Racial bombings were so frequent in Birmingham that it became known as "Bombingham." Until September 15, 1963, these attacks had been threatening but not deadly. On that Sunday morning, however, a blast in the 16th Street Baptist Church ripped through the exterior wall and claimed the lives of four girls. The church was the ideal target for segregationists, as it was the rallying place for Birmingham's African American community, Martin Luther King, Jr., using it as his "headquarters" when he was in town to ...
Racial bombings were so frequent in Birmingham that it became known as "Bombingham." Until September 15, 1963, these attacks had been threatening but not deadly. On that Sunday morning, however, a blast in the 16th Street Baptist Church ripped through the exterior wall and claimed the lives of four girls. The church was the ideal target for segregationists, as it was the rallying place for Birmingham's African American community, Martin Luther King, Jr., using it as his "headquarters" when he was in town to further the cause of desegregation and equal rights. Rather than triggering paralyzing fear, the bombing was the definitive act that guaranteed passage of the landmark 1964 civil rights legislation. Birmingham Sunday, a Jane Addams Children's Honor Book, NCTE Orbis Pictus Honor Book, and Kirkus Reviews Best Children's Book of the Year, centers on this fateful day and places it in historical context.
Focusing on the civil rights struggles of the past century, the book opens with brief biographical information about the four girls who died in the September 15, 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. While all such studies include signal events such as the fatal church bombing and the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott, Brimner widens the field, building the tension forward from the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision stating that racially-based school segregation is unconstitutional. Lesser known activists, such as Autherine Lucy, Fred Shuttlesworth, and the bus riders who violated segregation laws before Rosa Parks, receive spotlight attention. The Children's Crusade, civil rights leaders' effort to engage children and teens in protests, is covered in detail. After explaining that bombings had been common occurrences in Birmingham since the 1940s, Brimner provides background and history of the Sixteenth Street Church as a venue for civil rights leaders to meet and to train protesters that indicate why the church was targeted with such a powerful blast. Expanding the field again, he includes the fate of Sara Collins, who survived the blast that killed her sister, and information about two teen boys killed the same day in separate incidents. Vivid black-and-white photographs and "ripped from the headlines" text bring the reader into the scene on each page. End matter includes references for further reading, source notes, and two informative messages from the author. Reviewer: Heather N. Kolich
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up—September 16, 1963, was one of the most horrific days in American history. On a quiet Sunday morning, the Sixteenth Street Baptist church was bombed, and four little girls were killed. The author successfully blends the facts of the event with the intense emotions of the period in order to bring it to life. The facts regarding Jim Crow, segregation, as well as civil rights successes in bus integration and the Brown v. Board of Education ruling are explored in order to provide the context for the tragic event. These facts propelled African Americans to become even more hopeful and determined to achieve equality while those who opposed equality between whites and blacks became even more invested in seeing their efforts fail at any cost. Thorough research that includes FBI files, police surveillance records, and primary-source documents gives a detailed and fascinating look at the intense, decades-long federal and state investigation. This information, accompanied by the personal reflections from both the families of the victims and the perpetrators, ensures that readers will never forget the human impact of this significant part of the Civil Rights Movement. The book is beautifully designed, with good-quality, black-and-white photos, informative captions, and pertinent pull quotes. A worthy addition to any collection.—Margaret Auguste, Franklin Middle School, Somerset, NJ
Brimner focuses on the 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and successfully illuminates in chronological order the events, social tensions and political reverberations of that terror-filled time. Beginning with personal information about each of the four girls killed in the blast, he then introduces powerful figures or groups, some not well known, on both sides of the Civil Rights Movement. They are brought to life with information gleaned from various primary sources including FBI reports, police surveillance files, court transcripts and oral-history accounts. Each victim of the bombing and each advocate emerges for readers through quotes, black-and-white photographs and engaging, descriptive prose. Sidebars provide related information about the Movement and augment the highly accessible text. On the final pages are profiles of those responsible for the brutal bombing and the justice they finally received. A standout book for its thorough research and comprehensive look at the incident that led to the 1964 passage of civil-rights legislation. (further reading, author's note, source notes, picture credits) (Nonfiction. 10 & up)
Larry Dane Brimner is an award-winning author of more than 150 titles for young readers, both nonfiction and fiction. His books include Merry Christmas, Old Armadillo; Subway: The Story of Tunnels, Tubes and Tracks; A Migrant Family; The Littlest Wolf; and Angel Island.