Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Black and White: the confrontation between Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Eugene "Bull" Connor by Larry Dane Brimner

Black and White: the Confrontation between Reverend Fred L.
Shuttlesworth and Eugene “Bull” Connor
By Larry Dane Brimner
Calkins Cree, 2011
ISBN: 9781590787663
This book was sent to me by the publisher.
(Grades 7 and up)

February is Black History Month. Soon teachers, students, parents, and day care providers will be coming into my library looking for books on Martin Luther King, Jr, Ruby Bridges, and other titles about the civil rights movement. In a matter of hours, almost every book on the subject will be checked out.  Now we can add another great title to the mix. Black and White by Larry Dane Brimner offers readers another perspective on the events in that dark and ugly time in our nation’s history. Black and White offers readers a deeper understanding of the movement.

The book centers on Reverend Shuttlesworth and his commitment to getting rid of the unfair Jim Crow laws in Birmingham, and the South, during the 1950’s and early 1960’s. Those laws restricted African-Americans the right to work in stores, be policemen, or allow children to attend all-white schools.

The author does an excellent job, in 80 pages, documenting the confrontation between these two larger-than-life men, Fred Shuttlesworth and Bull Connor. Without this immense hatred Connor had towards African-Americans along with his abhorrent actions, the nation might not have ever learned of the struggle going on in Birmingham. (Called Bombingham because of all the bombings taking place there per orders of Bull Connor) Brimner makes it very clear that without Fred’s involvement the equal rights legislation of 1964 might never have happened.

“Without Fred Shuttlesworth, the Birmingham campaign and the role Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., played in it may have taken a vastly different appearance. It was Fred who urged a reluctant Dr. King to shine the light of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference on the city. It was Fred who planned strategy and provided soldiers from the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights for local demonstrations, even as Dr. King was the national voice of the civil rights movement. Fred’s actions in the 1950’s and 1960’s helped pave the way to the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965.”

The book’s design is very dramatic, a mixture of black, white, and red. The black text, placed alternately on white and red backgrounds grabs readers’ attention and holds it. Each page is loaded with historical black and white photos that are well captioned. Sidebars have additional information that is pertinent to what is being discussed.

Brimner, an award-winning author of more than 150 books of fiction and nonfiction, is respectful of his subjects. In the author’s note he acknowledges that Eugene “Bull” Connor was the perfect foe for Fred.

“Without his staunch racist and his harsh response to the African American cry for justice, civil rights progress might have taken an even longer time in coming.”

This is an outstanding addition to the growing literature about the Civil Rights Movement. Though this book is for a slightly older audience, still Include it in a display with  The Watson's go to Birmingham, 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis, Boycott Blues: how Rosa Parks inspired a nation and Sit-in: how four friends stood up by sitting down, both by Andrea Davis Pinkney.

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