Review: We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March
by Cynthia Levinson
We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March is a book directed to young people, about young people. Although it chronicles an event that happened almost fifty years ago, it is particularly timely. As a renewed era of protest has been seen in the U.S and abroad over the last year, it is important to reflect on past protests and struggles and realize both the importance of the lesser known battles – those that led to landmark events- and the long and arduous road that sometimes must be traveled to achieve success.
In addition to the stories told by several youths directly involved in the Birmingham march, there are informative sidebars in various places throughout the book that give added meaning or context to the elements of each individual story. In one section the Segregation Ordinances are outlined. These were local laws put in place after the Supreme Court overturned “Separate but Equal” in order to circumvent Federal measures to integrate public places. These local “laws” were enforced by a particularly brutish and dictatorial man named “Bull” Conner- a man who carried the full weight of local law behind him and in complete disregard of right or fairness.
Another sidebar outlines the pledge of non-violence that all those marching and protesting in the movement were expected to observe. The pledge outlines the basic tenets of good and civil behavior, the utmost of those to “love thy enemy” and in the face of hatred and attack to “turn the other cheek”. In practicality, it meant that those engaged in marches and protests , faced with an increasingly violent and intimidating police force using attack dogs, fire hoses and batons were required to maintain a defensive posture only and not react in any aggressive manner whatsoever. That kind of self-restraint is hard enough to ask of an adult, much less a child, but these children rose to the task.
As I stated before, this book is directed at a young audience, but the stories told are related in a riveting and personal way that is sure to inform and engage readers of all ages. An excellent and important addition to any young person’s library and a book worthy of discussion – not only for its historical importance but for its current social relevance.
Review by Brenda Seward
We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March , published by Peachtree Publishers is available now.