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“Perhaps we can yet prove worthy successors to the men and women, black and white, who gave their lives [in the Civil War] that this country should be unified, truly unified, and that all Americans should be free.”
John Hope Franklin
1915–2009
A More Perfect Union Bookshelf

As the American people begin observing the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, NEH seeks to promote reflection among young people on the idea of the United States as a “union.” Our Constitution, the Preamble proclaims, was intended to “form a more perfect union.” Since 1776 our motto has been E Pluribus Unum—“Out of many, one.” In 1861, as President Abraham Lincoln considered his response to secessionist states, he declared his “paramount object” to be to “save the Union.” What is the nature of the “union” that the Founders formed and Lincoln sought to save? In what ways is America a One as well as a Many? With the ratification of the U.S. Constitution and the Union victory in the Civil War, is the American union complete and perfect? What role have subsequent generations played, and what we might envision today to continue our perfect union?

“A More Perfect Union” is the seventh We the People Bookshelf program sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities. It will be distributed to 4,000 school (K-12) and public libraries. The National Endowment for the Humanities is proud to offer this program in cooperation with the American Library Association.


Who can apply?

Any U.S. public library or K-12 school library in the United States and its territories. School libraries include public, private, parochial, and charter schools. Libraries with collections that circulate to the general public and offer reading-based programs for the general public are eligible to apply. A library system or school district may apply on behalf of its member schools or branches. Go to publicprograms.ala.org/bookshelf/ for guidelines and eligibility requirements.

Libraries will receive:

The Bookshelf—a collection of seventeen classic hardcover books for young readers related to the theme “A More Perfect Union.” Libraries will have the option of receiving some of these books in Spanish translation. Each Bookshelf will include three bonus items: the complete DVD edition of The Civil War: A Film by Ken Burns, including performance rights; the companion book to The Civil War series, and Declaring Independence: The Origin and Influence of America’s Founding Document; as well as bookplates, bookmarks, and posters.

NEH will award “A More Perfect Union” Bookshelf to 4,000 school (K–12) and public libraries in spring 2010.

Books selected for “A More Perfect Union” Bookshelf are:

Kindergarten to Grade 3

  • Tico and the Golden Wings by Leo Lionni
  • A More Perfect Union: The Story of Our Constitution by Betsy and Giulio Maestro
  • Una unión más perfecta: la historia de nuestra constitución by Betsy and Giulio Maestro (translated by Aída E. Marcuse)
  • When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Grades 4 to 6

  • César ¡Sí, se puede! by Carmet T. Bernier-Grand (Spanish edition)
  • César ¡Si, Se Puede! / Yes, We Can!  By Carmen T. Bernier-Grand
  • Eagle Song by Joseph Bruchac
  • The Great Little Madison by Jean Fritz
  • Darby by Jonathon Scott Fuqua

Grades 7 to 8

  • Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Beals
  • Lincoln Shot:  A President’s Life Remembered by Barry Denenberg
  • Hitch by Jeanette Ingold

Grades 9 to 12

  • The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. DuBois
  • American Creation: Triumphs and  Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic by Joseph Ellis
  • Lincoln in His Own Words by Milton Meltzer
  • Carver: A Life in Poems by Marilyn Nelson
  • Twelve Angry Men by Reginald Rose
  • Ángeles asesinos by Michael Shaara (translated by Manuel de los Reyes)
  • Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

Bonus items:

  • The Civil War:  A Film by Ken Burns
  • The Civil War: An Illustrated History by Geoffrey Ward, Ric Burns, Ken Burns
  • Declaring Independence: The Origin and Influence of America’s Founding Document edited by Christian Y. Dupont

To apply:

To apply for “A More Perfect Union” Bookshelf, read the guidelines and complete the simple online application process at publicprograms.ala.org/Bookshelf.

To strengthen your application and your programs and to learn more about “A More Perfect Union” books and themes, visit EDSITEment, NEH’s online humanities resource for educators, parents, and students.

Learn more about the We the People Bookshelf project.


United Cake of America by Julie Paschkis
Image courtesy of Julie Paschkis (www.juliepaschkis.com)
Tico and the Golden Wings by Leo Leonni
Cover illustration Leo Leonni 1992 / Alfred A. Knopf.
César Sí, se puede by Carmet T. Bernier-Grand
Reprinted from César with permission of Marshall Cavendish.
The Life and Death of Crazy Horse
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Children
Restless Spirit
Alfred A. Knopf.
Our White House
Produced by Florentine Films and WETA Washington, D.C. 1990/Distributed by PBS Educational Media.