Books

‘Turning 15 on the Way to Freedom,’ a Story of Everyday Bravery

What is striking about Lynda’s story is the modest, matter-of-fact tone she uses to describe the dangerous protests and marches the children of Selma routinely took part in.

“White people could fire black people whenever and however they wanted. That’s why the civil rights leaders needed us children to march. . . . On the day of a march, you would go to school for attendance, then slip out and get down to Brown Chapel. Our teachers were the ones to unlock the back doors and let us out of school. They supported us—they had our backs. . . . Two or three times a day a group of us students would leave Brown Chapel, heading downtown. I don’t think we were ever less than fifty kids on a march.”

After the hard rain of Day Three, “the ground was really soaked. Our campsite that night was really muddy. Someone put down hay and then a plastic tarp over the hay, but I sank down into the mud anyway.” On Day Four, the marchers got to Montgomery. ”When I got to the capital,” Lynda says, “I looked for Governor Wallace in he windows. . . . I got as close as I could and shouted, “I’m here, Governor Wallace! I’m here! So somebody in the governor’s office surely got to see my bandages. Somebody did.”

This has been marketed as a young adult book (for those 12 and up). The story (as told to Elspeth Leacock and Susan Buckley) is indeed rendered with simplicity, but that’s a virtue; the picture of the nondramatic, everyday bravery of ordinary people that this memoir paints makes it an affecting read for adults as well.

 

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