In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. and members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference began their campaign to desegregate Birmingham, Alabama. Birmingham was viewed as one of the most segregated cities in the country and demonstrations were outlawed. King would later be arrested for being involved in a non-violent demonstration, which led him to write “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” The story of King’s arrest and letter is well-known, however, many may not know about the vital role children played in the Birmingham Campaign. Thousands of children joined the Children’s Crusade to protest segregation and were met with force by Birmingham’s police force. Even though they were being attacked, the children continued to march. Many children ended up being arrested and stories of their march made headlines around the country. Their courageous actions pushed officials in Birmingham to meet with civil rights leaders and desegregate the city. I wanted to create a list of books about the Children's Crusade to show children that they can be actively engaged in social justice and make a difference in the world. Here is the list:
The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, A Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson
Nine-year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks intended to go places and do things like anybody else. So when she heard grown-ups talk about wiping out Birmingham’s segregation laws, she spoke up. As she listened to the preacher’s words, smooth as glass, she sat up tall. And when she heard the plan—picket those white stores! March to protest those unfair laws! Fill the jails!—she stepped right up and said, I’ll do it! She was going to j-a-a-il! Audrey Faye Hendricks was confident and bold and brave as can be, and hers is the remarkable and inspiring story of one child’s role in the Civil Rights Movement.
Let the Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson
In 1963 Birmingham, Alabama, thousands of African American children volunteered to march for their civil rights after hearing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak. They protested the laws that kept black people separate from white people. Facing fear, hate, and danger, these children used their voices to change the world.
We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Levinson
The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March was a turning point in American history. African Americans had had enough of segregation and police brutality, but with their lives and jobs at stake, most adults were hesitant to protest the city’s racist culture. So the fight for civil rights lay in the hands of children like Audrey Hendricks, Wash Booker, James Stewart, and Arnetta Streeter. We’ve Got a Job tells the little-known story of the 4,000 Black elementary, middle, and high school students who answered Dr. Martin Luther King’s call to “fill the jails.” Between May 2 and May 11, 1963, these young people voluntarily went to jail, drawing national attention to the cause, helping bring about the repeal of segregation laws, and inspiring thousands of other young people to demand their rights.
*The summaries above were provided by the publishers of each book.