The Children

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In the late 1950’s, Jim Lawson, an African American minister and civil rights activist, came to Nashville, Tennessee, where he held seminars instructing a number of young men and women in civil disobedience and nonviolent protest. These young African Americans, the children of the book’s title, held the first lunch counter sit- ins in Nashville, then went on to lead sit-ins and marches in other parts of the country and to organize and participate in the Freedom Rides, bus rides across the South designed to test recent United States Supreme Court desegregation rulings.

David Halberstam, then a twenty-five-year-old reporter for THE NASHVILLE TENNESSEAN, was assigned to cover the first sit-ins in February, 1960, and he uses his experience to trace the Civil Rights movement through its most forceful and fruitful years, 1960- 1965. He looks at events through the perspective of the student activists who participated in these sit-ins, including John Lewis, Marion Barry, Jim Bevel, Diane Nash, Gloria Johnson-Powell, and Bernard Lafayette. Halberstam provides an overall perspective on the events that shaped the Civil Rights movement, but he is at his best when he covers the day-by-day proceedings and the details of the participants’ lives. His you-are-there journalistic style creates an enthralling, vivid account of the Freedom Rides from the courage and the fear that went into their planning to the beatings of whites and blacks and the bus burning at Anniston, Alabama. THE CHILDREN’s only flaw is its excessive length.

Sources for Further Study

Black Issues in Higher Education. XV, September 17, 1998, p. 39.

Choice. XXXV, July, 1998, p. 1912.

The Christian Century. CXV, July 15, 1998, p. 689.

The Economist. CCCXLVIII, July 11, 1998, p. S8.

Los Angeles Times Book Review. March 22, 1998, p. 6.

The Nation. CCLXVI, May 11, 1998, p. 30.

The New York Review of Books. XLV, June 25, 1998, p. 27.

The New York Times Book Review. CIII, March 15, 1998, p. 9.

Time. CLI, March 23, 1998, p. 86.

The Washington Post Book World. XXVIII, March 22, 1998, p. 1.