From picture books to photo essays, these books can provide learning for young readers about segregation, civil rights and appreciation for many efforts in attaining civil rights as celebrated during Black History Month.
“WE'VE GOT A JOB: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March,” by Cynthia Levinson, Peachtree Publishers, $19.95, 176 pages (nf) (ages 10 and up)
In 1963, 4,000 black elementary, middle and high school students voluntarily went to jail with the support of parents and grandparents. Their goal was to end segregation in the most racially divided and violent city in America — Birmingham, Ala. Four of those young people become the backbone of this book as they tell their stories of punishment at the hands of authorities, being degraded and suffering from overcrowding and heat. “It was something that was very, very much a part of me. I really, really believed in the Movement,’” recalls Arnetta Streeter, a 14-year-old.
James Steward, although from an "advantaged household," felt "a sense of resolve. I had enough of the segregation, discrimination, hatred, violence, white signs, colored signs, all of it! Now was the time to confront it all!’”
Cynthia Levinson’s thorough research includes extensive notes, a time line, maps and bibliography for further reading. While this is not a delightful time in United States history, the author provides a glimpse that must be read and remembered.
Another book about marches in 1963 by activists against segregation is “WE MARCH,” by Shane W. Evans (Roaring Brook/Porter, $16.99, 32 pages, ages 4-8).
Marching as a family, these stylized figures portray a solid front of support for their human rights.
In minimalist text, Shane W. Evans relates the chants and rhythms of the family and other marchers, such as “We follow our leaders/We walk together/We sing.” The marching concludes with the spirited “I Have a Dream” speech and an image of Martin Luther King in his glory. Younger children will understand the need to “act.”
“BLACK & WHITE,” by Larry Dane Brimner, Calkins Creek, $16.95, 80 pages (nf) (all ages)
The subtitle of this book, "The Confrontation Between Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Eugene 'Bull' Connor," is really the gist of “Black & White.” Set in Birmingham, Ala., during the '50s and '60s, protest and segregation earned the town a name of “Bombingham.” Central to the turbulence and symbolic to both sides of the civil rights movement were the Rev. Shuttlesworth and his adversary, commissioner of public safety Eugene Connor, nicknamed "Bull" for his loud voice and commanding presence. Shuttlesworth’s stand against Bull Connor’s views on segregation while exposing the Klan in Birmingham helped bring about national change when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
“Black & White” is an intriguing read about one of many conflicts that existed among diverse views on civil rights. Many photographs, oral histories, FBI records, archived newspapers and source notes add to the interest and validity.
Linda Barrett Osborne follows her acclaimed “Traveling the Freedom Road” with “MILES TO GO FOR FREEDOM: Segregation and Civil Rights in the Jim Crow Years” (Abrams Books for Young Readers, 128 pages, $24.95, ages 10 and up). With its setting during the years when blacks and whites were separated both physically and psychologically — leading to the tests for literacy, voting rights and the noted Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954 — this book is supported by the Library of Congress and contains comprehensive information on race relations in American history.
Two biographical accounts of Frederick Douglass, anti-slavery crusader, orator and writer, draw from his early life and provide glimpses of his hopes and determination.
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