Thursday, 10 February 2011

BOOK REVIEWS ~ If YOU Lived At the Time of Martin Luther King

I always knew there was a history of segregation of blacks and whites ~ especially in the Southern States, but I had no idea how difficult it would have been to be someone of Afro-American heritage living under those conditions.  Then I read the childrens' book, "If YOU Lived at the Time of Martin Luther King."   This book, by Ellen Levine, sets out the facts in a style that is simple to understand.

The back cover outlines the contents this way:

"A different time...a different place...What if you were there?
If you lived at the time of Martin Luther King, you would have seen important changes brought about by the civil rights movement.
When did the civil rights movement begin?
Were children involved in civil rights protests?
What was the March on Washington?
This book tells you what it was like during the exciting era when Martin Luther King led the fight against segregation."

Alisdair and I read the entire 80-page illustrated book in just one sitting, before he went to bed.  It was educational for us both.  We learned that:

* In Oklahoma there were segregated telephone booths.
*  In South Carolina, black and white cotton mill workers were forbidden to look out the same window.
*  And in Birmingham, Alabama, the public library wouldn't let anyone read a children's book showing black and white rabbits playing together.  (Page 14).

I had known that schools were segregated, but I didn't realize that doctor's offices, hospitals and even cemeteries were also designated for one race or another.  I'd known about Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott, but I didn't know that "White people could get on a bus, put their money in the box, and take a seat.  Blacks in many cities climbed aboard buses and put their money in.  Then they had to leave the bus and get on again through the back door" (Page 12).  I also didn't know that public parks and beaches were segregated.

I knew the blacks, who were fighting for their civil rights were strong people ~ I just didn't know HOW strong they were to continue the bus boycott for more than a year.  Levine tells readers that "Churches around the country dontated station wagons" so that people could car pool.  And she relates a touching incident where "one day one of the ministers said to an elderly black woman that she should use the buses, for she was too old for all this walking.  She said absolutely not.  'My feets is tired, but my soul is rested!' (Page 30).  Levine says some people walked "as many as fourteen miles a day" (Page 29).

I was also struck by the fact that the fight for civil rights was not something that happened in ancient history.  When the "March on Washington" took place on August 28th, 1963 - I had just celebrated my first birthday.  It is hard to believe that people were fighting against such blantant discrimination only a few decades ago.

"A ten-year-old southern black child was asked what she thought 'freedom' meant.  She answered, 'Freedom means for your mother to get a  better job, and for us to get better homes' " (Page 78). Levine points out, however, that the fight is not completely over as there are still many inequalities between whites and blacks.  For example, many "whites in America have better jobs and earn more money than blacks.  They live in better neighbourhoods and go to better schools.  More young white people go to college than blacks.  And there are still white people who are prejudiced against blacks.  They have to learn that all people are equal and must be treated equally" (Page 79). 

I suppose, because it is a book for children, Levine's text mentions that Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed but it doesn't go into any detail about his assassination in April of 1968.

Alisdair says this book was "simple and easy to understand.  It really made you feel as if you were there.  The pictures were very nice and colourful.  I would recommend this book for anyone who is interested in learning about the civil rights movement.  I think that the United States has moved quite a bit from that time because now they have a black president.  Whites were very harsh to blacks and they didn't treat them as they would have liked to have been treated themselves."

Having read this book, we will continue to work through the more detailed contents of Amy Pastan's biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. (A Photographic Story of a Life).  Thanks to Levine's explanations, I am sure Pastan's information will make much more sense to both of us. 

No comments:

Post a Comment