Title: The Youngest Marcher, The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a young Civil Rights Activist
Author: Cynthia Levinson
Illustrator: Vanessa Brantley Newton
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 2017
Themes: Civil Rights, child activism, marching
Whenever Mike flew into town, Audrey and her momma coo-ooked! Barbecued ribs, stewed greens, sweet potato soufflé, and Audrey’s favorite– hot rolls baptized in butter.
Meet the youngest known child to be arrested for a civil rights protest in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963, in this moving picture book that proves you’re never too little to make a difference.
Nine-year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks intended to go places and do things like anybody else.
So when she heard grown-ups talk about wiping out Birmingham’s segregation laws, she spoke up. As she listened to the preacher’s words, smooth as glass, she sat up tall. And when she heard the plan—picket those white stores! March to protest those unfair laws! Fill the jails!—she stepped right up and said, I’ll do it! She was going to j-a-a-il!
Audrey Faye Hendricks was confident and bold and brave as can be, and hers is the remarkable and inspiring story of one child’s role in the Civil Rights Movement. (Goodreads)
Why I like this book:
Prepare to cheer, gasp and cry when you read the story of this young activist. While the adults in her church community were understandably slow in coming forward to appeals by the pastors to march in such great numbers that the prisons would overflow, young Audrey knew she had to join the protests. Cognizant that this would result in a week’s imprisonment in a juvenile detention center, Audrey still chose to participate when Pastor Fred asked for young volunteers. With the full support of her family and teacher she was the only one from her elementary school who marched and the youngest of all, at 9 years old.
As family friends with well known activists like Martin Luther king (Mike) and others, Audrey grew up hearing adult discussions of the injustice the African Americans faced at all levels of society. She knew that she wanted new school books and to eat ice cream at the ice cream parlor like any of the white kids. Young readers will relate to this kid’s perspective of segregation and will be inspired by the courage of this young girl.
The text packs in many details, all selected for this elementary age reader. From Audrey’s favorite recipe to her carrying a game with her on the march so she would have something to play in prison. The text is lively and doesn’t spare the evil of this time period, yet does so in an age appropriate way.
The illustrations switch from several small scenes to full page spreads of the most dramatic moments (marching, prison etc) and her full of color and strong expressions (both humorous and serious).
The author notes she spent three years researching this biography, including personal interviews with the protagonist before her death in January 2008. It shows; the accuracy to detail and personality of Audrey permeates every page.I would encourage every elementary school classroom and participating in Black History Month to acquire this new biography. It is one of the best introductions to the Birmingham marches/events for this age group that i have read.
Ensure your students read the author’s note and check out the recipe for Hot Rolls Baptized in Butter. The book also contains a brief timeline of Civil Rights events and a page of sources.
3rd to 5th graders could pair this with reading the novel, The Watsons Go to Birmingham–1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis.