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This Is An Important Book
on September 17, 2012
I wish I could place a copy of it into the hands of everyone I know.
While Carolyn Maull was growing up in "black" Birmingham, I was spending every long summer of my school years visiting my grandparents in "white" Birmingham. While her father was waiting on tables at the Birmingham Country Club, I was receiving gracious engraved invitations from my grandparents' friends to enjoy swimming there during my summer visits. I wonder how many times I was entertained at Sunday after-church dinner in that sunlit, high-ceilinged dining room.
I wonder how many times I was driven past the imposing structure of the 16th Street Baptist Church. It's as familiar to me as any other Birmingham landmark. But where I might have seen it in passing, Carolyn Maull was there every Sunday morning of her life. It was her church, her Sunday School, her four young friends whose lives were destroyed by hatred. For as ignorant as I was (and I was pretty ignorant), I carried one searing lesson away from that terrible September day when four young girls had their lives snatched away. I was the same age as they were--twelve years old in 1963. I've been able to move freely through my life's story--through school and college, marriage, family, and career, and into the sorrows of widowhood and the joys of being a grandmother. I've been able to do all of that, but their lives were stopped in an instant. They were robbed of their futures by a monstrous hatred, shored up by an unbelievable indifference.
Read this book and Carolyn Maull will tell you what it was like to grow up as an African-American child in the most segregated, most racially violent city in America. You'll learn about how anxious parents tried to shelter their children, hedging them about with rules and restrictions designed to protect them from the worst of the violence. You'll understand just a little better about the baffling restrictions on everything from water fountains to lunch counters to highway restrooms. You'll feel some of the confusion and hurt that she felt when reaction to this bombing, and all the others, was muted and stifled--swept under the rug so that some semblance of normal life could go on. You'll feel at least some of the fear and pain of a little girl who, upon hearing of the murder of Medgar Evers in Mississippi could only think, "Is that going to happen to my Daddy, too? Is somebody going to shoot him in front of our house?"
The author has paid a terrible personal price for the events of that long-ago Sunday morning. She has shared her struggle with us in all frankness, and we can rejoice with her that she has forgiven, she has prevailed, and she has grown stronger. I believe this book is vital to the chronicles of those terrible times, and that it contains lessons we can apply now and in the future. I'd like to see it on best-seller lists all over the country. Please avail yourself of this story and give it a thoughtful, careful reading.