Beautifully designed and illustrated with archival photographs, this book will visually grab readers as will the subject matter: Children in Birmingham (aka “Bombingham”) who risked their safety to march for civil rights at a time when many adults were afraid to protest.
Cynthia Levinson does an outstanding job of seamlessly providing the history to show how the children’s marches for civil rights began, explaining segregation and separate but equal policies, the rampant discrimination when it came to voter registration, intimidation by the Klan, and the impact on everyday life for blacks in the south. Other events throughout the movement, both the triumphs and the failures, are referenced, and the author does not shy away from the violence. She points out that there were white people, including those entrusted to uphold the law, so prejudiced that they could justify beating, even killing, a black person. Chilling photos include the Freedom Riders’ bus in flames, the riot in the Trailways Bus Station in Birmingham, and a photo of KKK Members, along with their indoctrinated children, in robes.
It is against this dark backdrop that the author introduces four activists, ages 9-15, who chose to risk their futures to fight for civil rights. In first person accounts, they discuss what caused them to act and how they prepared. Three, Audrey, James, and Arnetta, chose to undergo nonviolence training. One, Washington, was swept up by events and fought back after seeing the attacks on his peers. The determination and heroism of each participant is inspiring. Youngsters will be moved and outraged by the descriptions and photographs of marchers their own age being set upon by forces using dogs, batons, and fire hoses. Readers will empathize with James when he says, “I was shocked . . . that they hated us so much. They didn’t even know us.” They will be hard-pressed to say how they would have responded in the face of an assault. Finally, in the future, the readers of this book will look at injustice and discrimination anywhere with a more critical eye.
A Timeline, Map, Notes, Bibliography, and Index complete the book.
Tips for Teachers: The Bibliography includes many fine resources, among them suggested websites such as the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (www.bcri.org) and the National Civil Rights Museum (www.civilrightsmuseum.org).
Reviewed by : JMcD
Themes : AFRICAN AMERICANS. FREEDOM. HEROES. INTEGRATION. PERSEVERANCE. RACE RELATIONS. U.S. HISTORY.
CRITICS HAVE SAID
- A moving record of young people rising at a pivotal historical moment, based on original interviews and archival research as well as published sources.
- Even with the many fine books out there about the role of young people in the Civil Rights era, this highly readable photo-essay will hold YA readers with its focus on four young people who participated in the Birmingham Children s March, set against the big picture of the fight against segregation and the roles of adults.
- This chronicle of a pivotal chapter of the civil rights movement weaves together the stories of four black children in Birmingham, Ala., who were among some 4,000 who boycotted school to participate in a march to protest segregation. Before recounting that event, during which almost 2,500 young people were arrested and jailed, first-time author Levinson opens with intimate profiles of the four spotlighted children (drawn from interviews she conducted with each of them), along with descriptions of Birmingham s racist laws, corrupt politicians, antiblack sentiment and activists efforts to fight all of the above. Readers also get an upclose view of such leaders as Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, who founded the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights; Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who advocated a nonviolent response; and James Bevel, a preacher who rallied the city s children and teens. Yet the most compelling component is Levinson s dramatic recreation of the courageous children s crusade and the change it helped bring about in the face of widespread prejudice and brutality. Powerful period photos and topical sidebars heighten the story s impact.
IF YOU LOVE THIS BOOK, THEN TRY:
Brimmer, Larry Dane. Black and White: The Confrontation between Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Eugene “Bull” Connor. Boyds Mills Press, 2011. ISBN-13: 978-1590787663.
Crowe, Chris. Just as Good: How Larry Doby Changed America’s Game. Candlewick Press, 2012. ISBN-13: 9780763650261.
Curtis, Christopher Paul. The Might Miss Malone. Wendy Lamb Books, 2012. ISBN-13: 978-0385734912
Levine, Ellen S. Freedom’s Children: Young Civil Rights Activists Tell Their Own Story. Puffin, 2000. ISBN-13: 978-0698118706.
Levine, Kristin. The Lions of Little Rock. Putnam Juvenile, 2012. ISBN-13: 978-0399256448.
Levinson, Meira. No Citizen Left Behind. Harvard University Press, 2012. ISBN-13: 978-0674065789.
Nelson, Vaunda Micheaux. No Crystal Stair (Carolrhoda Ya). Carolrhoda Books, 2012. ISBN-13: 978-0761361695.
Rochelle, Belinda. Witnesses to Freedom: Young People Who Fought for Civil Rights. Puffin, 1997. ISBN-13: 978-0140384321.
Weatherford, Carole Boston. Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-Ins. Puffin, 2007. ISBN-13: 978-0142408940.