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.
Peachtree Publishers, 2012
Suggested Ages: Ages 10 an