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Carry Me Home : Birmingham, Alabama: The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution [Hardcover]

By Diane McWhorter (Author)
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Item Number 153216  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   700
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.46" Width: 6.48" Height: 1.92"
Weight:   2.52 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Mar 31, 2001
Publisher   Simon & Schuster
ISBN  0684807475  
EAN  9780684807478  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
Outline ReviewThe Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863, but a contemporary African American saying predicted that freedom would come only after another hundred years of struggle. That prediction was about right: the civil rights struggle erupted in the middle of the 20th century, with its violent epicenter in the industrial city of Birmingham, Alabama. There freedom riders and voter-rights activists faced down Klansmen and Nazis, who had put aside their own differences to cast a pall of terror--and the smoke of a well-orchestrated campaign of church bombings--over the South.

Diane McWhorter, a journalist and native Alabamian, offers a comprehensive, literate record of the struggle that covers more than half a century and that involves hundreds of major actors. Her work is solidly researched and highly readable, and it offers much new information. Among the many newsworthy aspects of the book are McWhorter's discussions of internal power struggles within the civil rights movement, the uneasy role of Birmingham's small Jewish population, and the collusion of local government--especially swaggering Police Commissioner Bull Connor. The author also addresses the segregationist and white-supremacist movements and recounts the tortuous quest to bring the church bombers to justice, which was finally accomplished in 2000. Carry Me Home is a worthy and highly recommended companion to Taylor Branch's Parting the Waters and Andrew Young's An Easy Burden. --Gregory McNamee

Product Description

A major work of history, investigative journalism that breaks new ground, and personal memoir, Carry Me Home is a dramatic account of the civil rights era's climactic battle in Birmingham, as the movement led by Martin Luther King, Jr., brought down the institutions of segregation.

"The Year of Birmingham," 1963, was one of the most cataclysmic periods in America's long civil rights struggle. That spring, King's child demonstrators faced down Commissioner Bull Connor's police dogs and fire hoses in huge nonviolent marches for desegregation -- a spectacle that seemed to belong more in the Old Testament than in twentieth-century America. A few months later, Ku Klux Klansmen retaliated with dynamite, bombing the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and killing four young black girls. Yet these shocking events also brought redemption: They transformed the halting civil rights movement into a national cause and inspired the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which abolished legal segregation once and for all.

Diane McWhorter, the daughter of a prominent white Birmingham family, brilliantly captures the opposing sides in this struggle for racial justice. Tracing the roots of the civil rights movement to the Old Left and its efforts to organize labor in the 1930s, Carry Me Home shows that the movement was a waning force in desperate need of a victory by the time King arrived in Birmingham. McWhorter describes the competition for primacy among the movement's leaders, especially between Fred Shuttlesworth, Birmingham's flamboyant preacher-activist, and the already world-famous King, who was ambivalent about the direct-action tactics Shuttlesworth had been practicing for years.

Carry Me Home is the first major movement history to uncover the segregationist resistance. McWhorter charts the careers of the bombers back to the New Deal, when Klansmen were agents of the local iron and coal industrialists fighting organized labor. She reveals the strained and veiled collusion between Birmingham's wealthy establishment and its designated subordinates -- politicians, the police, and the Klan.

Carry Me Home is also the story of the author's family, which was on the wrong side of the civil rights revolution. McWhorter's quest to find out whether her eccentric father, the prodigal son of the white elite, was a member of the Klan mirrors the book's central revelation of collaboration between the city's Big Mules, who kept their hands clean, and the scruffy vigilantes who did the dirty work.

Carry Me Home is the product of years of research in FBI and police files and archives, and of hundreds of interviews, including conversations with Klansmen who belonged to the most violent klavern in America. John and Robert Kennedy, J. Edgar Hoover, George Wallace, Connor, King, and Shuttlesworth appear against the backdrop of the unforgettable events of the civil rights era -- the brutal beating of the Freedom Riders as the police stood by; King's great testament, his "Letter from Birmingham Jail"; and Wallace's defiant "stand in the schoolhouse door." This book is a classic work about this transforming period in American history.

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More About Diane McWhorter

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Diane McWhorter is a long-time contributor to The New York Times" and the op-ed page of USA TODAY", "among other national publications. Her young adult history of the civil rights movement is A Dream of Freedom". She is originally from Birmingham, Alabama, and now lives in New York City.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Necessary, but lacking in focus on African Americans  Jul 3, 2006
This is simply a necessary book for anyone who wants to understand the Civil Rights Movement, the city of Birmingham, Alabama, the relations between big business and racism and fascism in this society, and Amercian politics , not only in the historical period covered by the book, but in general. The significant weakness of this book is that McWhorter's focus is chiefly on two groups of while people: Birmingham's industrial and commercial ruling class and the variety of fascists, racists, and terrorists that they employed to maintain the dominant order.

While she does document enough about the civil rights movement in Alabama to make the book understandable, she has little concern for how the lives of everyday Black people in Birmingham were changed by what she talks about. Moreover, McWhorter focuses not on the issue of real integration of the life of Birmingham, but on the formal agreements between white business leaders and the civil rights movement in 1963 and early 1964, which even at the time that her book closes were not being carried out by the white business leaders and the local governments. So we are left at the end of the book curious as to how de facto desegregation took place. Of course, no American city, including Birmingham, has been truly desegregated in regard to housing, employment, and schools.

McWhorter gives a good picture about how big Northern-owned industry that dominated Birmingham economically and politically was responsible for the severe racism of the city. She shows how big business nourished the Klan and other violent organizations against Black people, during its battles with workers trying to unionize steel, coal, and other industries starting at the turn of the century.

The lineage of the fascist and Klan groups fed by the big business leaders during those years continued in the series of murders and bombings that shook Birmingham in the 1950s, and led to down to the individuals who bombed the 16th St. Baptist Church in 1963. For example, Hitler-loving fascist and antiSemite, Ace Carter who began in the 1930s became one of George Wallace's main speech writers in the 1960s.

That is the important part of this book: Southern racism was at the service of big capitalism nationally, not a product of something Southern, but something capitalist.

McWhorter shows how the power structure in the 1950s and 1960s resisted the civil rights movement, came to support the renewed racism represented by George Wallace, and had long before put Bull Connor into a position where his job as police commission largely involved coordinating terorism against Black people along with the Klan and neo-nazis.

She also does picture the civil rights movement in Birmingham starting with the movements that began as part of the labor radicalism in the 1930s and 1940s. She is best when she is talking about the tension between Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, a militant Birmingham leader who eventually moved to Cincinatti but continued to function in Birmingham's movement, and more conservative leaders like Martin Luther King.

Toward the end, she notes that the rebellions that met Birmingham's police after the bombings in the 1960s, though condemned by the civil rights leaders, had a very strong impact on creating the fear that brought about concessions.

She does note that the Kennedy administration considered all direct action civil rights activities, like the marches that force Birmingham's rulers to make concessions, "poorly timed."

McWhorter overglorifies the white business leaders who made small concessions on integrating lunch counters and dressing rooms in stores, and hiring a few black clerks in the stores and other demands is a bit disconcerting. She tends to picture them as leaders in the effort to create integration, as opposed to the last guard of realistic resistance against real Black rights. Moreover, history, and even she shows that they backed off from their agreements for years. Again, it would have been more satisfying if she discussed how these and other concessions were won in the years after her book closes.

McWhorter has a fascination with historical and personal details of members of the white elite. We find out who was whose cousin, who was at whose wedding, who did what in 1920, 1930, 1940, 1957, and she presents hundreds of individuals and their details. Sometimes, she gets carried away and her details don't really contribute to understanding the central theme of the book, the civil rights battles in Birmingham.

Unfortunately, true after the 1963 Church bombing McWhorter concentrates almost totally on the details of the Klan and fascist terrorists suspected of the bombing, while leaving out what happened in Birmingham or the civil rights movement.

The civil rights movement in Birmingham did not end in 1963. Many of its battles remain to be fought there and throughout the country. With all of its weaknesses, Carry Me Home helps us understand the fight then and the fight now.
History With a Journalistic Slant  Feb 16, 2006
Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama: The Climatic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution is a definitive study of the Civil Rights Movement that occurred in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. Pulitzer Prize winning Journalist Diane McWhorter brings this particular history alive for her, the people that lived during this era, and those who are now trying to understand this difficult period in American history that involved segregation and unconstitutional Jim Crow laws. Although McWhorter is not a historian, she divulges detailed facts within the book, which may be overwhelming to some readers. McWhorter writes as an investigative journalist, and at times sensationalizes particular situations in order to get her point across, which appear repetitious. On the other hand, it is effective in conjuring the emotions of the period as it occurred from both sides of the conflict. Her narrative attempts to lock each quote from each person within the context of the past, which may disturb and shock present day readers.

McWhorter argues that this particular conflict emerged from the effects that the New Deal had in Birmingham upon its arrival. She presents a complex history that involved the Southern elite, which included her father, Martin McWhorter. One of the interesting aspects of the book is McWhorter's emphasis of the New Deal's ties with the labor movement, and labor workers who resisted the transition belonged to the infamous Ku Klux Klan. When describing the events that led to the conflict in Birmingham, McWhorter shows readers how the Ku Klux Klan mentally and violently inflicted pain on Blacks, which she compares to that of the Nazis in Germany and what they did to the Jewish people during the late 1930s and 1940s. And ironically, this particular history is not at all too distant in the past because what happened in Birmingham in 1963, if comparing twentieth century history to nineteenth century history, did not occur hundreds of years in the past, and this "Revolution" still rears fresh in so many minds.

McWhorter attempts to achieve objectivity with this riveting event in history. She accomplishes in providing the reader with an eyeful of names and places that are chronologically placed. The most compelling aspect of the book is the acknowledgment of the numerous wrongdoers who attempted to roadblock integration, and the unsung heroes that helped to achieve civil rights in the South and the entire United States. Lastly, McWhorter shows much empathy and respect for the four young girls who lost their lives at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church who were coincidently about the same age as she was at the time.

Carry Me Home is yet another important account in understanding the Civil Rights Movement as well American history during the twentieth century. This is a definite must read.
Great  Dec 26, 2005
One of the best books I have ever read. I did not know the hatred of the white south against the balcks until I read this book. It was like reading Nazi Germany
Comprehensive and Detailed but Deeply Moving  Feb 18, 2005
Last fall, I had two hours to spare in the city of Birmingham. Someone suggested that I visit the Civil Rights Institute. It was on the corner across the street from the famous 16th Street Baptist Church. Walking through the various exhibits touched me deeply. I wanted to know more about a part of American history I knew so little about. So I turned to Diane McWhorter's book Carry Me Home. It is a gripping account of the civil rights movement. And it accurately reveals the struggles, the complexities, the personalities and internal conflicts of both sides of the movement. Some of it in unimaginable.

Although the book is comprehensive and detailed, it still flows. McWhorter is an excellent writter and she builds and maintains the tension right up to that explosive Sunday morning. I never got bogged down. The history is indeed complex. There is more to the struggle than meets the eye. And there are more heros than just Martin Luther King. Fred Shuttleworth is one of the many unsung heros who probably does not get the accolades he deserves. And the women played a vital role on the front lines. Great sacrifice and determination was spent, which increassed my admiration and respect toward the key players in the movement.

This book isn't for everyone but for me it was a tremendous learning experience.
Bold Move  Apr 12, 2004
The book "Carry Me Home," chock full of fascinating anecdotes and factual information, reveals the guilt of a Southern, white girl...who feels a deep force inside of her to expose her ancestors' shortcomings concerning their premise for white supremacy. Torn between her family and the truth, this book is a tell-all that reveals the McWhorters' role in the opposition to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s that altered Alabama's perception of the world drastically.

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