Review: We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Levinson

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishers (February 1, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 1561456276
  • Source: Publisher

Many of us have basic details about the Birmingham Children’s March in 1963 in which 4,000 students boycotted school in a march to protest segregation. Yet never before have we stepped inside the shoes of those students who stepped up to fight for rights which should have been guaranteed but were not.

We’ve Got a Job follows the stories of four children who participated in the march. Nine-year-old Audrey Hendricks was the youngest to participate. Her parents stood behind her decision, as did her teachers and close friends. Washington (Wash) Booker grew up among poverty and a strong fear of the police. It wasn’t uncommon for parents to threaten their children, ordering them to behave or “the police are gonna come and get you.” James Stewart was an excellent student, opting not to let the color of his skin determine how well he did in school. He lived in a large house with a pool, his parents were lucky enough to have successful jobs. Arnetta Streeter had light skin and could have passed as white, but instead went so far as to attend young activist training so she could stand fight to end segregation. She grew up being called names due to the light color of her skin, even by other black children. Her desire for change was so strong that she started a club at school called the Peace Ponies. Among the stories of these young, brave, individuals, readers get a glimpse of other powerful individuals from both sides of the battle lines  involved in this fight, from Martin Luther King, Jr to Reverend Shuttlesworth and Bull Connor.

Breaking up the text are large black and white photos that allow readers to visualize the intensity of this battle, from the fear in the eyes of those individuals being attacked by police to the shrouded faces of the Ku Klux Klan. Detailed sidebars heighten the intensity, adding even more information to this detail-rich chronicle of a pivotal time in our nation’s history. Words cannot express how moved I was by this book. This is a title that should be added to curriculum in schools around the country so that it may educate and inspire this generation of children to work for further change not just in our own country but world-wide.

I chose to read this book with my boys. Justin is seven, just two years younger than the youngest student in this march. At this point in his schooling, while he he has learned about the great acts of Martin Luther King, Jr., his curriculum hasn’t delved into the deeper and more dark aspects of that time period. He was shocked and horrified to learn of the treatment of children his own age, the crimes that be committed against blacks without fear of punishment from the authorities (and in some cases, at the hands of authorities). So gracious that he will never have to endure this treatment, I still felt it was important for him to learn at an early age just how far our country has come.  John-John is thirteen and well-informed about this pivotal time in our nation’s history. Still, he was unfamiliar with the Children’s March and was devastated to learn about what those young children went through to stand up for what they believed in.  Given the fact that we are a biracial family, I felt it was important that the boys understand just how lucky we are and appreciate just how much those before us did in order to guarantee the freedoms we now have.

Highly, highly recommended.

1 Comment to "Review: We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Levinson"

  1. Beth F's Gravatar Beth F
    Twitter: BethFishReads
    May 2, 2013 - 7:16 AM | Permalink

    The video is so powerful! I’ll have to look for this one.

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