I was among the many arts-related professionals this past Saturday occupying a table at Birmingham’s Boutwell Auditorium for the SMART Art Youth Arts Festival, sponsored by the Birmingham Public Library and the Mayor’s Department of Youth Services. Those who made it past the DJs and the dancers and the inflatable slide may have seen me at the table next door to the girl from Ruffner Mountain. I had a few copies of Weld on display, as well as a display related to my new book, Birmingham Foot Soldiers: Voices from the Civil Rights Movement.
While I was sitting there, a woman came by, studied the display, picked up my advance copy of the book, and asked if she could buy one. I explained that I couldn’t sell the book inside Boutwell, but gave her a promotional postcard with which she could order the book from the publisher. She was slightly disappointed. Then she told me something interesting:
She herself was a foot soldier, having protested during the 1963 Children’s Crusade as a student at what was then known as Western-Olin High School.
I shouldn’t have been surprised. One thing the book taught me is just how many people who were child protesters still live in the Magic City. They’re walking around, not like heroes to a movement, but like ordinary folks doing ordinary things.
A similar thing happened to my wife yesterday. She returned to the school where she taught 25 years to bid farewell to another teacher who was retiring. The other teacher’s mother was there. Turns out, she was foot soldier, too, her story having been told in an earlier book about the civil rights movement.
She told my wife, she wishes she had known I was writing the book. She would have shared her story again. The lady I met Saturday did share her story with me – but when asked if she would like to have her story published, she shook her head slightly. She didn’t feel that what she did was that big of a deal.
And there, in two encounters is one of the points that stands out in my book: foot soldiers worked together to form a mass movement against segregation and racial injustice, but they were hardly all alike. In the same way, the folks I was privileged to interview for Birmingham Foot Soldiers were individuals who had come together for a common purpose at a singularly historic moment in time. They each have interesting stories to tell.
Several people have asked about book signings. A few have been set up. The following are open to the public:
June 7 – From 1 to 3, I’ll be signing at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, 520 16th Street North
June 14 – Noon to 2 p.m. Little Professor Book Center – 2717 18th Street South (my hometown book store)
June 15 – At 2 p.m. you can find me (and my trusty pen) at the Alabama Theatre, 1817 Third Avenue North
June 28 – Come down to the Hoover Public Library, 200 Municipal Drive, where I will talk to their monthly Write Club – and sign the book!
There will be more to come.
Hope to see you there – whether you were a foot soldier, or not!
2 thoughts on “Foot Soldiers – You never know where you will find them”
I’m looking forward to reading your book. I lived through the sixties as a young child. Many things I remember but others I have forgotten. I hope this will trigger my memory. You’re a truly talented writer my friend. I know the book will be of the highest quality in writing and content.
Thanks, Ray. I really hope you like it.