DAVID HALBERSTAM graduated from Harvard, where he had served as managing editor of the daily Harvard Crimson. It was 1955, a year after the Supreme Court outlawed segregation in public schools. Halberstam went south and began his career as the one reporter on the West Point, Mississippi, Daily Times Leader. He was fired after ten months there and went to work for The Nashville Tennessean. When the sit-ins broke out in Nashville in February 1960, he was assigned to the story as principal reporter. He joined The New York Times later that year, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1964 for his early reports from Vietnam. He has received every other major journalistic award, and is a member of the Society of American Historians. His previous nine books have all been bestsellers.
David Halberstam has been called "this generation's equivalent of Theodore White and John Gunther" by The Boston Globe. Of David Halberstam's books, the critics have said about The Best and the Brightest, "a rich, entertaining and profound reading experience" (The New York Times); about The Powers That Be, "moves with all the speed and grace of a fine novel" (Chicago Tribune); about The Reckoning, "Halberstam manages to write business history with an investigator's skill and a novelist's flair" (The Washington Post); about The Fifties, "sinfully entertaining" (Newsweek); about The Breaks of the Game, "the best book [he] has written" (The Washington Post); about The Amateurs, "one of the best books ever written about a sport" (Newsweek); about Summer of '49, "dazzling...a celebration of a heroic age" (The New York Times); about October 1964, "masterful...memorable" (The Washington Post).
The story of several young black students ("the Children") who became Civil Rights leaders, as told by a Pulitzer Prize winner who has been covering them since he was a 25-year-old reporter in Nashville.
"POWERFUL . . . TOLD WITH SUCH PASSIONATE CONVICTION THAT THE
READER IS TRANSFIXED."
--The New York Times
"David Halberstam is America's Alexis de Tocqueville. . . . In
The Children, he returns to his roots as a young reporter for the
Nashville Tennessean, where he covered the start of the civil
rights movement, the sit-ins that galvanized a generation. In
following a dozen student idealists through the arc of their lives
in the early 1960s to the present ambiguous moment at the end of
the century, he shows how people make history and how the making of
that history affects their lives. The Children is an important
book, especially for today's youth, who will read in its moving and
revealing pages the remarkable stories of flesh-and-blood people
who were the fiber of a social movement."
--Los Angeles Times Book Review "UNFORGETTABLE DRAMA . . . In Mr. Halberstam's hands, the early days of the civil-rights movement come to life as never before in print. . . . The Children has a rare power."
--The Wall Street Journal "THE CHILDREN IS UTTERLY ABSORBING and contains some of the most moving passages Halberstam has ever written. . . . The civil-rights movement already has produced superb works of history, books such as David J. Garrow's Bearing the Cross and Taylor Branch's recently published Pillar of Fire. . . . David Halberstam adds another with The Children."
--The Philadelphia Inquirer "STIRRING . . . Within this book live stories of timeless heroism. . . . Stories so fraught with hatred and hope, violence and suffering, fear and courage, that one reads the book gripping it with both hands, almost afraid to turn the page."
--The Washington Post Book World
YA-The "children" of the title refers to the courageous students who led the sit-ins in Nashville, TN, starting in 1960. Halberstam, who was a reporter for the Nashville Tennessean at the time, introduces Diane Nash, John Lewis, Gloria Johnson, Bernard Lafayette, Marion Barry, Curtis Murphy, James Bevel, Rodney Powell, and their mentor, the Reverend James Lawson. Readers learn of each student's background, family, fears, hopes, and determination. The narrative outlines the moral and political roots of the civil rights movement and the philosophical divisions that occurred as it grew from the first sit-ins to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. The author shows that this period in American history marked the beginning of the use of television to inform a wider audience, to show violence as news, and to bypass certain local newspapers, which gave little or no coverage of the movement. The last chapters trace the lives of these young people and how their experiences affected them as adults. YAs will appreciate the courage and dedication of these young activists. The excellent index will help researchers trace individuals and locations.-Betsy E. Pfeffer, Northern Virginia Community College
This re-creation of the early days of the civil rights movement by Halberstam (The Fifties) is at once intimate and monumental. By focusing on a small group of young African Americans who attended the Reverend James Lawson's workshop for nonviolent demonstrators in Nashville in 1959, then went on to play active roles in the movement, he hits the high points of the civil rights struggle and makes them immediate: the Nashville sit-ins; the founding of SNCC and CORE; the Freedom Rides; Bull Connor's attacks in Birmingham; the Klan in Memphis; the first singing of "We Shall Overcome"; the voter registration campaign; Bloody Sunday in Selma; and the march to Montgomery. As the group moves out of Nashville and encounters others in the movement, the book expands with the complexity, but fortunately not the imposed tidiness, of a Victorian novel. While some of the young people's names are familiar (e.g., Marion Barry, John Lewis), most are not, but the portraits of them and the society they lived in and challenged is richly detailed. Halberstam examines the subtle frictions within the movement (middle-class vs. poor, lighter-skinned vs. darker, male vs. female), as well as the often violent struggle against segregationists. A number of brief, informative essays are sandwiched in: on the sociology of all-white Vanderbilt University; the eccentricities of the Nashville newspapers; a history of city politics in Washington, D.C.; the role of the Kennedy Justice Department. Martin Luther King Jr. plays a minor part in this history because the subject is indeed the "children"‘the young adults in their late teens or early 20s in 1960, the early idealists who experienced violence in the streets and saw their movement itself turn segregationist (whites were forced out). The last third of the book follows the professional development of the children into adulthood: there was a congressman, a major, several doctors and college professors, a high school teacher and a political gadfly. This book need not have been as long as it is. But it is a masterful achievement in reporting, research and understanding. In a concluding author's note, Halberstam writes of his own experiences as a young reporter covering the civil rights beat. Photos not seen by PW. (Mar.)