The book The Youngest Marcher by Cynthia Levinson, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton tells the story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, the youngest known Civil Rights Activist to have participated in The Children’s March in Birmingham, Alabama.
Audrey Faye Hicks is a 9 year old girl who is frustrated by the obvious injustices in her community. She is inspired by the words of Martin Luther King Jr. and talks in her church and wants to take action, but doesn’t know how. She wants to be able to do all the same things that everyone else does, and not be discriminated against by the color of her skin.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. encourages the community to protest unjust laws and fill the jails so that the police can no longer arrest people, but many people are afraid of getting fired, evicted or beaten by the police.
Eventually they come up the idea to fill the jails with children. Audrey decides she wants to go to jail and convinces her mother to let her protest and get arrested. Many other children participate in the Children’s March, but none her age, and none from her school. She is arrested and sent to a juvenile jail for a week, and as protests continue, the jail becomes filled and all the children are released. Two months after the Children’s March segregation laws were removed from Birmingham, Alabama.
This book is impactful mainly because of how it is told through illustrations, and the fact that it is based on a true story. Audrey is a brave young girl, who is aware of her surroundings and how they affect her future. Although it is a children’s book, this story does not tread lightly through difficult topics. The author and illustrator show protesters being attacked by law enforcement with firehoses, and how harsh the jail was for Audrey. The book clearly describes the inequality that Black Americans faced in this time, and how the Children’s March played a crucial role in desegregating Birmingham.
I think this book is a great classroom addition for students learning about the Civil Rights Movement and touches on very important topics and helps bring reality to history. I also greatly enjoyed the end excerpts where the author provides historical context and the recipe for the buttered rolls mentioned throughout the story. Although basic rights for all Americans seems obvious now, this book sheds light on the injustices many Black Americans faced and the sacrifices families and communities had to take to obtain these basic rights.