2002 Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction
One of Time Magazines
Ten Best Books of the Year
A New York Times
Notable Book for 2001
A Los Angeles Times
Best Book of the Year
One of The Chicago Tribunes
Best Books of the Year
Synopses & Reviews
A major work of history, investigative journalism that breaks new ground, and personal memoir, Carry Me Home
is a dramatic account of the civil rights era's climactic battle in Birmingham, as the movement led by Martin Luther King, Jr., brought down the institutions of segregation.
"The Year of Birmingham," 1963, was one of the most cataclysmic periods in America's long civil rights struggle. That spring, King's child demonstrators faced down Commissioner Bull Connor's police dogs and fire hoses in huge nonviolent marches for desegregation a spectacle that seemed to belong more in the Old Testament than in twentieth-century America. A few months later, Ku Klux Klansmen retaliated with dynamite, bombing the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and killing four young black girls. Yet these shocking events also brought redemption: They transformed the halting civil rights movement into a national cause and inspired the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which abolished legal segregation once and for all.
Diane McWhorter, the daughter of a prominent white Birmingham family, brilliantly captures the opposing sides in this struggle for racial justice. Tracing the roots of the civil rights movement to the Old Left and its efforts to organize labor in the 1930s, Carry Me Home shows that the movement was a waning force in desperate need of a victory by the time King arrived in Birmingham. McWhorter describes the competition for primacy among the movement's leaders, especially between Fred Shuttlesworth, Birmingham's flamboyant preacher-activist, and the already world-famous King, who was ambivalent about the direct-action tactics Shuttlesworth had been practicing for years.
Carry Me Home is the first major movement history to uncover the segregationist resistance. McWhorter charts the careers of the bombers back to the New Deal, when Klansmen were agents of the local iron and coal industrialists fighting organized labor. She reveals the strained and veiled collusion between Birmingham's wealthy establishment and its designated subordinates politicians, the police, and the Klan.
Carry Me Home is the product of years of research in FBI and police files and archives, and of hundreds of interviews, including conversations with Klansmen who belonged to the most violent klavern in America. John and Robert Kennedy, J. Edgar Hoover, George Wallace, Connor, King, and Shuttlesworth appear against the backdrop of the unforgettable events of the civil rights era the brutal beating of the Freedom Riders as the police stood by; King's great testament, his "Letter from Birmingham Jail"; and Wallace's defiant "stand in the schoolhouse door." This book is a classic work about this transforming period in American history.
"This is a big important book, a challenging portrait of an American city at the center of the most significant domestic drama of the 20th century." Newsweek
"The most important book on the movement since Taylor Branchs Parting the Waters." Jon Wiener, The Nation
"[A] vivid, admirably nuanced, and wide-ranging history of the city that became ground zero in the Civil Rights struggle....A dense, detailed, and insightful history." Kirkus Reviews
The New YorkerMcWhorter's own involvement in the story...reenergizes the struggle, serving as a reminder that history is always personal.
Craig FlournoyThe Dallas Morning NewsThe product of nineteen years of research, Carry Me Home is a brilliant work of history.
Publishers Weekly (starred)The story of civil rights in Birmingham, Alabama, has been told before -- from the unspeakable violence to the simple, courageous decencies -- but fresh, sometimes startling details distinguish this doorstop page-turner told by a daughter of the city's white elite. [McWhorter] brings a gripping pace and an unusual, twofold perspective to her account, incorporating her viewpoint as a child...as well as her adult viewpoint as an avid scholar and journalist.
Harper BarnesSt. Louis Post-DispatchDiane McWhorter's powerful moral epic about the civil rights movement in Birmingham, Alabama, contains all the elements of first-rate history, including dauntingly thorough research, a sure grasp of the big picture as well as the tiny details that illuminate it, evocative writing that brings action and character springing off the page, and a novelist's sense of how to mold a compelling narrative arc out of the innumerable molecules of historical fact.
The Dallas Morning News
The product of nineteen years of research, Carry Me Home is a brilliant work of history.
David Herbert Donald author of Lincoln
A tour de force, comparable in importance to J. Anthony Lukas's Common Ground
and Taylor Branch's Parting the Waters.
Carry Me Home is destined to become a classic in the history of the civil rights revolution.
"The Year of Birmingham, " 1963, was one of the most cataclysmic periods in America's long civil rights struggle. Diane McWhorter, journalist and daughter of a prominent Birmingham family, weaves together police and FBI documents, interviews with black activists and former Klansmen, and personal memories into an extraordinary narrative of the city, the personalities, and the events that brought about America's second emancipation.
"The Year of Birmingham," 1963, was a cataclysmic turning point in America's long civil rights struggle. That spring, child demonstrators faced down police dogs and fire hoses in huge nonviolent marches for desegregation. A few months later, Ku Klux Klansmen retaliated by bombing the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and killing four young black girls. Diane McWhorter, journalist and daughter of a prominent Birmingham family, weaves together police and FBI documents, interviews with black activists and former Klansmen, and personal memories into an extraordinary narrative of the city, the personalities, and the events that brought about America's second emancipation.
Now with a new afterword, the Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatic account of the civil rights era’s climactic battle in Birmingham as the movement, led by Martin Luther King, Jr., brought down the institutions of segregation.
“The Year of Birmingham,” 1963, was a cataclysmic turning point in America’s long civil rights struggle. Child demonstrators faced down police dogs and fire hoses in huge nonviolent marches against segregation. Ku Klux Klansmen retaliated by bombing the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, killing four young black girls. Diane McWhorter, daughter of a prominent Birmingham family, weaves together police and FBI records, archival documents, interviews with black activists and Klansmen, and personal memories into an extraordinary narrative of the personalities and events that brought about America’s second emancipation.
In a new afterword—reporting last encounters with hero Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and describing the current drastic anti-immigration laws in Alabama—the author demonstrates that Alabama remains a civil rights crucible.
About the Author
Diane McWhorter, who grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, is a long-time contributor to The New York Times and writes for the Op-Ed page of USA Today. Her articles about race, politics, and culture have appeared in many national publications, including The Washington Post. Carry Me Home is her first book. She lives in New York City.
Table of Contents
Introduction: September 15, 1963
Part I: Precedents, 19381959
1. The City of Perpetual Promise: 1938
2. Ring Out the Old: 1948
3. Mass Movements: 19541956
4. Rehearsal: 19561959
Part II: Movement, 19601962
5. Breaking Out
7. Freedom Ride
9. The Full Cast
Part III: The Year of Birmingham, 1963
11. New Day Dawns
12. Mad Dogs and Responsible Negroes
14. Two Mayors and a King
18. The Threshold
19. Edge of Heaven
20. No More Water
21. The Schoolhouse Door
22. The End of Segregation
23. The Beginning of Integration
24. All the Governor's Men
25. A Case of Dynamite
26. The Eve
27. Denise, Carole, Cynthia, and Addie
30. General Lee's Namesakes
Abbreviations Used in Source Notes