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While the World Watched: A Birmingham Bombing Survivor Comes of Age during the Civil Rights Movement

Average Rating 4.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

More important every year

When I taught a course in the 1960s for college students, I made the Civil Rights Movement, including all of the events and documents included here, equal to about 1/3 of the course, in addition to Vietnam and the student/counter culture. Even 10-15 years ago, most of t...
When I taught a course in the 1960s for college students, I made the Civil Rights Movement, including all of the events and documents included here, equal to about 1/3 of the course, in addition to Vietnam and the student/counter culture. Even 10-15 years ago, most of the material was news to students, and today the popularity of The Help, an extremely mild version of the racist culture of the south in that time, has been a huge jolt to not only the young, but older people who were only marginally aware even in the 60s of what the problems were like in the black community aside from the desire to vote and to end segregation in spite of white southern resistance to those things. This book is even more important than The Help; it describes the atmosphere of fear that surrounded southern black communities, and puts the main event, the bombing of the 16th St. Baptist Church of Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963, in that context. It continues past that time to detail not only continuing racism and violence, but the terrible aftermath those things created for the participants. Carolyn Maull McKinstry speaks about her PTSD and her emotional problems for many years after she came within a few feet of death that September in 1963. Just as I did in class, she splices in with her narrative the actual speeches and news reports and photos of the day, to make it more immediate. Very highly recommended, and an easy read even for high school.

posted by KKR on March 4, 2012

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

crappy book

Not a good book not entertaining

posted by Anonymous on October 31, 2012

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  • Posted March 4, 2012

    More important every year

    When I taught a course in the 1960s for college students, I made the Civil Rights Movement, including all of the events and documents included here, equal to about 1/3 of the course, in addition to Vietnam and the student/counter culture. Even 10-15 years ago, most of the material was news to students, and today the popularity of The Help, an extremely mild version of the racist culture of the south in that time, has been a huge jolt to not only the young, but older people who were only marginally aware even in the 60s of what the problems were like in the black community aside from the desire to vote and to end segregation in spite of white southern resistance to those things. This book is even more important than The Help; it describes the atmosphere of fear that surrounded southern black communities, and puts the main event, the bombing of the 16th St. Baptist Church of Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963, in that context. It continues past that time to detail not only continuing racism and violence, but the terrible aftermath those things created for the participants. Carolyn Maull McKinstry speaks about her PTSD and her emotional problems for many years after she came within a few feet of death that September in 1963. Just as I did in class, she splices in with her narrative the actual speeches and news reports and photos of the day, to make it more immediate. Very highly recommended, and an easy read even for high school.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2011

    Great intro to racial injustice

    While the World Watched by Carolyn Maull McKinstry is a great book to learn about racial injustice in the south through the story of a young girl who witnessed the bombing of her church and the deaths of 4 of her friends. This is a very readable history of this woman's life and how she was personally affected by the treatment of blacks in the south. I did not feel like the author wanted me to feel guilty for being white, but more like she wanted to get readers thinking about what we do now to love others around us (of any race!). I would recommend this book to anyone interested in stepping into the shoes of someone who lived these injustices; it is simply written and appropriate, I believe, for even younger readers to use as an introduction to the subject.

    Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 3, 2011

    Hard to put this one down!

    While the World Watched tells the story of the 1963 church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama that acted as a spark to ignite the Civil Rights movement. It is a gripping story of one of the teenage survivors of the bombing who lost four of her friends. Through the book she traces her journey as a black woman of the South in from the 1960s to the the present day. The overall theme of the book is the power of love and forgiveness over hate and death. It's one of those rare books I had a hard time putting down (even when I was having trouble staying away because of the late hour at which I often read it!)

    One of my favorite parts of the entire book was that throughout the chapters were excerpts of speeches by civil rights activists such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and even President Kennedy. At the end of the book was a brief appendix with actual Jim Crow Laws listed. I'll say that much of what was in the book was new to me. Over my years in education I often commented to my history teachers and professors that we don't teach recent history in school - I was always lucky to get to WWII, yet alone anything post-WWII in school. So while I obviously know of the Civil Rights movement and am familiar with many of the figures of it, this was the first time I read in detail anything about it. For a white man who grew up in the North it gave me a much better appreciation for the struggle faced by black Americans over the last half-century.

    I would give the book five out of five stars, but there were times I struggled with following the storyline because it didn't always tell it chronologically - and so at times I had to go back and re-read a few pages because I got confused when the timeline switched. That minor frustration, though, (and it was minor) is my only complaint. I'll give it a solid 4.5/5 stars.

    I received this book free from Tyndale Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 10, 2011

    Very inspiring read

    As the World Watched tells the story of Carolyn Maull McKinstry's life growing up during the height of the Civil Rights torn south. From the first page, the reader is given a glimpse into what it was like to live as an African American in Birmingham, Alabama in the 1960s. The central event of the book is the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing in1963, but McKinstry details many other incidents of Civil Rights unrest in the deep south.

    I really enjoyed this book. McKinstry's writing style was easy to follow, and I found myself gaining a better understanding of the depth of the Civil Rights problem in the south. I especially appreciated her candid discussion of her faith in God, and how forgiving those who wronged her, changed her life. The one thing that I did not like was the back and forth style at the beginning of the book, going from discussing different characters and events, to the day of the bombing, and back. It would have been easier to follow if she had just started from the beginning and led up to the bombing.

    Overall, it was a great book, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves history and desires a deeper understanding of historical events.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2012

    Highly recommended -- A journey of healing for all of us

    This is an excellent documentation of the tragic event that brought so many of us to our knees in disbelief. The nation was forced to face the ugliness of a society filled with hate. The writer takes us on her journey of understanding and reconciliation and thereby reminds us that only love can heal a broken people. Thank you

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 1, 2014

    The memoir of Carolyn Maull McKinstry's life is centered around

    The memoir of Carolyn Maull McKinstry's life is centered around her part in the Civil Rights Movement. Carolyn was a survivor of the 1963 Birmingham bombings in which four of her friends died. She also participated in protests with Martin Luther King Jr. as a teen and experienced many different challenges and heartaches. Through it all her faith in Jesus helped to sustain her, although she had years of alcoholism and what we would likely describe today as post-traumatic stress disorder.


    This was a very interesting and ultimately inspiring book. So many tragedies in our nation's history of people treating others beyond poorly. Sprinkled throughout the book are different speeches from John F. Kennedy, George Wallace, and Martin Luther King; all of which serve to give great perspective and historical accuracy of what occurred. She also opens each chapter with a Bible verse, quote, or newspaper article excerpt that applies to the topic. All in all this was a well-written and fascinating book, and it is easy to recommend.

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  • Posted July 16, 2014

    On September 15, 1963 the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Bir

    On September 15, 1963 the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama was bombed and 4 young girls lost their lives. One of their closest friends had just left the bathroom as she had church duties – and thus her life was spared. This is the true story of that girl, Carolyn Maull.
    As someone born after this bombing I had no idea how bad it was in the Deep South for someone born with dark skin. Wow! I had heard stories but this is from the viewpoint of one who lived through extreme segregation long before the bombings occurred. As a young child she sat with her dying grandmother in the basement of the hospital – with appalling conditions and little medical care because “coloreds” weren’t allowed upstairs. As a young girl she sometimes resented always being escorted, even across the street, by brothers – only to learn many years later it was because little black girls by themselves were sometimes viciously raped by white boys. So many of the rules her father imposed on her were for her safety in such a hostile environment. (He learned a lot as a waiter in an all-white country club). Honestly, to me, it seems like such a strange and alien world so I’m glad Mrs. McKinstry has told her story and that she is free to go where she wants and order what she wants. The only thing that marred this book, in my mind, was the endorsement by President Obama in the back as I do not respect many of the decisions he has made as president. However, I did like the book and the inclusion of the partial list of the Jim Crow laws as I had no idea they were so nitpicky and all encompassing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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