The Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863, but a contemporary African American saying predicted that freedom would come only after another hundred years of struggle. That prediction was about right: the civil rights struggle erupted in the middle of the 20th century, with its violent epicenter in the industrial city of Birmingham, Alabama. There freedom riders and voter-rights activists faced down Klansmen and Nazis, who had put aside their own differences to cast a pall of terror--and the smoke of a well-orchestrated campaign of church bombings--over the South.
Diane McWhorter, a journalist and native Alabamian, offers a comprehensive, literate record of the struggle that covers more than half a century and that involves hundreds of major actors. Her work is solidly researched and highly readable, and it offers much new information. Among the many newsworthy aspects of the book are McWhorter's discussions of internal power struggles within the civil rights movement, the uneasy role of Birmingham's small Jewish population, and the collusion of local government--especially swaggering Police Commissioner Bull Connor. The author also addresses the segregationist and white-supremacist movements and recounts the tortuous quest to bring the church bombers to justice, which was finally accomplished in 2000. Carry Me Home is a worthy and highly recommended companion to Taylor Branch's Parting the Waters and Andrew Young's An Easy Burden. --Gregory McNamee
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From Publishers Weekly
The story of civil rights in Birmingham, Ala., has been told before from the unspeakable violence to the simple, courageous decencies but fresh, sometimes startling details distinguish this doorstop page-turner told by a daughter of the city's white elite. McWhorter, a regular New York Times contributor, focuses on two shattering moments in Birmingham in 1963 that led to "the end of apartheid in America": when "Bull Connor's police dogs and fire hoses" attacked "school age witnesses for justice," and when the Ku Klux Klan bombed the 16th Street Church, killing four black girls. Yet she brings a gripping pace and an unusual, two-fold perspective to her account, incorporating her viewpoint as a child (she was largely ignorant of what was going on "downtown," even as her father took an increasingly active role in opposing the civil rights movement), as well as her adult viewpoint as an avid scholar and journalist. Surveying figures both major and minor civil rights leaders, politicians, clergy, political organizers of all stripes her panoramic study unmasks prominent members of Birmingham in collusion with the Klan, revealing behind-the-scenes machinations of "terrorists on the payroll at U.S. Steel" and men like Sid Smyer, McWhorter's distant cousin, who "bankrolled... one of the city's most rabid klansmen." McWhorter binds it all together with the strong thread of a family saga, fueled by a passion to understand the father about whom she had long harbored "vague but sinister visions" and other men of his class and clan. (Mar. 15)Forecast: McWhorter's prominence and her willingness to name names as well as her exhaustive research and skillful narrative virtually guarantee major review attention. Bolstered by an eight-city tour and a pre-pub excerpt in Talk in February, the 50,000-copy first printing should move fast.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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