I recently received a free copy of the book, While the World Watched by Carolyn Maull McKinstry from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for an honest review. I thought it would be fitting to review this book today, the last day of February, since February is Black History Month. I thought I would give a bit of attention or acknowledgment to a subject that even today still seems to raise eyebrows and tempers.
In September 1963, the Ku Klux Klan bombed Carolyn Maull’s Birmingham church. The teen was unharmed; however, four of her friends were killed in the blast. This book is her personal account of that life-changing event, as well as a remarkable time-line covering her firsthand account of the Civil Rights Movement.
In 1965, Carolyn marched through Alabama with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1968, Dr. King was assassinated while standing on the balcony of his hotel room in Memphis. Eight years later in 1976, my family moved from Texas to Memphis.
(Prepare for a flashback....)
I had lived my first 11 years in a small rural town and in the suburbs of Los Angeles, CA and Dallas, TX. Racial issues and desegregation were not a concern. I left my Texas neighborhood school, which was literally across the street from my house, and moved to a racially divided city that had developed a desegregation-busing plan not too many years before our arrival. We were shocked to learn that we would not attend our neighborhood school, but would instead be bused to another neighborhood as part of the desegregation of schools. Of course, I was a kid at the time, so it really did not make much difference to me. I generally enjoyed school and was a good student. I was shy and quiet-a good girl. I was not prepared for the animosity, especially that of the black students and teachers. Many seemed resentful. Back then, I was not aware of the reasons some of us were treated differently; I just knew there were differences.
As I moved on to Junior High age, the talk of moving to the assigned junior/senior high was more than a little scary. The older siblings of my friends were experiencing racially charged riots at that time. I spent that summer with my stomach in knots. When the time came to ride that bus, it was not nearly as bad as I had imagined. It was actually better in many cases. The teachers were more accepting and the kids were becoming accustomed to the changes.
As the years have passed, I cannot say that much has changed in my racially charged city. Unfortunately, the city is still very much divided.
Now, back to the book....
I enjoyed reading about this issue from Carolyn's perspective. Her story is one of perseverance, of standing up for what is right despite the odds, of acceptance of the past, and of forgiveness. I admire her for her ability not only to forgive, but also to push forward within a cloud of self-assurance and strong faith. While I have witnessed parts of the fight, I will never insinuate that I can relate in any way. However, as a child of the South with many friends and family members who are still entrenched in the 'good old Southern ways', I have seen the issue from the other side. It is not pretty.
What an amazing story and a remarkable woman. Much like the story of Memphis, While the World Watched is the story of how far Southern racial relations have come over the past 50+ years and how far they still have to go.
**Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale House Publishers as part of the Tyndale Blog Network book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255
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