We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's Marchby Cynthia Y. Levinson
In 1963, the Civil Rights movement was falling apart. After a series of setbacks across the south, the movement was losing direction and momentum. No southern city was more divided than Birmingham, Alabama, home of the infamous Bull Connor. Dr. Martin Luther King conceived an ingenious plan: fill the Birmingham jails by arranging a series of public protests at
In 1963, the Civil Rights movement was falling apart. After a series of setbacks across the south, the movement was losing direction and momentum. No southern city was more divided than Birmingham, Alabama, home of the infamous Bull Connor. Dr. Martin Luther King conceived an ingenious plan: fill the Birmingham jails by arranging a series of public protests at which participants would be arrested as a result of their nonviolent action, paralyzing the city and drawing national and world attention to the horrors and injustices of segregation. But the stakes were too high for much adult participant in the movementjob loss, jailing, and quite possibly even death. Instead, against Dr. King's better judgment, young people led the protests.
Through the experiences of four of the original participants, We Have a Job tells the little-known story of the 4,000 black students who voluntarily went to jail between May 2 and May 11, 1963. Fulfilling Mahatma Gandhi's and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s precept to "fill the jails," they succeeded in desegregating one of the most racially violent cities in America.
The New York Times Book Review
Meet the Author
Cynthia Levinson interviewed dozens of participants in the Birmingham Children's March and spent four years researching and writing We've Got a Job to share their stories. A former teacher and educational policy consultant and researcher, she has also published articles in Appleseeds, Calliope, Dig, Faces, and Odyssey. She divides her time between Texas and Massachusetts.
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The events surrounding the Birmingham Children’s March are given new life in this book with the help of actual accounts from protestors who recall their personal experiences during this desperate time in our nation’s history. Audrey, Wash, James, and Arnetta offer four unique stories, all with the same driving force that unites them in their quest for freedom from segregation. This is a true page turner that evokes feelings of compassion as the characters reveal intimate details about what being “black” for them was like growing up in a world that was quite literally black and white. Interestingly, some of the protestor’s accounts of Dr. King don’t always fit the mold of his present day portrayal. Overall, this is a beautifully executed recreation of the events. Specifically, the way that the stories build on each other and follow a day to day account nearing the days of the march. This would be a great supplemental reading assignment for Social Studies teachers covering the Civil Rights movement. However, don’t be fooled by the genre, this book has more to offer than historical facts – it is inspirational for anyone who needs a reminder of the power of persistence.
Cynthia Levinson’s We’ve Got a job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March was a fascinating book to read. From the very beginning when Audrey said, “I want to go to jail”, I was immediately pulled in. At that point questions fled my mind, why would a nine year WANT to go to jail and why would her parents help her do so? Why was her teacher proud of her for going to jail? These were questions that captured my interest and kept me reading. I enjoyed the way that the book was written as a type of interview. It really made the story come alive to read direct quotes from the perspectives of, not just the writer, but from Audrey Hendricks, Wash Booker, Arnetta Streeter, and James Stewart which added an element of raw, emotional honesty. Reading about the way that the so called, “authority figures” treated these children regardless of creed, character, or means was eye opening. The most amazing part of this whole story to me was the way that the children and families maintained “peaceful” protest in the face of the heinous crimes thrust upon them. Although you will run across well-known civil rights leaders including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Fred Shuttlesworth, and James Bevel while reading, the author makes it clear that the children were the true heroes in this novel. Those brave enough to voluntarily be put in jail, knowing of the torture and degradation that awaited, those that were willing to stand up to the swirling chaos and violence stirring around them, those whom stood up and took a stand, when running and hiding would have been an acceptable course of action in the eyes of those around them, in the name of equality and fair treatment. This was an exceptional glimpse into the a lesser known faction of society that worked to bring about much needed change.
May 2013 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Birmingham Children's March. This was a major event in American History. Several children who were part of this march tell from their own personal experience of this historical event. Some of these children Audrey Hendricks, Wash Booker, James Stewart, and Arnetta Streeter fought for their civil rights in the streets of Birmingham, Alabama. One young girl, Audrey Faye Hendricks, Age 9, Goes to Jail, she bragged to friends, family and her teacher that she was proud to be going to jail. Many children had suffered abuse and injury during the march. I was born in 1950 so I was 12 yrs. old at that time and I had never understood what harm was there in giving Blacks equal rights. I remember crying over the injustice and my parents kept telling me that I was not old enough to understand. I understood and I knew God would not approve of the treatment His children were put through. This is a book I will put on my book shelf in full view in hopes of anyone entering my home might pick up this book and start an intelligent conversation about this event in American History. I highly recommend this book. Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Peachtree Publishers for review. I was in no way compensated for this review. This review is my honest opinion.
This book We’ve got a job follows the experiences of four young people in the May 1963 Alabama Children’s March. It is an informative and amazing account of the struggle the blacks had in their quest for freedom. It is incredible to see the attitudes and actions of some members of society. The tenacity of many in the black community is highly commendable, they were trying to fight a huge system by peaceful means. This work addresses a dark and regretful time in our nation’s history. We’ve got a job gives us an inside picture of one group and their oppression of others. That one group in a society would so oppress another is hard to understand these many years later. There are many pictures and personal interviews throughout the book. Through these the reader gains an inside look at this turning point in our nation. This valuable document gives us a look at a segment of history which should not be forgotten. This shows us how the young people had the desire to stand for a cause and make a difference. (rev. A.Freeman) DISCLOSURE: A complimentary review copy was provided to us by Peachtree Publishers in exchange for our honest review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer.
By May 1963, African Americans in Birmingham, Alabama, had had enough of segregation and police brutality. But with their lives and jobs at stake, most adults were hesitant to protest the city’s racist culture. Instead, the children and teenagers—like Audrey, Wash, James, and Arnetta—marched to jail to secure their freedom. At a time when the civil rights movement was struggling, Birmingham’s black youth answered Dr. Martin Luther King’s call to “fill the jails” of their city. In doing so, they drew national attention to the cause, helped bring about the repeal of the segregation laws, and inspired thousands of other young people to demand their rights. (Inside jacket of We’ve Got a Job) We’ve Got a Job tells a story about the civil rights movement few know. Each of the stories these four brave children tell are remarkable. That they took on this fight for equality at such young ages, and made Birmingham change its racists behaviors and policies is astonishing. One of those children is Audrey. Her family was what many see as the typical American family. And today, they would be, but it was 1960 and they were black, living in a notoriously racist city in the South. There was nothing typical about Audrey’s family. They were second-class citizens regulated to the back of the bus, and separate water fountains. Audrey heard the freedom fighters from the near daily meetings her parents hosted, and knew she had to help. Wash, short for Washington, lived in a tenement house with his sister and mother. He was afraid to do something as common as take a bath. In fourth grade, a teacher threatened to beat Wash. He ran. In seventh grade, he skipped more than he attended. Wash knew that his biggest threat were the police and Commissioner Bull Connor. James lived in a great house with a pool. His father was a doctor and his mother taught college English. James was a bright kid. He figured out early that he had to be careful whom he trusted. Light-skinned Arnetta endured teasing and name calling solely based on her skin color, even by the other black kids. Her father fought segregation hard and wanted to include Arnetta and her two younger sisters. Arnetta started a social club at school called the Peace Ponies. After hearing Dr. Martin Luther King speak, Arnetta and the rest of the Peace Ponies stepped up and the Movement. Dr. Martin Luther King called for peaceful demonstrations, sit-ins, and marches all to “fill up the jails.” The author has dug up details few have been privy to and, while disturbing, they are enlightening. One or two are strange. For instance, some American’s believed the Russians were involved and trying to overthrow American democracy. There were not. The Ku Klux Klan was involved, as were some teachers, and white parents. The teachers and parents taught racist idiocy to their kids, saying blacks’ blood is thicker and runs slower than whites, therefore they learn differently and needed segregated. I was four in 1963, so I have little first-hand knowledge. I know more about the Vietnam War and the killings at Kent State, than I do about a nearly 350-year fight against racism. Even fifty years beyond the 1963 marches, racism still exists. This book has shown me so much, opened my eyes wide, and increased the empathy I always felt about the cruelty of that era. Written for kids ages ten and up, anyone can read this and find something they did not know—unless they were