Most of my readers were probably very young during or born after
1963. In a world that can seem light years away, it can be hard to
imagine a nine-year-old-child volunteering to go to jail and her
parents allowing it. It can also be hard to imagine society mandating
segregation in every aspect of life and allowing cross burning and
other acts of terrorism to prevent change. Fortunately Cynthia
Levinson's We've Got A Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March
leaves very little to the imagination!
There was a lot of discrimination going on in Birmingham in
1963. Schools were separate and anything but equal. Job access was
limited for even the brightest and best blacks [term used in the
book]. They couldn't try on clothes in stores, sit on the main floor
in movie theaters, eat at lunch counters... It really disturbed me to
read about parents having to carry glass jars for children who
couldn't "hold it" all the way home on shopping trips.
Blacks knew that things had to change. They were, however,
sharply divided on how this was to happen. Some espoused a cautious,
incrementalist approach, encouraged by efforts to remove hard core
segregationists like Bull Connor from office. Others felt that
confrontation was needed to achieve justice.
Children and teens realized that, unlike their parents, they
could go to jail without losing hard to replace jobs and income. They
were trained in roles that would be very hard for most adults. As
they protested nonviolently, no matter what abuse they experienced,
they had to refuse to retaliate. We've Got A Job follows four of the
youngsters: Audrey Faye Hendricks, Washington Booker III, James W.
Stewart, and Atnetta Streeter on their quest for justice.
We now interrupt this book review to bring you a touch of
irony. I checked my email. I read about a church that is refusing to
marry a couple because the bride and groom are black. The minister
has been told that he'll lose his job if he performs the ceremony.
Yes, now, in 2012. No, I'm not making this up.
In my mind that constitutes all the more reason to read the
book. The text maintains a great balance between individual narrative
and larger picture. Each photograph is worth the proverbial thousand
On a personal note, I just want to wish my readers a happy and safe
Labor Day weekend.
A great big shout out goes out to the courageous people I read about
in this book and those in this day who carry on the fight for racial
Julia Emily Hathaway
Sent from my iPod