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The Children Paperback – March 30, 1999

4.7 out of 5 stars 132 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Like the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, the civil rights movement has achieved mythical status in America--an epic tale of heroes and martyrs; of sacrifice, honor, and courage in the face of overwhelming odds; of ideals worth dying for in a time and place where death was an all-too-real possibility. In The Children, prize-winning journalist and author David Halberstam goes back in time to the beginnings of the civil rights movement in Nashville, Tennessee, tracing both the lives of the individuals who initiated it and the growth of the movement itself into its present-day status.

Every epic must have its hero, and The Children has James Lawson, a young, African American divinity student whose tactics in civil disobedience were learned at the knees of Mahatma Gandhi's followers during a three-year stint as a missionary to India. When he returned to the States and was accepted into the all-white Vanderbilt Divinity School, Lawson began teaching workshops to Nashville's African American youth designed to equip them for the equal-rights struggle, a battle Lawson believed could be won only with nonviolent tactics. Halberstam chronicles the fight against racism with the insight that comes from witnessing it first-hand. As a young journalist for the Tennessean in Nashville, he covered the rise of the civil rights movement, and in The Children he draws on many of his writings from the era. From accounts of lunch-counter sit-ins to the freedom rides, Halberstam's book covers the map of the crusade for racial equality, serving as a poignant reminder that heroes come in all ages, colors, and characters. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

This re-creation of the early days of the civil rights movement by Halberstam (The Fifties) is at once intimate and monumental. By focusing on a small group of young African Americans who attended the Reverend James Lawson's workshop for nonviolent demonstrators in Nashville in 1959, then went on to play active roles in the movement, he hits the high points of the civil rights struggle and makes them immediate: the Nashville sit-ins; the founding of SNCC and CORE; the Freedom Rides; Bull Connor's attacks in Birmingham; the Klan in Memphis; the first singing of "We Shall Overcome"; the voter registration campaign; Bloody Sunday in Selma; and the march to Montgomery. As the group moves out of Nashville and encounters others in the movement, the book expands with the complexity, but fortunately not the imposed tidiness, of a Victorian novel. While some of the young people's names are familiar (e.g., Marion Barry, John Lewis), most are not, but the portraits of them and the society they lived in and challenged is richly detailed. Halberstam examines the subtle frictions within the movement (middle-class vs. poor, lighter-skinned vs. darker, male vs. female), as well as the often violent struggle against segregationists. A number of brief, informative essays are sandwiched in: on the sociology of all-white Vanderbilt University; the eccentricities of the Nashville newspapers; a history of city politics in Washington, D.C.; the role of the Kennedy Justice Department. Martin Luther King Jr. plays a minor part in this history because the subject is indeed the "children"?the young adults in their late teens or early 20s in 1960, the early idealists who experienced violence in the streets and saw their movement itself turn segregationist (whites were forced out). The last third of the book follows the professional development of the children into adulthood: there was a congressman, a major, several doctors and college professors, a high school teacher and a political gadfly. This book need not have been as long as it is. But it is a masterful achievement in reporting, research and understanding. In a concluding author's note, Halberstam writes of his own experiences as a young reporter covering the civil rights beat. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 783 pages
  • Publisher: Fawcett Books (March 30, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0449004392
  • ISBN-13: 978-0449004395
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.4 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (132 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #143,295 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Barron Laycock HALL OF FAME on April 22, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a veteran reader of 20th century history books, I've long considered David Halberstam to be one of the best and brightest of the contemporary historians publishing today. He is also, not so coincidentally, one of the most prolific, as well, having produced a steady stream of works covering such myriad historical and cultural subjects as a study of how the Kennedy and Johnson administrations stumbled and blundered their way into the quagmire of Vietnam to more whimsical studies of pop-cultural aspects of American life such as major league baseball and the effects of the seasons on residents of the island of Nantucket off the Massachusetts coast. In this book, "The Children", Halberstam focuses on the fascinating subject of the American civil rights movement from its genesis in thee black colleges and churches of the American south to its development as a pan-American movement during the early 1960s.
One of the most admirable qualities of this superb book stems from the fact that Halberstam was in fact an eye-witness to many of the events described here, being a recent Harvard graduate who soon finds himself getting a heaping helping of ordinary racist reality in the 1950s-early 1960s American south. His interest in becoming a journalist draws him to a local city desk at an iconoclastically liberal southern paper that tolerates his naivety and cashes in on his energy and natural ability to write. Yet this is not a story in any manner about Halberstam. Rather, it is the fact that he waited so long to write about this era of his own career that makes it so mind-boggling, for he brings all of his mature powers of observation and description to bear on this story in a way that breathes fire and life into the oft-told tale, and makes each of the protagonists both more ordinary and more real.
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Format: Paperback
David Halberstam's publication "The Children" is an exciting overview of the Civil Rights Movement from an enamored journalist through the eyes of Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. (SNCC) The author focuses on the major players such as Diane Nash, James Bevel, Jim Lewis, Curtis Murphy, Bernard Lafayette and James Lawson, with heavy emphasis on the Nashville Sit-In Movement and Freedom Rides. The strength of his work is that it reads much more like a fast paced novel than an academic analysis. He does however at the same time provide plenty of background material and socio-economic, political and cultural variables within his work. Halberstam also revisits these former SNCC workers after the "high" of the movement and even much later in life. It's quite obvious the work of a journalist within the pages.

This is a good overview of Civil Rights through the eyes of SNCC rather than a broader based examination of the movement. Halberstam's book is quite impressive, and what I admire is the length of information he was able to attain from the vast interviews he received, largely because he had already covered and had known many of the players as a journalist covering the Civil Rights Movement. If you are just starting out or have little knowledge of the Civil Rights Movement this book would be a good starting point. Journalists make great writers because they simply know how to tell a story. Well done!
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Format: Paperback
David Halberstam is one of those writers who seem to have more words than he can reasonably use. His books fairly bulge at the seams and yet in reading any of his works, it is seldom that a reader feels that too much has been included. As a reporter he seems to have fallen in love with the tangible fact, the telling detail, and he fills his books with them. The Children, an account of the young men and women who initiated the 'sit ins' that sparked the early civil rights movement, is as richly detailed as a Durer etching. The cast of characters is large and the setting in which they are placed is brought to life with great skill.
Halberstam has a way of making sense of things that might mystify most writers. He does this by creating a meaningful context and by deomonstrating meaningful connections - between actions as well as characters. There is a lot of book here, and one can easily loose sight of the story line by getting bogged down in some of the detailed digressions that he seems to love, but taken as a whole, this book makes real the mostly unremembered young heros who drug their elders kicking and screaming into the movement.
I think this is a very important book and deserves a place on any bookshelf devoted to our recent history.
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David Halberstam has written an epic history of the young men and women, most still in their teens, who had the courage and nobility of spirit to fight the unjust status quo of segregation, and change the course of our nation's history. This is the story of the civil rights movement in the United States, beginning in the late 1950s and reaching its height in the mid-1960s. The story is told from the eyes of these young people - it is the history they made. "The Children" frequently put their lives on the line, risking physical danger and even death, to join the non-violent protests that would give all Americans equal rights under the law.
The Movement's leaders were two black southern ministers, both strongly influenced by the teachings of Mahandas Gandhi. These two men, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Jim Lawson, designed the framework of the mission. They stratagized like generals waging a unique war. Young college students, mostly African Americans, whose parents had sacrificed much to send them to university, were recruited as soldiers. These vulnerable and committed students were schooled in the nonviolent tradition, with workshops, such as: "Justice Without Violence" and "The New Negro In The New South." We meet these children and hear of their experiences in Nashville, Montgomery, Birmingham, Selma, and many other towns and small cities all over the South. Halberstam documents the background of these young troops, their families, and struggles, growing up Black in America. He movingly describes the sit-ins, the Freedom Rides, and the terrible violence of the Klan, and of ordinary citizens, steeped in bigotry, that endangered all of them. We read about the voter registration campaigns, and the founding of SNCC and CORE.
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