nonfiction nuggets…the tragedy and triumph of Selma

Marching for Freedom: Walk Together, Children, and Don’t You Get Weary, by Elizabeth Partridge

In Selma, Alabama, in 1965, eight-year-old children were arrested and jailed; 10-year-olds were jolted with electric cattle prods; twelve-year-olds and fourteen-year-olds were clubbed in the mouth, crammed into stifling hot windowless metal cells to suffocate, tear-gassed, trampled by horses, beat, and whipped; their bones were broken, their faces lacerated, while on-lookers cheered.  All of this violence was done by the very civil servants who were sworn to keep the peace:  policemen scooped up children, and ran with them into the gas, to expose their small bodies to yet more poison.  Firefighters held the children down, so they could be beaten by deputies.  The children’s crime?  They wanted their parents to be allowed to vote.  And they were black.

Some of the most courageous U.S. citizens ever were the Black children and teen-agers of the Deep South, who voluntarily endured brutality and imprisonment in order to protect the family breadwinners’ jobs during the struggle to obtain the right to vote.  Hundreds and thousands of school children bravely faced grown men with hatred in their eyes and billy clubs in their fists, until the country finally was sickened to the point of standing up to the immoral and heinous treatment, sending them protection to exercise their Constitutional rights.

Marching for Freedom tells the story of the voting rights protests in Selma, Alabama during the winter of 1965.  It is an incredibly brutal story; it is a story, frankly, beyond my comprehension, and it is an important story for our children to know.  Partridge tells us, in chronological order, the series of events leading up to Bloody Sunday, and then of the successful march from Selma to Montgomery, ending with the passage of the Voting Rights Act in August of that year.  Her text follows a number of specific children, as well as the  movement as a whole and the part Martin Luther King, Jr. played in it.  It is a very clear, personal account, filled with painful details, yet always with an undercurrent of courage and hope.  Many, many black-and-white photographs fill the pages as well, bringing us the faces, and atrocities, of those days.

An excellent view of this historic event.  Normally this degree of violence would not be appropriate for young children, but as this is not gratuitous violence, and as the children experiencing these events were as young as six and eight years, I would share this with kids from 2nd grade and up.  You will have to determine this for your own children.  It is a lengthy book — about 60 text-heavy pages.  Partridge lists her web page as a place to explore this event in greater and more varied detail, with links to photos, virtual tours, audio clips, and further reading lists.

Amazon Link: Marching For Freedom: Walk Together Children and Don’t You Grow Weary