Monday, February 21, 2011

While the World Watched by Carolyn Maull McKinstry

Fourteen year old Carolyn Maull had just talked with her friends in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church's restroom. She was rushing to finish her Sunday School records work of that day in September of 1963 when the bomb exploded. Her four friends were dead and Carolyn's life was changed forever.

In the days following the bombing, no one spoke about the tragedy. Just like when Pres. Kennedy was assassinated a few months later, “...no one talked. Black folk had been conditioned to look the other way when tragedy struck, especially of the victim was one of their own.” (177) She was left to deal with the tragedy on her own.
No one was ever convicted for the bombing although FBI records would show that the men had been identified. Hoover did not think there was enough evidence for a conviction.
In May, M. L. King had been to Birmingham and organized student marches. Carolyn had skipped school to participate. Bull Connor had responded with tanks and ordered water hoses turned on the marchers, many of whom were children. Carolyn was one of those hit with water shot out at a hundred pounds of pressure a second.
Birmingham's nickname was “Bombingham.” (182) Many homes in the black neighborhood were bombed. In April of 1964 the house across the street was bombed. Carolyn woke to a shattered window and her brothers were thrown from their beds by the blast.
As a black child in the south, Carolyn had little contact with white people. She had her first interaction and conversation with a white person in college. “Blacks and whites lived together in the same city, but we truly lived in separate worlds.” (35)
After college Carolyn married and began a family. Her memories plagued her and she turned to alcohol to deaden them. When one of her children was almost killed because of her inattention, she committed to end that dependence and shares her struggles to do so.
Her husband's job brought them back to Birmingham and she found that the “integrated” south still had problems. While some wanted to move forward there were those who desired the old status quo.
She felt God calling her to speak out about her experiences, moved to restore the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, seeing it become a national historic landmark. Her passion “is to see people learn to work together and appreciate the diversity God created among us.” (269)
Carolyn still struggles with the memories of that event nearly fifty years ago. Even now she says she “must go back to God in prayer and ask him to keep unforgiveness from my heart...” (274) God has helped her through the long process of forgiveness, seeing people as God sees them. She desires to live by Rom. 13:10, “Love does no harm to its neighbor.” Carolyn reminds her readers that it is time to quit watching and start acting.

This book was provided for review by Tyndale House Publishers.

Tyndale House Publishers, 293 pages.  Publisher information.
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