CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Washington Booker III. Audrey Faye Hendricks. James W. Stewart. Arnetta Streeter. Four black kids growing up in segregated Birmingham, Ala., in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Like all kids, they could run, jump, play and sing. Unlike white kids, though, they couldn't eat at the same counter, use the same restrooms, go to the same schools and pools or use the same fitting rooms at department stores.
Through their eyes, Cynthia Levinson tells the story of an important but little-known part of the Civil Rights movement in her nonfiction book, "We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March."
When Levinson was researching the music of the Civil Rights period, she discovered that most of those incarcerated in Birmingham during the Civil Rights movement were kids. Drawing from four years worth of research and interviews with dozens of participants (both children and adults), she penned this book, which is named after one of the freedom songs of the era.
As the era began, a new president had been elected, and the torch had been passed to a new generation. Hope sprung in the hearts of many Americans, including the blacks in a Deep South city they called "Bombingham."
For Hendricks, Booker, Stewart and Streeter, racism and segregation were ways of life. But for their parents, living as second-class citizens in a first-class country, they were heavy burdens growing heavier with each injustice enacted upon themselves and their community.
Segregation wasn't just a way of life in Birmingham, though; it was the law. Ordinances required partitions between coloreds and whites at eateries. Kids and adults alike weren't allowed to play together, be it hopscotch or cards, if they were of a different race.
Churches and houses were bombed, and blacks were beaten if they were perceived to have "stepped over the line." Their lives and livelihoods were at stake, and many just quietly accepted the status quo as unchangeable.
Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, a local minister, led the fight against segregation in Birmingham. He was eventually joined by black activists such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph Abernathy.
With adults facing extreme retaliation, it was decided to focus the movement's efforts on children. While some people disagreed with this tactic, many kids were willing to sacrifice to bring about change. There were enough children to overwhelm the penal system and limited resources in Birmingham.