book review: Black and White: The confrontation between Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Eugene “Bull” Connor

title: White and Black: The confrontation between Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Eugene “Bull” Connor

author: Larry Dane Brimner

date: Calkins Creek; December 2011

non-fiction

White and Black takes us back to the 1950s and 60s when two strong leaders, Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Eugene “Bull” Connor, confronted each other almost daily over the issue of segregation in Birmingham, Alabama. Without commentary or analysis, Brimner guides readers through series after series of tumultuous events between Blacks and Whites, between religious and political leaders and between Shuttlesworth and Connor. While images and sidebars manage to help readers distinguish characters and understand events, the events themselves do sometimes get a bit confusing.

I thought the author’s notes did more to explain what kept motivating these men, particularly Shuttlesworth who had to have believed he would not live to see then end of his crusade to end segregation. Brimner does effectively convey the intensity of the times and the varying degrees to which both Shuttlesworth and Connor were accepted by the public.In reading we learn how Rev. James Bevel brought children into the movement, who guided Martin Luther King Jr.  to develop a message of nonviolence and what the relationship was the relationship between King and Shuttlesworth.  The work of undercover agents who worked to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan is revealed as well as the role of J. Edgar Hoover and Connor in the management of various government agencies to thwart attempts to end segregation.

By framing the civil rights battle in Birmingham within the relationship between these two men, Brimner gives young adults a manageable perspective on a complex chunk of history.

Brimner published a variety of non-fiction articles for adults while teaching in El Centro. He became interested in writing children’s picture books and middle-grade novels while working on an M.A. in writing at San Diego State University. Brimner left Central Union High School in 1984 to write full-time, but soon began teaching education courses at San Diego State University where he would remain until 1992. Although aspiring to write children’s fiction, Brimner realized his teaching experience gave him a unique ability to write non-fiction. He has published over 150 books for children and young adults. (bio source)

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