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Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama: The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution Paperback – February 5, 2002

4.4 out of 5 stars 70 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 --This text refers to the Unbound edition.

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.

--This text refers to the Unbound edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (February 5, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743217721
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743217729
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,540,653 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Copies of "We Are Not Afraid" and "Parting the Waters" are on my bookshelf. These books about the civil rights movement are difficult to put down, not just because of the stories they tell, but because of the writing styles of the authors. "Carry Me Home" is as packed with history as these other books. Its focus on Birmingham is more narrow, but McWhorter doesn't skimp on facts. The problem is that McWhorter is so anxious to deluge the reader with facts that hardly a sentence flows without some diversion or interruption. Here is one of my favorites:
"On the evening of November 20, 1938, more than 1500 delegates- some 250 of them black- representing every state in the Old Confederacy, converged on Birmingham's tidy grid of a downtown, with the "so many vacant lots" that Jonathan Daniels, the New Deal liberal from an old North Carolina newspaper family, had described in his newly published A Southerner Discovers The South as "not so much areas of despair as shares in promise".
That's one sentence. If you followed it in one reading, congratulations.
I pick up "We are not Afraid" and "Parting the Waters" every so often to enjoy again. Reading "Carry Me Home" was rewarding, but not an experience that I would repeat.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book superbly puts into focus the critical juncture of the Civil Rights revolution and almost no one emerges unscathed from an unholy cauldron of evil-doing by the shifting alliances of the FBI, the Kennedys, Governor George Wallace,the Birmingham News (the state's largest newspaper), local Alabama industrialists, U.S. Steel and many others. The story continues even today.
The perpetrators of a bombing that killed four children went on to participate in other infamous acts including more murder, while the FBI stood back, just as today it reluctantly minimizes its cooperation with prosecutors as two more accused in the bombing go to trial after 37 years. What does the FBI fear now from its now dead informant who was involved up to his neck? Does the perverse racist and vindictive spirit of J. Edgar Hoover still drive the motives of the FBI? Is the FBI still as paranoid about people who might "embarrass and humiliate the bureau" to the extent they forget the real public responsibility neglected here.
Everyone who was anyone for the most part got into bed with the Ku Klux Klan, including the FBI and George Wallace. Wallace, whatever he said or thought, was disgusting until the day he died with his public lies about his Klan connections.
I was born and raised in Birmingham, worked there as a journalist during and after this period and covered many of the bombings and events Ms. McWhorter discusses. This is a magisterial work. Not just about the Civil Rights Revolution, but about dirty politics and corrupt journalists who pandered to the racists and the Klan. Ms. McWhorter pushes aside the clouds of hate and fear to see both the heroes and the villains. And she tells the story as only someone who knews the terrain could tell it.
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By A Customer on March 30, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book does a wonderful job of conjuring up the life of a young white girl from Birmingham's elite and her family, people from the kind of society that made it possible for the tragedy there to happen. The book is meticulous in its rendering of history, and really goes into the minutiae of how the church bombing happened and who did it. Still, McWhorter keeps it interesting, where other historians might tumble under a weight of detail. It's a big (long) book, but I enjoyed it thoroughly.
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By A Customer on September 4, 2002
Format: Paperback
Of all the histories of the civil rights era, Diane McWhorter's Carry Me Home is easily the best. She packs more passion and insight into a single sentence than most of her competitors do in entire chapters. The wooden-prosed Garrow comes to mind. For those of us who grew up in the lower South who may be tempted to join the current "reconciliationist" impulse to gloss over how truly bad the "bad old days" were, Carry Me Home is a full immersion baptism in the cold, cold waters of reality, a healthy antidote to our generation's cheap therapeutic dreams of "closure." Her portrait of Fred Shuttlesworth reminds us, in this leadership-challenged age of smarmy black spokesmen like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, of a time when giants roamed the earth. Especially moving were McWhorter's personal reminiscences of her privileged Mountain Brook girlhood and her family's intersection with the dark currents running through Birmingham's racist power elite. If the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce had any sense instead of restoring the statue of Vulcan they'd erect a monument, if not to Shuttlesworth, then to Ms. McWhorter and let it shine as the beacon that the Magic City has long deserved and long been denied. The Pulitzer Prize Committee got it right. Carry Me Home carries us home.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a highly readable and significant addition to the literature on the Civil Rights Movement. I almost missed it because of the bad review by Jonathan Yardley in The Washington Post! Don't make that mistake. Yardley's contention that McWhorter adds nothing to what we know about Birmingham and civil rights is far off the mark.
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