5 Nonfiction and Fiction Books About Reconstruction in the United States

To honor Black History Month, SLJ is curating lists of fiction and nonfiction book pairings focusing on pivotal moments in Black history in the United States. This roundup features selections centering the Black experience during Reconstruction.


To honor Black History Month, SLJ is curating lists of fiction and nonfiction book pairings focusing on pivotal moments in Black history in the United States.

This roundup features selections centering the Black experience during Reconstruction (1865-1877), the period directly following the end of the Civil War in which the formerly enslaved were able to participate in government and achieve great strides before white supremacist forces in the South reversed many of those changes.



Smith, Elliott. Slavery and Reconstruction. Lerner. Jan. 2022. ISBN 9781728439105.
Gr 4-8 –This series entry is part of the Read Woke Books imprint in partnership with Cicely Lewis, who wrote the introductory letter found in each book. A note encourages readers to view the photos and illustrations critically, and additional reflection questions are scattered throughout the books. In “Primary Source Voices,” QR codes access recordings of formerly enslaved persons or other historical narratives. An important purchase for those who want to broaden the perspectives in their American History collection.

Dodge Cummings, Judy. Reconstruction: The Rebuilding of the United States after the Civil War. illus. by Micah Rauch. Nomad. Nov. 2021. ISBN 9781619309739.
Gr 7-10–This history resource chronicles the period following the Civil War. The text tries to analyze the time period within the context of current events and show how the missteps of the past have impacted the present. Each chapter begins with a comic strip of a young Black woman and her grandmother, who discuss racism and America’s legacy of white supremacy. The text covers the era thoroughly, providing QR codes and numerous historical references. An excellent update to titles that detail this time period; students will be able to put history into perspective.



Coles, Michelle. Black Was the Ink. illus. by Justin Johnson. Lee & Low/Tu Bks. Sept. 2021. ISBN 9781643794310.
Gr 6 Up–During the summer before his junior year in high school, Malcolm’s mom decides she wants him to spend time with his late father’s family in Mississippi. While he initially is not a fan of farm work, he finds the diary of Cedric, a man who worked in Washington, DC, during Reconstruction, in the attic. He starts hearing Cedric’s voice and periodically gets pulled back in time, from 2015 to the post–Civil War era, to live snippets of Cedric’s life. This allows Malcolm to see firsthand a period when African American politicians were serving in the U.S. Congress and making positive civil rights legislation before the emergence of Jim Crow laws in the deep south. Coles adeptly creates a character that readers will care about. A unique and readable look at a historical period that is not often covered in teen literature.

RedReviewStar Ireland, Justina. Dread Nation. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. Apr. 2018. ISBN 9780062570604.
Gr 9 Up—Slavery comes to a halt when the dead on Civil War battlefields begin to rise and eat their compatriots. The north and south put aside their philosophical differences and join forces against the undead. They are aided in their efforts by the passage of the Native and Negro Reeducation Act, which forces African American boys and girls into combat schools. Graduates from these schools are a buffer between the living and the undead. Jane McKeen is a biracial girl sent to Ms. Preston's school of combat to obtain an attendant certificate. This is a fictional exploration of the chattel slavery and American Indian boarding school systems. Ireland skillfully works in the different forms of enslavement, mental and physical, into a complex and engaging story. A perfect blend of horrors real and imagined, perfect for public and school libraries and fans of The Walking Dead.

Morrow, Bethany C. So Many Beginnings: A Little Women Remix. Feiwel & Friends. Sept. 2021. ISBN 9781250761217.
Gr 7 Up–In this skillful “remixing” of Little Women, Morrow reimagines the lives of the Alcott sisters through multiple lenses. Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy are four Black sisters rebuilding their lives after the Civil War. Meg wonders if her dreams of a husband and home are out of reach. Jo needs to find the courage to use her voice to further the cause of saving the colony built by the newly emancipated. Beth’s health issues may require an unimaginable trip, and Amy simply wants to chart her own course through the medium of dance. The bonds of sisterhood are tested amid the backdrop of a country trying to forge a new path forward. The constraints of class, race, gender, and the fragile nature of emancipation affect all four sisters in different ways. Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy support one another as they summon the courage to continue rebuilding and forging a new future. Readers learn about the tenuous nature of Reconstruction, clashes between the newly emancipated and those born free, and the repatriation efforts of the American Colonization Society. The fragility of the hope held by emancipated Black people is palpable in this narrative. 

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