Cover image for The children
The children
Publication Information:
New York : Random House, c1998.
Physical Description:
783 p. : illustrations.
General Note:
Includes index.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book 323.1 HAL 1 1
Book 323.1 HAL 1 1

On Order



Chronicles the America's civil rights movement through the lives of some young people--known as the Children--whose courage changed the course of history.

Author Notes

David Halberstam was born on April 10, 1934 in New York City and later attended Harvard University. After graduating in 1955, Halberstam worked at a small daily newspaper until he attained a position at the Nashville Tennessean.

Halberstam has written over 20 books including The Children, a written account of his coverage of the Civil Rights Movement; The Best and Brightest, which was a bestseller; and The Game and October, 1964, both detailing his fascination of sports. Halberstam also won a Pulitzer Prize for his reports on the Vietnam War while working for the New York Times. He was killed in a car crash on April 23, 2007 at the age of 73.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 6

Publisher's Weekly Review

This re-creation of the early days of the civil rights movement by Halberstam (The Fifties) is at once intimate and monumental. By focusing on a small group of young African Americans who attended the Reverend James Lawson's workshop for nonviolent demonstrators in Nashville in 1959, then went on to play active roles in the movement, he hits the high points of the civil rights struggle and makes them immediate: the Nashville sit-ins; the founding of SNCC and CORE; the Freedom Rides; Bull Connor's attacks in Birmingham; the Klan in Memphis; the first singing of "We Shall Overcome"; the voter registration campaign; Bloody Sunday in Selma; and the march to Montgomery. As the group moves out of Nashville and encounters others in the movement, the book expands with the complexity, but fortunately not the imposed tidiness, of a Victorian novel. While some of the young people's names are familiar (e.g., Marion Barry, John Lewis), most are not, but the portraits of them and the society they lived in and challenged is richly detailed. Halberstam examines the subtle frictions within the movement (middle-class vs. poor, lighter-skinned vs. darker, male vs. female), as well as the often violent struggle against segregationists. A number of brief, informative essays are sandwiched in: on the sociology of all-white Vanderbilt University; the eccentricities of the Nashville newspapers; a history of city politics in Washington, D.C.; the role of the Kennedy Justice Department. Martin Luther King Jr. plays a minor part in this history because the subject is indeed the "children"‘the young adults in their late teens or early 20s in 1960, the early idealists who experienced violence in the streets and saw their movement itself turn segregationist (whites were forced out). The last third of the book follows the professional development of the children into adulthood: there was a congressman, a major, several doctors and college professors, a high school teacher and a political gadfly. This book need not have been as long as it is. But it is a masterful achievement in reporting, research and understanding. In a concluding author's note, Halberstam writes of his own experiences as a young reporter covering the civil rights beat. Photos not seen by PW. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Booklist Review

The Children brings Halberstam full circle: "the sit-in kids" (as local reporters called them) were his first big story in his first job for a major paper, the (Nashville) Tennessean. Though he moved to the New York Times a year or so after Nashville's first sit-in (February 1960), Halberstam (and most Americans) have followed these young people--among them, Representative John Lewis (D-GA); Washington, D.C., mayor Marion Barry; the Reverend James Bevel; and activist Diane Nash--ever since. At 25, Halberstam was only a few years older than "the kids," who learned their nonviolence from a Gandhi-influenced African American Methodist minister, the Reverend James Lawson. From Nashville lunch counters, many pursued the struggle as freedom riders and in freedom summer actions in the Deep South and remain active in today's continuing search for racial justice. The Children is both a survey of five central years of the civil rights movement (1960^-65) and a sterling example of the genre with which Halberstam is most closely identified: collective biography. As in books from The Best and the Brightest (1972) to October 1964 (1994), Halberstam makes vivid the interaction between unique individuals and the groups whose support enables them to exercise their individuality. A powerful story of young people justly seen as heroes because they risked their lives to challenge Jim Crow apartheid. --Mary Carroll

Choice Review

The Children is an engaging, readable narrative history of the young civil rights activists who came to prominence through the nonviolent workshops run by the Reverend James Lawson in Nashville, Tennessee. Halberstam, at the time a junior reporter for The Nashville Tennessean, explores the lives of Diane Nash, John Lewis, Hank Thomas, Gloria Johnson, Jim Bevel, Bernard Lafayette, Curtis Murphy, and Rodney Powell--unassuming and exceptionally ordinary African Americans. Along with older activists like C.T. Vivian and Kelly Miller Smith, they helped lead the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, playing a major role in the desegregation of the US. What emerges is a collective biography of these leaders and their roles in the freedom rides, sit-ins, and marches. Although the reader needs to remember that other individuals and organizations played major roles, Halberstam has done an admirable job in bringing these people to the fore. Through The Children the reader realizes how those fearless students who accepted nonviolence as a way of life, as well as those who saw it only as a tactic, helped to end the worst abuses of Jim Crow segregation in the southern US. Complements Clayborne Carson's In Struggle (CH, Jul'81). General readers; undergraduates. D. R. Jamieson; Ashland University

School Library Journal Review

YA-The "children" of the title refers to the courageous students who led the sit-ins in Nashville, TN, starting in 1960. Halberstam, who was a reporter for the Nashville Tennessean at the time, introduces Diane Nash, John Lewis, Gloria Johnson, Bernard Lafayette, Marion Barry, Curtis Murphy, James Bevel, Rodney Powell, and their mentor, the Reverend James Lawson. Readers learn of each student's background, family, fears, hopes, and determination. The narrative outlines the moral and political roots of the civil rights movement and the philosophical divisions that occurred as it grew from the first sit-ins to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. The author shows that this period in American history marked the beginning of the use of television to inform a wider audience, to show violence as news, and to bypass certain local newspapers, which gave little or no coverage of the movement. The last chapters trace the lives of these young people and how their experiences affected them as adults. YAs will appreciate the courage and dedication of these young activists. The excellent index will help researchers trace individuals and locations.-Betsy E. Pfeffer, Northern Virginia Community College (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

Another sprawling book from a master journalist and historian (The Fifties, 1993, etc.), this one focusing on the early years of the civil-rights movement and some of its unlikely heroes. In the late 1950s, an African-American minister and scholar named Jim Lawson arrived in Nashville, Tenn. A student of Mohandas Gandhi's and an admirer of Martin Luther King's, Lawson began to organize students at area colleges, leading seminars in draft resistance and civil disobedience. A true radical Christian who feared neither prison nor death, he recruited a number of men and women who would carry the straggle for civil rights to all parts of the country. One of them was a Fisk University graduate student named Marion Barry.) Lawson taught his students to turn the other cheek, to get used to being called ""nigger,"" and to be models of decorum and good citizenship, His efforts bore considerable fruit as his seminar students fanned out across the country and helped organize lunch-counter sit-ins and the Freedom Riders, enduring all manner of physical and verbal assaults as they did. Halberstam, who would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize, was a reporter for the Nashville Tennessean at the time of Lawson's seminars; he traces the story of these brave young men and women, who went on in some instances to occupy positions of power and influence; one, Gloria Johnson-Powell, became ""the first black female tenured full professor at Harvard Medical School,"" while Marion Barry would become famous, or infamous, in his role as mayor of Washington, D.C., and a magnet for scandal. Others in the Lawson group enjoyed less success, however, falling victim to addictions and poverty in some instances, to entrenched racism in others. Lawson himself, Halberstam writes, remains active in civil-rights issues. A powerful account of a critical time in American history, related in both close-up and wide view. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Library Journal Review

Award-winning journalist Halberstam (October 1964, LJ 4/1/94) returns to the time and place of his cub reporting for the daily Tennessean to chronicle what it was like for nine bright, idealistic young black men and women who began a crusade for justice without violence with a sit-in assault on segregated lunch counters in Nashville on February 13, 1960. Detailing the speeding cycle of racial protest that divided the 1950s and 1960s and created a new age and a new America, Halberstam renders the private and public struggles of a generation of young impassioned black students. With impressive sweep he reports on both what happened in the movement and what happened to it. An engrossing supplement to classics such as Clayborne Carson's In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s (LJ 5/1/81) and Aldon Morris's Origins of the Civil Rights Movement (LJ 10/1/84). Recommended for any collection on blacks, civil rights, the South, or the United States since 1945. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/97.]‘Thomas J. Davis, Arizona State Univ., Tempe (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.