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[Review] We’ve Got a Job by Cynthia Levinson

February 1, 2012

Levinson, Cynthia.  We’ve Got a Job.  176pp.  Peachtree, February 1, 2012.  9781561456277.   In 1963 Birmingham Alabama was considered to be the most segregated city in America.  Birmingham’s segregation went beyond seperate drinking fountains, bathrooms, schools, sports teams, entrances, and bus seats.  Birmingham had seperate libraries,  YWCAs, courtroom Bibles, segregated hospital floors, seperate golf courses, swimming pools, and  public parks.  There was even an ordinance that stated how mix race games of cards, dice, dominoes, and checkers were against the law.   Needless to say, the legal and economic disparitites faced by blacks alongside violent treatment from the white establishment, was extreme. Instead of bothering to learn the names of black adults, many whites referred to women as Bessie and men as Bo.

According to nine-year old Audrey Hancock, one of four children who take turns narrating the story,  she had seen just enough unfair treatment and attended enough movement meetings with her parents to help make up her mind as to what she needed to do to help solve the problem.  She participated in the a five day protest called Project C, held from May 2 to May 7, resulting in the violent arrest of 2,500 people, 1,500 of them children.  Picture from the Associate Press were distributed to the world media  The C stood for confrontation.  The black community of Birmingham felt their voices would be heard if the city govenment was overwhelmed, and overwhelmed it was.  It was taking 4 hours to serve breakfast in the city jail.   The purpose of the movement, known as “Project C” for “confrontation, was to fill the jails via arrests from marches and demonstrations. The black community believed their voices would be heard if the government was overwhelmed, and when the adults backed out due to their fears for what their participation would cause to happen to their families, the children bravely stepped up.

The  book’s title, “We’ve Got a Job” is taken from the words to a freedom song, which was one of the songs sung by the children during their protest demonstration and incarceration. Audrey, along with Washington Booker, III,  James Stewart,  Arnetta Streeter, and the rest of the child and teen activists were trained in the ways of nonviolent protest and prepped how to mentally handle the raw racism their protest efforts would  cause to surface.  Audrey, as earlier mentioned, was one of the youngest protestors;   Arnetta was arrested for  5 days and her and Washington were part of the students that desegregated the lunch counters and movies theaters in the city; and James was a poll barer for Carol Robertson, one of the young girls murdered in the 16th Church bombing.  Some of the great names from the Civil Rights movement, such as the Reverands Martin Luther King , Andrew Young, and Fred Shuttlesworth, were among the leader heroes whose presence was a dominating factor throughout the book.

The reading of this book was absolutely moving for me.  I knew of the violence and the racial hatred, I knew of segregation, but I had no idea of the degree of input the Reverand Shuttlesworth played behind the scenes in the Civil Rights Movement and never dreamt I would have the opportunity to have the timeline of events divulged to me from a child’s perspective.  How riviting.  I cannot tell you how many times I read and reread various sections to ensure the details were clear in my head.  Little Audrey Hancock literally stood in her family kitchen in the presence of  Dr. King and the reverands Young and Shuttlesworth.  The amount of work put into compiling information for this book was unfathonable.  I cannot think of any public or k12 school library that should not have this book in their collection.  Tnis book is a must read for every child, teen and adult.

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