Books History is Present Mission in Action

Suggested Resources for Talking About Slavery, Race, and the Civil War with Children


Compiled by our Education Team

Books for You as a Parent or Teacher

There is always more to explore when it comes to history–historians ask new questions and find new sources every day. If you’re new to teaching the Civil War era or approaching it with your own children and feel unprepared, here are some great books that provide information about slavery, the Civil War, and its legacies, as well as how to talk about these complicated topics with children.

  • Two Miserable Presidents, Steve Sheinkin
    Yes, it’s a children’s book, but it’s excellent–especially if you’re new to teaching or learning about the Civil War. This is an easy to read, well-researched, and occasionally funny overview of an immense topic.
  • The Civil War: A Concise History, Louis P. Masur
    This book is exactly what it promises: a concise history. From the military campaigns to the politics in Washington and Richmond, this book is a quick introduction to it all.
  • Understanding and Teaching American Slavery, Bethany Jay & Cynthia Lynn Lyerly, Eds.
    Everything a teacher could need in one place: a brief history of chattel slavery in the United States plus techniques and strategies to use in the classroom.
  • Interpreting Difficult History, Julia Rose
    From the AASLH Interpreting History Series. Designed to help museum educators broach difficult topics, this book provides valuable information about how we as learners process complex and challenging topics–and how we as teachers can help learners through that process.
  • Interpreting Slavery, Kristin L. Gallas & James DeWolf Perry, Eds.
    Another from the AASLH Interpreting History Series that specifically explores how different institutions across the United States talk about slavery. What works and what doesn’t work for helping people process the tough information?
  • American Slavery, Peter Kolchin
    An incredibly thorough overview of the history of chattel slavery in the United States. Statistics and data covering slavery from the first laws limiting the rights of non-white people in the British colonies to the end of the Civil War.
  • Before Freedom Came, published by the Museum of the Confederacy
    Compiled to coincide with the Museum of the Confederacy’s groundbreaking exhibit of the same name, this collection of essays explores various facets of American slavery.

Books and Links for Students

At ACWM, we think of history as a story, and there are so many stories to tell about the Civil War, its causes, and its legacies. A great way to start a difficult conversation is by reading a book featuring real people who lived through history. This way, children can encounter people who remind them of themselves and begin to think about what it might be like to have experiences like historical figures.

Books for younger students

Chapter books and graphic novels

First-person accounts

Other lists:

Online and Digital Resources

Whether you’re digging for a primary source for your lesson or searching for a new podcast to expand your worldview, there are lots of amazing digital sources for you. Here are some that we use and recommend daily.