- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (February 1, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1414336365
- ISBN-13: 978-1414336367
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 8.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 496 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,526,937 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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While the World Watched: A Birmingham Bombing Survivor Comes of Age during the Civil Rights Movement Hardcover – February 1, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
The nation's collective memory of the civil rights movement depends largely on journalists and biographers who witnessed the snarling dogs and brutal racist tactics used to enforce and defend segregation in the South. In a more personal account, McKinstry, a survivor of the Ku Klux Klan bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., offers the rare perspective of both a child and an eyewitness to some of the most jarring aspects of blacks' fight for civil rights. Her tale of surviving the bombing, which killed four of her friends on September 15, 1963, vividly describes the force of water from fire hoses that left a hole in her sweater; the ominous call moments before the bomb exploded; and the clouds that formed in her mental sky when she realized that the childhood innocence her parents had relied on to shield her from racism was gone. The text of speeches by Martin Luther King Jr. and short summaries of Jim Crow laws are an educational addition to the narrative, but in boxes alongside the main narrative, they are also a visual distraction from the main text. Depending on the reader's knowledge of the racial disparities McKinstry grew up enduring, the additions will read as repetitive or informative. (Feb.)
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McKinstry pinpoints the date and time she came of age as September 15, 1963, at 10:22 a.m., when the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, was bombed, killing four young girls. She saw the rubble of the girl�s bathroom in which, unbeknownst to her at the time, her four friends were killed. She herself had only moments earlier been in the bathroom with the girls, primping and laughing. McKinstry alternates her account of the day and recollections of childhood in segregated Birmingham, growing up in a loving family in a protective community. She recalls other milestones as she grew up in the South�Martin Luther King�s visit to Birmingham, the Little Rock Nine, the murder of Emmett Till�and her years of living with depression and survivor�s guilt. She remained silent about the trauma, treating her depression with alcohol until she finally had a spiritual breakthrough and later helped to restore the church and make it a historic site. A compelling look at a horrendous act of terrorism and how it changed the life of one young girl. --Vanessa Bush
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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.