Book Review: Justice Rising by Katheryn Russell-Brown

Posted March 25, 2023 by meezcarrie in children, historical, Katheryn Russell-Brown / 4 Comments

JUSTICE RISING: 12 Amazing Black Women in the Civil Rights Movement
Katheryn Russell-Brown
Kim Holt

GENRE: Children’s Non-Fiction Picture Book
PUBLISHER: Viking Books for Young Readers
RELEASE DATE: January 10, 2023

A celebration of twelve Black women who were pivotal to the civil rights movement and the fight for justice and equal rights in America.

You’ve heard the names Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King, but what about the many other women who were crucial to the civil rights movement?

Told through twelve short biographies, this book celebrates just some of the many Black women–each of whom has been largely underrepresented until now–who were instrumental to the nation’s fight for civil rights and the contributions they made in driving the Movement forward.

An empowering, eye-opening look at how one person can impact greater change, this book is both a conversation starter and much-needed history lesson for our modern world.


The older I get the more I realize that my education has some holes in it – namely, regarding Black history. And the more I learn, the more I want to learn. Justice Rising by Katheryn Russell-Brown (illustrated by Kim Holt) is a great way to make sure the children in your life avoid the same gaps in their history education.

I think most of us have heard of Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges, and Coretta Scott King. I also recently learned about Claudette Colvin (thanks to another children’s book). But what do you know about women such as Ella Baker, Dorothy Cotton, Fannie Lou Hamer, Diane Nash, Bernice Johnson Reagon, Gloria Richardson, Jo Ann Robinson, and Sheyann Webb? Have you heard of the Freedom Marchers? If I asked, would you know:

  • the mother of the Civil Rights Movement?
  • the only woman to serve on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s leadership team?
  • the smallest freedom fighter?

I wouldn’t have, not before reading Justice Rising. These twelve courageous Black women – and the Freedom Marchers – were the heart of the Civil Rights Movement, and their stories deserve to be told. Katheryn Russell-Brown does a fabulous job doing so, the short biographical sketches of each woman compelling and easy for children to absorb. And the list of further reading suggestions at the end will inspire the adults in the room (like me!) to learn more, too. Because we’re never too old to learn something new – especially when it’s an important part of our own history as women and as Americans.

And let’s talk about the illustrations too. In a word? GORGEOUS. While clearly illustrations (and not photographs), the people on the page are vivid and lifelike. The bright colors and vibrant details draw you in right away – adults as well as children – and the warmth exuding from each page compels you to stay awhile.

Photo provided by Amazon

Bottom Line: Justice Rising by Katheryn Russell-Brown is a beautiful portrait of the mostly-unacknowledged Black women behind the Civil Rights Movement, full of information without feeling at all like a textbook. The vibrant illustrations from Kim Holt perfectly complement and enhance the short biographies, giving off lots of warmth that will appeal to children and adults alike. An important book to have in your home or school library for Black History Month, Women’s History Month, and all the other months in the year!

(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)

My Rating: 5 stars / loved it!

affiliate links used

Katheryn Russell-Brown is an American social scientist, professor of law, and director of the Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations at University of Florida Law School, with a specialty in race and crime, sociology of law, and criminal law. She is also the author of Little Melba and Her Big Trombone, A Voice Named Aretha, and She Was the First!, for which she was won the NAACP Image Award in 2021. Katheryn lives with her family in Florida. Visit her website at, or follow her on Twitter @KRussellBrown.

Kim Holt is a children’s book illustrator who holds a BFA in animation from the Academy of Art University. Her goal as an artist is to create images that bring back memories and create pictures that make children wish they were inside the scenes. She is also the illustrator of Today Is Different and A Prayer for Our Country. Kim lives in the Washington, D.C. area with her husband and two dogs, where she drinks copious amounts of coffee and cooks up imaginative dinners for her family. Visit her website at, or follow her on Instagram @kimholt.

What about you? What makes you want to read Justice Rising by Katheryn Russell-Brown (illustrated by Kim Holt) with a child in your life?

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4 responses to “Book Review: Justice Rising by Katheryn Russell-Brown

  1. Regina

    Thank you for this wonderful review, Carrie! 🙂 This book is definitely on my TBR 📚 now.

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