From the Publisher
"POWERFUL . . . TOLD WITH SUCH PASSIONATE CONVICTION THAT THE READER IS TRANSFIXED."
The New York Times
"David Halberstam is America's Alexis de Tocqueville. . . . In The Children, he returns to his roots as a young reporter for the Nashville Tennessean, where he covered the start of the civil rights movement, the sit-ins that galvanized a generation. In following a dozen student idealists through the arc of their lives in the early 1960s to the present ambiguous moment at the end of the century, he shows how people make history and how the making of that history affects their lives. The Children is an important book, especially for today's youth, who will read in its moving and revealing pages the remarkable stories of flesh-and-blood people who were the fiber of a social movement."
Los Angeles Times Book Review
"UNFORGETTABLE DRAMA . . . In Mr. Halberstam's hands, the early days of the civil-rights movement come to life as never before in print. . . . The Children has a rare power."
The Wall Street Journal
"THE CHILDREN IS UTTERLY ABSORBING and contains some of the most moving passages Halberstam has ever written. . . . The civil-rights movement already has produced superb works of history, books such as David J. Garrow's Bearing the Cross and Taylor Branch's recently published Pillar of Fire. . . . David Halberstam adds another with The Children."
The Philadelphia Inquirer
"STIRRING . . . Within this book live stories of timeless heroism. . . . Stories so fraught with hatred and hope, violence and suffering, fear and courage, that one reads the book gripping it with both hands, almost afraid to turn the page."
The Washington Post Book World
...[M]oving, exhaustively researched...
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This re-creation of the early days of the civil rights movement by Halberstam (The Fifties) is at once intimate and monumental. By focusing on a small group of young African Americans who attended the Reverend James Lawson's workshop for nonviolent demonstrators in Nashville in 1959, then went on to play active roles in the movement, he hits the high points of the civil rights struggle and makes them immediate: the Nashville sit-ins; the founding of SNCC and CORE; the Freedom Rides; Bull Connor's attacks in Birmingham; the Klan in Memphis; the first singing of "We Shall Overcome"; the voter registration campaign; Bloody Sunday in Selma; and the march to Montgomery. As the group moves out of Nashville and encounters others in the movement, the book expands with the complexity, but fortunately not the imposed tidiness, of a Victorian novel. While some of the young people's names are familiar (e.g., Marion Barry, John Lewis), most are not, but the portraits of them and the society they lived in and challenged is richly detailed. Halberstam examines the subtle frictions within the movement (middle-class vs. poor, lighter-skinned vs. darker, male vs. female), as well as the often violent struggle against segregationists. A number of brief, informative essays are sandwiched in: on the sociology of all-white Vanderbilt University; the eccentricities of the Nashville newspapers; a history of city politics in Washington, D.C.; the role of the Kennedy Justice Department. Martin Luther King Jr. plays a minor part in this history because the subject is indeed the "children"the young adults in their late teens or early 20s in 1960, the early idealists who experienced violence in the streets and saw their movement itself turn segregationist (whites were forced out). The last third of the book follows the professional development of the children into adulthood: there was a congressman, a major, several doctors and college professors, a high school teacher and a political gadfly. This book need not have been as long as it is. But it is a masterful achievement in reporting, research and understanding. In a concluding author's note, Halberstam writes of his own experiences as a young reporter covering the civil rights beat.
(PW best book of 1998)
Award-winning journalist Halberstam (October 1964, LJ 4/1/94) returns to the time and place of his cub reporting for the daily Tennessean to chronicle what it was like for nine bright, idealistic young black men and women who began a crusade for justice without violence with a sit-in assault on segregated lunch counters in Nashville on February 13, 1960. Detailing the speeding cycle of racial protest that divided the 1950s and 1960s and created a new age and a new America, Halberstam renders the private and public struggles of a generation of young impassioned black students. With impressive sweep he reports on both what happened in the movement and what happened to it. An engrossing supplement to classics such as Clayborne Carson's In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s (LJ 5/1/81) and Aldon Morris's Origins of the Civil Rights Movement (LJ 10/1/84). Recommended for any collection on blacks, civil rights, the South, or the United States since 1945.Thomas J. Davis, Arizona State Univ., Tempe
School Library Journal
YA-The "children" of the title refers to the courageous students who led the sit-ins in Nashville, TN, starting in 1960. Halberstam, who was a reporter for the Nashville Tennessean at the time, introduces Diane Nash, John Lewis, Gloria Johnson, Bernard Lafayette, Marion Barry, Curtis Murphy, James Bevel, Rodney Powell, and their mentor, the Reverend James Lawson. Readers learn of each student's background, family, fears, hopes, and determination. The narrative outlines the moral and political roots of the civil rights movement and the philosophical divisions that occurred as it grew from the first sit-ins to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. The author shows that this period in American history marked the beginning of the use of television to inform a wider audience, to show violence as news, and to bypass certain local newspapers, which gave little or no coverage of the movement. The last chapters trace the lives of these young people and how their experiences affected them as adults. YAs will appreciate the courage and dedication of these young activists. The excellent index will help researchers trace individuals and locations.-Betsy E. Pfeffer, Northern Virginia Community College
Halberstam's finest work...There's more humanity in this book than in anything he's done.
David M. Oshinsky
[A] powerful, densely packed [narrative]. There is much to admire in Halberstam's book.
The New York Times Book Review
Another sprawling book from a master journalist and historian (The Fifties, 1993, etc.), this one focusing on the early years of the civil-rights movement and some of its unlikely heroes. In the late 1950s, an African-American minister and scholar named Jim Lawson arrived in Nashville, Tenn. A student of Mohandas Gandhi's and an admirer of Martin Luther King's, Lawson began to organize students at area colleges, leading seminars in draft resistance and civil disobedience. A true radical Christian who feared neither prison nor death, he recruited a number of men and women who would carry the struggle for civil rights to all parts of the country. One of them was a Fisk University graduate student named Marion Barry.) Lawson taught his students to turn the other cheek, to get used to being called "nigger," and to be models of decorum and good citizenship. His efforts bore considerable fruit as his seminar students fanned out across the country and helped organize lunch-counter sit-ins and the Freedom Riders, enduring all manner of physical and verbal assaults as they did. Halberstam, who would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize, was a reporter for the Nashville Tennessean at the time of Lawson's seminars; he traces the story of these brave young men and women, who went on in some instances to occupy positions of power and influence; one, Gloria Johnson-Powell, became "the first black female tenured full professor at Harvard Medical School," while Marion Barry would become famous, or infamous, in his role as mayor of Washington, D.C., and a magnet for scandal. Others in the Lawson group enjoyed less success, however, falling victim to addictions and poverty in some instances, toentrenched racism in others. Lawson himself, Halberstam writes, remains active in civil-rights issues. A powerful account of a critical time in American history, related in both close-up and wide view.