War: The Black Experience In WWII

Brandt, Nat

This misleadingly titled book concerns not only Harlem but also the experience of all black America during WWII, as well as the political and social conditions that fueled the Harlem riot of 1943, a harbinger of urban riots in the 1960s and beyond. Brandt (Massacre at Shansi) has capably synthesized a broad range of sources and added several interviews to portray a shameful aspect of our not-so-distant past. He first sketches the racial discrimination and economic ills prevalent in New York’s largest black community in the 1920s and ’30s. Such conditions, duplicated around the country, meant that black Americans were acutely aware of the hypocrisy involved in fighting Nazi Germany while still tolerating Jim Crow–both at home and in the armed forces. In fact, racial clashes took place at military bases, at defense plants and in the cities. A white-on-black riot in Detroit led to a tepid official response. And when a black soldier was shot by a white cop in Harlem, the neighborhood suffered six deaths, nearly 700 injuries and property damage of $5 million. Ending prophetically, Brandt states that the city “is ignoring” Harlem again and “the community is neglected.” Syracuse University Press, 1996.
Reviewer: Publisher’s Weekly
ISBN(s): 081560324X, 9780815603245

(Additional review and reading program info available on CLCD.)

Front coverNegrophobia : A Race Riot In Atlanta, 1906

Bauerlein, Mark

As the 20th century opened, Atlanta was seen as the gateway to a new, racially progressive South. But in 1906, in the middle of a bitter contest for the governor’s office, white supremacist newspapers launched a fear- and rumor-based campaign trumpeting a “Negro crime” scare; screaming headlines told of black predation against white women. The resulting atmosphere of race hatred and sexual hysteria built to an explosive riot in which more than a dozen people died, along with hopes for a New South. Drawing from newspaper accounts, witness testimony, and other primary sources, Bauerlein (Emory U.) has structured his dramatically told account to follow the events of a full year, examining what led up to the September riot as well as its lingering effects. Encounter Books, 337pp, $29.95.
Reviewer: Book News
ISBN(s): 1893554236, 9781893554238

(Reading program info available on CLCD.)

front coverRebels Against Slavery, American Slave Revolts

McKissack, Pat

Arise! Arise! Shake off your chains!” Twenty-four-year-old slave Gabriel Prosser, “armed with literacy and a gift for speaking,” encouraged other slaves to rise up against their masters and to fight for freedom. Prosser was one of many slaves who instigated revolts during the 300+ years of chattel slavery in the Americas. The stories of abolitionists have oft been told, but not so the stories of the leaders of slave revolts: their stories have been ignored, sometimes deliberately concealed, by historians. Familiar leaders, such as Nat Turner, and unfamiliar ones, such as Toussaint Louverture, appear in this historic look at the role slaves played in their battle to abolish slavery. Carefully researched and well-written — and sometimes painfully detailed in its depiction of the resulting violence — Rebels Against Slavery: American Slave Revolts provides a supplement to our history books, which fail to tell the whole story of the emancipation of the Africans who had been brought to this country as slaves. 1996, Scholastic, 177 pp., $14.95. Ages 12 up.
Reviewer: Lisa J. McClure (The ALAN Review)
ISBN(s): 0590457357, 9780590457354, 0606137319, 0590457365, 9780590457361, 9780606137317

(Additional reviews, award info, and reading program info available on CLCD.)

front coverGay Power! : The Stonewall Riots And The Gay Rights Movement, 1969

Kuhn, Betsy

Local author Betsy Kuhn points to a glaring omission in history books and asks: “Why is so little known about the struggle of gay men and lesbians for equal rights?” In this important and carefully researched work of nonfiction, Kuhn examines the attitude of the American mainstream toward homosexuality from the colonial era through the 1940s and ‘50s. Gay people were frequently shunned, fired from jobs and even hurt or killed for their sexual orientation. But in the summer of 1969, gay men and women protested a police raid on a New York City gay bar. The Stonewall Riots, as these protests came to be known, marked the beginning of change in the United States. Activists for gay rights helped change legislation, job-hiring practices and the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnosis of homosexuality as a mental illness. Landmark changes continue to this day, from same-sex marriage to the nationwide school mandate to protect gay youngsters from bullying. 2011, Lerner, $38.60. Ages 12 Up.
Reviewer: Mary Quattlebaum (Children’s Literature)
ISBN(s): 9780761357681, 0761357688, 9780761372752, 076137275X

(Table of contents and reading program info available on CLCD.)

front coverBacklash : Race Riots In The Jim Crow Era

Miller, Calvin Craig

Editors Note: This brief volume outlines seven of the most violent and destructive instances of white mobs attacking black communities—in cities across the U.S.—during the Jim Crow era.
(A Booklist review is available in CLCD, but our contractual agreement prohibits us from sharing their content outside the CLCD database.)

ISBN(s): 9781599351834, 1599351838


front coverRed Summer : The Summer Of 1919 And The Awakening Of Black America

McWhirter, Cameron

In his study of the bloody summer of 1919, when lynching “spread like influenza” across the U.S., McWhirter, staff reporter for the Wall Street Journal, focuses most sharply on seven outbreaks of violence notable for their devastation: Charleston, S.C., in May; Longview, Tex., Washington, D.C., and Chicago in July; Knoxville, Tenn., in August; Omaha, Neb., in September; and Elaine, Ariz., in October. McWhirter writes, “his extraordinary summer was forging a new dynamic in race relations. Race riots—”almost every one started by white mobs—”were nothing new.” What was new was black resistance. McWhirter pays detailed attention to the growth of the NAACP as the primary organized political resistance and individual attempts at self-defense, “from lofty oratory to swinging a baseball bat.” The author brings a journalist’s diligent digging and skillful storytelling to this historical account; behind the names of towns, he takes the reader into the lives of victims who suffered, perpetrators who destroyed, enablers who dawdled, and politicians who profited, as well as those who fought back, making 1919 “a turning point in American race relations.” While less local in his treatment than Robert Whitaker’s On the Laps of Gods or Harper Barnes’s Never Been a Time, both of which cover the “red summer,” McWhirter’s valuable study, in chronologically examining the outbreaks of violence, may well qualify as “the first narrative history of America’s deadliest episode of race riots and lynchings.” Henry Holt & Co. 2011.
Reviewer: Publisher’s Weekly
ISBN(s): 9780805089066, 0805089063

1 thought on “12 Books about Riots & Revolts”

  1. Wow, what a list. I’ve just started a project where I’m investigating our long history with race riots, and look forward to checking out some of these books!

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