Tuesday, January 02, 2018

A Child Shall Lead Them: Let the Children Lead by Monica Clark-Robinson


I couldn't play on the same playground as the white kids. I couldn't go to their schools.

There were so many things I couldn't do.

One warm spring night, my family went to church. We were there to hear Dr. King speak.

Dr. King told us the time had come to march.

It was eleven years since the Supreme Court's Brown vs. Board of Education ruling had made school segregation illegal. But in the South, most schools were still strictly segregated. And white opposition was so strong that black parents feared to join desegregation demonstrations because they knew they would lose their jobs if they did. They needed those jobs to support their families.

"Let the children march." said Dr. King.

And on May 2, 1963, hundreds of young people, dressed in their best, met at that church, screwed up their courage, and began to walk silently through the streets of Birmingham. Angry crowds gathered along the way, shouting out insults and threats. Frightened, the children joined hands and started singing. And they kept on marching.

That day 973 children went to jail. On the next day they were met with fire hoses and police dogs and nearly 1000 were arrested, spending days in jail away from their parents. Each day there were more marchers and thousands more arrests, but more children came to keep on walking. By May 10, amid Ku Klux Klan rallies and the bombing of Dr. King's brother's house, the city of Birmingham agreed to begin the process of desegregation . On May 19, the child marchers were suspended from their schools, but the orders were quickly revoked by the courts.

One month later I was playing on a playground I'd never been allowed to play on before.

There was a long road ahead, but the Birmingham Children's Crusade was a high-water mark in the Civil Rights movement, one that inspired others to keep marching until, in 1964, the first Civil Rights Act passed in Congress and was signed by the President Johnson.

Author Monica Clark-Robinson's just published Let the Children March (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018) is a dramatic portrayal of that day in May of 1963 when little children led the way for a nation.

Clark-Robinson's first-person narration is simple but vivid, giving young readers the sense and feel of walking with the Children's Crusade marchers of that time. Award-winning artist Frank Morrison's striking oil paintings take the reader up close and personal in this event. Fear and elation, determination and courage are evident in the faces of the families and young marchers, giving readers a genuine feeling of what it was like to keep going in the face of angry police officers and dogs who rounded them up and loaded them into paddy wagons to take them to jail. This new book offers young primary readers the chance to experience a moment in time when children stepped forward to lead the nation.

Share this one with Andrea Pinkney's Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down (Jane Addams Honor Book (Awards)), (Read review here.)

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