Larry Dane Brimner
Shining Light into History’s Cupboards
On September 15, 1963, a single event changed the course of the civil rights movement. Would you like to know what it was?
Years earlier, thirteen parents from Topeka, Kansas, filed a lawsuit on behalf of their children against the school board’s segregation policy. This policy required African American children and white children to attend separate facilities. The Kansas case was eventually combined with similar lawsuits from Delaware, South Carolina, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., and was taken up by the Supreme Court. In 1954, representing almost two hundred plaintiffs and named for one of the parents in the Topeka case, the so-called Brown vs. Board of Education decision came down from the high court. It declared that segregation based on race, or color, was unconstitutional. In much of the South, this court order was ignored.
In the following years, when African American parents in the South tried to enroll their children in white-only schools, they were blocked by illegal state laws, governors standing in schoolhouse doorways, police arrest, and worse, threats and violence by the Ku Klux Klan. The KKK was and is a terrorist organization dedicated to a separation of the races by any means necessary. No place was more segregated than Birmingham, Alabama. In 1963, this Southern city demonstrated just how vicious racism could be when its commissioner of the police and fire departments turned trained German shepherds and powerful fire hoses on young African American protesters. The world was shocked and local business owners, embarrassed. They pressed city leaders to change the segregation laws. In late summer, the city finally decided to comply with a federal order to desegregate its schools.
Not everyone was happy about it.
As African American children began enrolling in previously all-white schools in September, the KKK’s rage festered and grew. Robert Chambliss, a KKK member, soon bragged, “Let them wait till after Sunday morning. They will beg us to segregate.” Then on September 15, a Sunday morning, a dynamite blast ripped through thirty-inch-thick
stone and brick walls of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, taking the lives of four little girls preparing for youth day services. Later that day, two more African American children would lose their lives.
The events that Birmingham Sunday shone a light on the evils of segregation and helped usher in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Larry Dane Brimner's book Birmingham Sunday has won many awards, among them: Orbis Pictus Honor Book (NCTE); Jane Addams Book Award, Honor Book (Jane Addams Peace Association); Notable Trade Book for Young People (NCSS); Notable Book for a Global Society (IRA); Society of School Librarians International Honor Book; VOYA Nonfiction Honor List; Teachers' Choice Award; Moonbeam Silver Medal NAPPA Gold Award; "Top Pick"EUREKA! Gold Award (California Reading Association);Kirkus "Best Book" List for 2010;Chicago Public Library "Best of the Best Book";Bank Street College "Best Children's Books of the Year" list, 2011.
To find out more about the book, click here or visit the author's website by clicking his name at the top of the page.
The Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers are set for battle this Sunday at the Super Bowl. Although Jim Whiting, who lives in Seattle , won't see his Seahawks there, he will still share some NFL history with us tomorrow.