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

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

10 out of 10 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 January 5, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    I AM THANKFUL!

    I was already familiar with the subject matter of this book prior to receiving it as a Christmas gift. I have maintained a healthy interest in the Civil Rights Movement. I once attended a service at the 16th St. Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL. I previously conducted research on the bombing which occurred on September 15, 1963. Thus, I was eager to read this piece.
    I expected this work to be outstanding, and it was outstanding. The writing was simple. I thought this was an asset, because this story covers a part of history that should be exposed to young people at an early age. The storyline was out of sequence. Some have not liked this, but I thought it was an effective tool for keeping one's interest. The language was intimate. Even though, I have never met Mrs. McKinstry, I felt as though she was talking to me directly. The author skillfully intertwined her personal story with the history of Birmingham and the current events of the U S A during that era. Through all of this, she provided a unique perspective (that was new to me) on a most crucial event that occurred in our nation's recent past.
    This work gave a personal narrative on being a victim of the Jim Crow Laws. It gave a detailed insight on how it was to be teenaged footsoldier marching for justice in the South. It gave a first hand account of what an individual experienced while standing in the midst of a terrorist attack. Yet amazingly, this story told how one can be healed from the devastating effects of all of this. I sensed that writing this book was part of the healing process for the writer.
    I highly recommend this book. It is a classic of English Literature. It should be sold in every church bookstore. Mrs. McKinstry does forgive. However, I will never forget!

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 11, 2011

    While The World Watched

    It is difficult to imagine what it would have been like to grow up as an African American in the segregated South during the period of Jim Crow Laws. It is conceivable that something as simple as the color of a person's skin could cause such anger, hatred, violence, and unrest between people. These are the circumstances that Carolyn Maul McKinstry grew up in. In her new book, While The World Watched, McKinstry tells her personal story of growing up in what was known as the most segregated city in America, Birmingham, Alabama, during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950's and 60's. She writes from a personal perspective, sharing with the reader how every part of her life was affected by the horrors of segregation. The majority of the world has only the benefit of reading about the struggle of African Americans to secure the most basic rights for themselves. McKinstry lived it. Her book begins with her early childhood describing the security she felt within her family and church life. The pivotal point of the book, and arguably her life, was the bombing of her church, Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham by the Ku Klux Klan. In this bombing, McKinstry lost four of her best friends, and the naivety that people treated each other fairly. This event was her wake-up call to the hard reality that whites did not value the lives of African Americans equally. While The World Watched is a history lesson for us all, as well as a personal memoir of someone who was part of that history. She provides excerpts of famous speeches from those on both sides of the Civil Rights Movement such as Martin Luther King Jr., Governor George Wallace, and President John F. Kennedy. A timeline of events that made up the Civil Rights Movement, vivid photographs, and a sample of the Jim Crow Laws provide the reader with a better perspective of the sin and struggles of segregation. I believe this book is a must read, as some of the feelings of Civil Rights Movement still exist today. This book will sadden you, encourage you, anger you, and challenge you in ways you don't expect. While The World Watched is very well written and definitely worth your time. I received a free copy of the book from Tyndale House in exchange for my honest review.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 11, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Great eye opening book!

    Imagine going to church on Sunday, walking up the stairs to the sanctuary. Seconds later, a bomb explodes right where you just walked. This is the story of Carolyn Maull McKinstry. She records her personal account of the 16th st Birmingham Church Bombing, along with many other personal happenings of racial injustice. She wrote everything from her view, what it was like to almost be killed, how terrifying it was to wake up to the sound of a bomb, and how hard it was to forgive the men who had done the bigoted act. She spoke of her longing to go to a public swimming pool, or an amusement park closed to people of other ethnicity. An eye opening book indeed.

    I loved this book, I thought it was a very well written book, and it really opened my eyes to dastardly segregation of the 1960s. I could not believe the racial norm, how hate filled white people were; it was almost as if I had opened a time capsule to a time where no one but white people had value. I learned so much in this book that I never knew. So many colored people were killed, yet rarely was anyone convicted of murder. One of the things I found interesting was that nearly every person who had murdered someone without being caught had died of a sickness before another trial could be held.

    Pros: I loved reading her view on the important civil rights dates, and it was very eye opening. It was a phenomenal story of overcoming hatred; on both sides of the spectrum.
    Con: The only thing I disliked was not actually the book; rather, it was the layout. I did not love that the speeches were scattered in between the paragraphs. I liked reading the speeches, but it was hard to stop in the middle of Carolyn's sentence, read a speech, and then pick up where you left off.

    Overall, I loved it! It was a great book, with a great story of forgiveness weaved into every chapter.

    I would recommend this book to anyone over 15, {or a little younger, depending on the maturity and the gender} It was quite graphic in some areas, but it probably wouldn't affect a boy as much as a girl, and some 12 year olds are just tough :)

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 7, 2011

    Powerful book.

    All the ugly things of the world come together in this wonderfully written book.... fear, hate, death, loss. But the lovely things are in it too.... hope, love, forgiveness. Carolyn's story is powerful. Growing up in Alabama her family does their best to shield her from what the klan is doing in their community. She tells us of a bombing and her life afterwards, how she struggles with grief, disappointment, and trying to understand. I highly recommend this book.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 21, 2011

    Wonderfully written, great read!

    I received this book to read from the Tyndale Blog Reviewer Network. I was not required to give this book a positive review, these are my true opinions.

    This wonderfully written book leads you through Carolyn Maull McKinstry's life as she comes to terms with the loss and her hatred and comes to forgiveness through the Lord. Her road was not smooth or quick, but it led her to where she was meant to be. I received this book to review while I was going through a Sunday School class on forgiveness and how when we forgive others as God forgave us, we are in his grace. I really loved this book, I had a difficult time putting it down. I would recommend this to anyone whether or not they have an interest in the history of our Civil Rights Movement.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 26, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    While the World Watched by Carolyn McKinstry,(with) Denise George

    I thought this book was an excellent book of a woman's eyewitness view of the Birmingham Bombing during the Civil Rights movement when she was a teenager and how she witnessed the deaths of her best friends.
    Carolyn has tried to forget that awful day five decades ago on Sunday, September 15th, 1963.The human injustices and the assassinations of those who spoke out for a change.
    I really loved how she put this book together and all of Martin Luther King Jr's speaches she included, she also included in the front of the book a wonderful timeline of the events that happened during the movement. As I read this book I felt as if I was there going through the experience with her.I would recomend this book for all to read !!
    ** I recieved this book for free from Tyndale for being a book blogger**

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 21, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent Book

    While the World Watched, is a story about a survivor, Carolyn McKinstry, of the Birmingham bombing. History books do not do justice for what happened doing the civil right movement but a book like this penetrates a person deep so they will not forget. I truly believe that history could or would be repeated if a person does not become astute about it. Having grown up in Texas and moved to Alabama a few years ago I was not fully aware of the tragedy that happened in Birmingham and other areas (cities and states). This book opened my eyes to apart of America history that is really unpleasant. By no means should this history be hidden but people with courage like Carolyn McKinstry these stories and history will never be forgotten.

    The first-hand account of Carolyn McKinstry gives the read a glance of life during the civil rights movement. It shows how parents tried to protect their families, how children tried to live a "normal" life and how awful people can be to other people. Another aspect of the book I liked was the incorporation of speeches, Kennedys and Martin Luther King Jr, during that time of frame. I would recommend this book to everyone.

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

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 8, 2011

    Forgiveness is the Path to Freedom

    Riveting. That's the first word I can think of to describe this book. It was extremely well written.

    Mrs. McKinstry was a young teenager attending Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama during the Civil Rights movement. She was at church the day of the bombing. The girls who died were her friends. Mrs. McKinstry's life was changed that day, as were the lives of all those who were at the church that morning.

    After the tragedy and then the travesty of justice that transpired thereafter, Mrs. McKinstry tried to go on with her life. She had trouble sleeping. She became withdrawn. She was no longer as interested in her studies. Mrs. McKinstry explains the way she met her husband and his gentleness and patience with her. She weaves a story of the sorrows of her life and the grace provided by the loves in her life.

    Suddenly one day she realized something her grandfather had said years before. That realization gave her strength to call on God and believe for change in her own life. Through a long process, she began to forgive. Now she works to bring about forgiveness all over the US.

    I found the entire book to be compelling.

    I received this book free from Tyndale Press in exchange for a truthful review of the book. Thank you, Tyndale, for allowing me to read this book. It was a compelling read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2012

    Awesome

    Cool story

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 1, 2011

    Wonderfully Written Beautiful story

    While the World Watched gives the unique viewpoints of not just a child but a first hand account of the bombing, a personal account of how these events effected her whole life. I enjoyed this book a lot. I had a little bit of a hard time following sometimes because there was a lot of date jumping in spots but it definitely did not take away from the story. This book was about non violence, peace, love, and ultimately forgiveness. Also in this book were speeches and quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr,whom Carolyn got to hear and speak to first hand, speeches and quotes also from John and Bobby Kennedy. This book is a must read for the young and old about a time in our history that is very important to know about. I highly recommend this book.
    I received this book free from Tyndale publishing for my honest review of it

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2014

    I read and still is reading this book in school and it is amazing!

    This book is one on my favorite books it keeps me on the edge of my seat and it also is a good book to read if your bored because it inspires me in different ways. I love it! Good details, great history, and its fun to read. I didnt want to put it down! You should read it.

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  • Posted August 21, 2014

    ¿While the World Watched¿ is a moving account of one woman¿s exp

    “While the World Watched” is a moving account of one woman’s experience during the Civil Rights Movement. As a resident of Birmingham, AL, she was a member of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and was friends with the four girls who were tragically killed there when the church was bombed by the KKK. As she describes what life was like for her as a young black girl during this tumultuous time, she really drew me in. While it’s definitely an account of historical events. Mrs. McKinstry tells her story as a … story. It’s interesting, poignant, and kept me anxiously listening for the next chapter.

    While some have mentioned they didn’t like the lengthy quotes from various speeches and writings, I felt that it gave broader context to what her personal experiences were.

    I also appreciated her focus on how her relationship with the Lord grew (and has continued to grow) in the 50 years since the bombing. While she could have easily become bitter and hardened due to her circumstances, she has allowed the Lord to change her from the inside out. I appreciated her message of love and forgiveness—probably moreso because of her circumstances.

    The main takeaway from reading (or listening to) While the World Watched was personal. After spending most of my life in the deep south, I’ve always been aware of the horrible things that happened here. However, after hearing a more detailed account of that time, I realized that this is still something that we don’t talk much about—in schools, at home, or even in the community. I’m ashamed to say that this is the most thorough history lesson I’ve ever received on the Civil Rights Movement. It’s not just embarrassing. It’s downright shameful. Thank you, Mrs. McKinstry, for the courage you displayed when sharing your story. I have been enlightened and changed because of it.

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  • Posted August 11, 2014

    I read this book soon after taking a college class on civil righ

    I read this book soon after taking a college class on civil rights in the history of American education.  This memoir perfectly complemented what I researched in the class and gave me a very poignant, inspiring look at civil rights issues.  The author has a good storyteller's voice and her story was both moving and interesting. I liked the inclusions in the book of the MLK speeches, photos, and Jim Crow Laws.  They brought more understanding to a time period I didn't experience.  If you're interested in the civil rights movement or history in general, I also suggest you see the movie "The Help" and read Jennifer Valent's "Fireflies in December". 

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  • Posted August 5, 2014

    Survivor! While the World Watched tells the story of Carolyn Ma

    Survivor!

    While the World Watched tells the story of Carolyn Maull McKinstry's life growing up in Birmingham, AL.  She was in the 16th street Baptist Church when a bomb went off in Sept. 1963 and had just been in the area of the Church where the bomb exploded.  She was not physically injured but suffered emotional trauma when four of her friends where killed.  The book tells the story of her life leading up to the bombings and after during the Civil Rights struggles in the country and the hardships and unspeakable hate that her family and friends suffered.

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  • Posted July 29, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Everyone needs to read this book. EVERYONE. I'm serious. It m

    Everyone needs to read this book. EVERYONE. I'm serious. It might be one of the most important books you'll ever read. And with history being revised at every turn, we need these eyewitness accounts preserved.


    Don't get me wrong: it's a hard book to read. "While the World Watched" gets real, and it gets gritty. Carolyn adds direct quotes from correspondence by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She also quotes Governer George Wallace (he's learned his lessons by now!), and others who were deeply involved in the Civil Rights Movement.


    But most chilling is the opening, describing the bombing that (should have) rocked the world. Carolyn ends with events demonstrating how far we've come and how far we have to go.


    Now, here's the controversial part...I'm not saying you need to read "While the World Watched" to understand race relations in America, but you do. I'm not saying you need to read Carolyn's memoir to fully grasp what black Americans have endured in our country in the name of segregation, but they do.


    I'm encouraging you to read this book for this reason: I am SICK and TIRED of hearing the fight for homosexual/lesbian rights/marriage compared to the Civil Rights Movement. What happens to the LBGT community is NOTHING compared to what blacks endured, and still endure. To me, and I know as a white woman I have no right to say this...


    ...every time I hear the comparison it's like a slap in the face to people like Carolyn, Rosa Parks, Dr. King Jr., Emmitt Till and so many, many others. Yes, the LBGT community has faced discrimination. Yes, some have died. And yes, they are not treated "equally"...but that is NOTHING compared to what you'll read in this book.


    Sorry if that makes you angry, but it's true. And as I wipe my tears and say thank you to my friends at Tyndale House Publishers for my advance copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Please, go out and get this book and read it! Highly recommended, and wish it was required in all school curriculums.

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  • Posted July 21, 2014

    While the World Watched is an amazing read. It amazes me how cru

    While the World Watched is an amazing read. It amazes me how cruel the world can be. I cannot grasp the cruelty Carolyn and others like her endured in her lifetime. I was born in the south a decade after the civil rights movement. I did not see how those Jim Crow Laws affected people. Or see those senseless signs saying Colored or Whites Only. The civil rights era was such a violent time. I have heard stories or seen documentaries about it. Carolyn's story puts everything into a new perspective. How could a free country treat free people that way? 
    I did enjoy this book. So inspiring to learn the power of forgiveness. Carolyn is an inspiring person of her race - the human race. The book includes Martin Luther King's speeches, list of the senseless Jim Crow Laws, and various letters from people of the era to the present time. 
    I recommend this book to those who wants to learn more of the civil rights movement from an inspiring woman who lived through it. It is one of those books that makes the reader think about it long after it is been read. 
    5 stars.

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  • Posted July 15, 2014

    Fourteen-year-old Carolyn Maull was at the 16th Street Baptist C

    Fourteen-year-old Carolyn Maull was at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama when a Klan-planted bomb went off killing four of her friends. This was a sad day in American history. We read about Jim Crow who is behind the law that wants to keep segregation going but that doesn't stop people from fighting for their rights. We read about Martin Luther King Jr., President John F. Kennedy and other freedom fighters. 




    I want to thank Tyndale House for putting this book on their Summer Reading List because I have had this ebook on my kindle for sometime but if it wasn't for them I may have never read it. Thank you!




    To me this book is better then anything I was ever taught in school. I was born in 1973 so I really never understood what African Americans went through just to be truly free until I read this book. I remember my mom would tell me about the signs, which she hated, and she taught me at a very young age to not look at a person color but at their heart. This book at me in tears so many times. I would give it 10 stars if I could because of the power behind it and I think Carolyn Maull McKinstry is a true hero for her fight and for telling her story.

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  • Posted July 6, 2014

    Intense and Educational. This beautiful lady gives us a personal

    Intense and Educational. This beautiful lady gives us a personal glimpse into a tragic day and era, as well as a brave look into her own pain and devastation, so that we can see her healing and gain insight into forgiveness. The message is one of love and reconciliation, after opening our eyes to the evils of the racial situation. The events are depicted in a professional and compelling way with her co-author. The quotes from speeches and reports enhance the narrative. They give it more historical interest. The photos are illuminating and some are chilling. They help make the account more real. Despite some repetition, this is an excellent and worthwhile book.

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  • Posted July 2, 2014

    This is an extremely interesting book about the horrifying bombi

    This is an extremely interesting book about the horrifying bombing of a black Baptist church rest room that would kill four young black girls on Sunday, September 15, 1963, and wake Americans to the realization that black people were only nominally free in southern states in America. It is told by Carolyn Maull McKinstry whose four closest friends were killed in the church ladies’ room while she waited for them outside the church. Somehow the killing of those four young black girls in their black church on a Sunday morning seems the worse evil imaginable. As President John Kennedy said, it should be possible for Americans of any color to go to schools without armed guards, to eat in any restaurants without fear, and to register to vote without fear of reprisal. This book describes the difficulties of being black in America after the Civil War supposedly had freed them.

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  • Posted June 27, 2014

    I was only three years old when the 16th Street Baptist Church w

    I was only three years old when the 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed.  Combined with the fact I grew up in Wisconsin and North Dakota, I had no idea of the details of this tragedy, much less the big picture of the life of black people in the South and the Civil Rights Movement.  I have not yet read two biographies of Martin Luther King, Jr. that sit on my shelf, but I had at least heard of the bombing.  Carolyn's story filled a huge hole in my consciousness of the events that have shaped our country.  It's the story of Carolyn's experiences that day and how her life was forever impacted by them - but she places her experiences within the context of the larger Civil Rights struggles all over the South.  I'm very grateful she put these things into words.  

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