Master storyteller Rosalie Turner makes the top of the best books I have read in several years list with “March With Me”. Her writing transported me back in time where I felt I was in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. I lived through the era as a middle school student and remember it well.
Turner has crafted two brilliant characters. The story is told through their eyes. Martha Ann (a white girl) and Letitia (a black girl) have you experiencing the Civil Rights movement. They meet briefly at Martha Ann’s sweet sixteen party where Letitia reluctantly helps her mother who is employed by Martha Ann’s mother.
The electricity reverberating throughout the black community when Dr. Martin Luther King and Reverend Ralph David Abernathy visit and speak is communicated in a way that gave me goose bumps.
We see the fear of the black adults as the Civil Rights movement grew. They were realistic and wanted no part of the protests or marches. They knew the whites would retaliate. We see them also working hard to watch over keep their children as they keep them in their neighborhood where they would be safely isolated from the whites.
The local radio disc jockeys and the use of the code words like picnic and party and message songs enlightened my understanding.
We encounter Bull Conner and the Birmingham Police and their use of fire hoses on Letitia and her older brother Sam. Sam is arrested and spends 12 days in jail.
The importance and influence of church and faith in the black community rings throughout the story. I obtained an amazing look at what it was like to grow up as a middle class black family in the 1960s.
The tragedy of the 16th Street Baptist Church being bombed and four innocent young black girls dying drives home the ignorance, anger, rage, and misunderstanding as well as stupid actions of some during this pivotal time in US History.
Other events from the Civil Rights era fill the pages as we read of the march from Selma to Montgomery, the signing of the Civil Rights Act, the assassination of Dr. King and of the disproportional number of black men fighting in Vietnam.
Ironically, Martha Ann and Letitia become teachers. Martha Ann gets her education at the University of Alabama. Letitia gets her education locally at Miles College. Both end up teaching in the same high school.
Rosaline Turner is one of the best storytellers writing. This book is must reading. Do yourself a favor and order it online now. It should be incorporated in the curriculum of public and private schools and used as a tool to teach about those historic days of fifty years ago. The book would make a great feature film or television movie.