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While the World Watched: A Birmingham Bombing Survivor Comes of Age During the Civil Rights Movement
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While the World Watched: A Birmingham Bombing Survivor Comes of Age During the Civil Rights Movement

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  1,836 ratings  ·  287 reviews
On September 15, 1963, a Klan-planted bomb went off in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Fourteen-year-old Carolyn Maull was just a few feet away when the bomb exploded, killing four of her friends in the girls' rest room she had just exited. It was one of the seminal moments in the Civil Rights movement, a sad day in American history . . . and the tur ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published February 1st 2011 by Tyndale House Publishers (first published January 20th 2011)
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Some aspects of this book were wonderful. Other aspects left me stone-cold. I think it is a good book and definitely worth reading, so I gave it three stars. I very much appreciate both its factual content and the in-depth portrayal of the author, Carolyn.

This is a book very much aimed at those with a strong religious faith, which I do not have. Throughout the entire book hymns and bible verses and psalms are quoted, as well as speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy and Robert F.
This is the first hand account of the civil rights movement by a woman who witnessed it. Carolyn Maull was just a teenager living in Birmingham, Alabama when a bomb blew up the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and killed four of her friends. She recalls the incident, her fears, her hurts and the people who inspired her. This is a tragic part of American history that everyone should educate themselves about. I was just a little girl at the time and I can remember when these girls were killed. I wa ...more
Natalie Vellacott
May 02, 2016 rated it it was ok
I gave up on this half-way through. It is another attempt to turn a few hour event into a full length novel. The problem is that although the event itself may be interesting, the rest of the book is generally not. The author details her early life and events on the day in question in minute detail. These details describe a normal day in the life of many Americans and do not make for interesting reading. The author quotes extensively from the speeches of Martin Luther King who is obviously an imp ...more
Sep 18, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I appreciate and applaud the author's willingness to tell her story and trumpet the message of recovery and reconciliation. Both her story and her message are important, and I felt that this book offered a nice bit of emotional counterpoint to the other book I've been reading on the Civil Rights movement: a book written with near complete objectivity.

The reason for the low rating was that I wasn't a fan of the book's format and style. Barring the epilogue, which is insightful and articulate, th
Jan 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Highly recommended.

I decided to read this book partly because someone recently posted a quotation from MLK on Facebook. It was about loving thy neighbor, and I wondered how MLK could feel and preach love after witnessing the atrocities so many people had been through (and experiencing them himself).

This book is an account of what one woman went through during a painful time in US history, as well as her life afterward. It is a story of the amazing faith and courage people can assume when they a
Apr 11, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014-reads
From the book description “On September 15, 1963, a Klan-planted bomb went off in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Fourteen-year-old Carolyn Maull was just a few feet away when the bomb exploded, killing four of her friends in the girl’s rest room she had just exited. It was one of the seminal moments in the Civil Rights movement, a sad day in American history . . . and the turning point in a young girl’s life.”

Living through the civil rights upheaval of the 1960’s as a tee
Jan 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I worked at the same company as Carolyn for a few years and knew that she had been at the church when the bomb went off and that the four girls who died had been close friends of hers. Carolyn was 14 at the time and she tells her viewpoint of not only the bombing but the whole year of 1963, etc. Interspersed with quotes and passages of speeches from Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy, her text interlaced her personal experiences, the current laws and social mores of the south with the horrib ...more
Feb 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book was so good that once I sat down today and finally got it started I actually finished it in 3 hours. I literally couldn't put it down. Totally different than what I expected. It is beautifully written and poignant, yet in a very simple way. If I could give this book more stars I would. One would never guess with how personally this book is written and brings you into a very ugly story that she has the impressive resume that she has. I think I had expected it to be more academically wri ...more
Nedra Haymon
Aug 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I just remembered after a post from a friend that I had read this book. Excellent look back at a sad time during Civil Rights Movement. It's intense, so be ready.
Jan 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
On Sunday, September 15th, 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama, four young girls (Denise McNair (11), Addie Mae Collins (14), Carole Robertson (14) and Cynthia Wesley (14)) lost their lives in the racist bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. They were in the girl’s restroom where another young girl had been laughing and chatting with them just moments before. Her name was Carolyn Maull and this book is her story, not just of that precipitous moment in time, but of the era of the Civil Rights m ...more
Apr 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I've studies and read a good amount about this time period throughout my life, but "While the World Watched" gave me a different perspective on the Civil Rights Movement. There were moments as I read this where I put myself in Mrs. McKinstry's place and was shocked by how much worse it would have been to live as a black person then - worse than I ever imagined.
Historical books have always fascinated me. This book went through many famous occasions in the Civil Rights Movement, but made them per
Carolyn was the same age as her four friends who were killed by the bomb planted at Birmingham's Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. Her work as a volunteer in the church office put her in touch with one of the bombers that fateful, historical day, saved her life, forced her to testify for the defense in one bomber's trial, decades later, and indelibly, profoundly affected her - for worse and ultimately for better - thereafter.

This book is at various points her memoir, a decades-long firsthand acco
Robert Teter
Nov 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Carolyn Maull McKinstry, really brings you into the time in our History when The Bombing of the 16th Street Church, time in our lives, where if you were not there, or even old enough to know about this part of our history, she brings you inside the church, into the lives of those girls that were killed, her life, and what life was about in those days.

Next year, will mark the 50th Anniversary of the Bombing, and this is a must read book, it is one that I will read again, and again to bring me bac
Amanda Baker
Feb 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Being able to relive what nobody seems to talk about anymore through the eyes of a person who was directly affected by it was very powerful.
I wish people would not criticize the author's writing style, but instead, listen to what she is saying. I can't imagine reliving these events was easy, and I'm grateful that she did it so I could read it.
Kara Budge
Jun 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What Carolyn McKinstry and her community endured in Birmingham, Alabama is hard to comprehend. She tells about her experiences growing up in the most segregated city in America and the unbelievable acts of hate and racism prevalent during her child and adulthood, but particularly in 1963. She tells about the emotional and mental trauma she endured as well as the leaders who inspired her and gave her hope. Carolyn shares how she came to forgive the hate filled individuals who killed her friends a ...more
Adam Fehr
Feb 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This true story recounts the Civil Rights Movement (especially in the 60s) and tells of the horrors of racial discrimination. It is hard to believe just how cruel man can be simply because of the color of someone else's skin. Hearing this story, made me want to stand up for the blacks during the Civil Rights crisis. But I wonder. If I had been alive during that period, would I have actually defended the defenseless, or would I have accepted it like virtually all of the other Americans living dur ...more
Cara Meredith
Feb 21, 2017 rated it liked it
I enjoyed learning more about this (horrific) historic event, but honestly, it wasn't so much the main character's story, but her connection to (and capitalization on) the greater story at large. I appreciated the interweaving of various MLK speeches, but it felt like those were inserted to fill space.
Sep 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
When we think of the 1960s in the US South, and of the Civil Rights Movement, we likely think of Rosa Parks, of the peaceful protests, and especially of Dr. Martin Luther King.
Do we know about 16th Street Baptist Church, about Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley? These 4 were murdered there: victims of a bomb planted by the Ku Klux Klan. Denise was 11. The rest of the girls were 14. Just children.
Did you know about them? I did not! And I wonder why?
Have we glos
This was actually a selection from SYNC-YA in 2014, but I kept putting off reading it due to the heavy subject matter (I primarily read to escape). Given the events of June 17, 2015, however, this seemed like an excellent time to finally get around to reading it. Do we really still live in a world where people can't find sanctuary within their own church? Well, of course we do, and the problem remains endemic in the South. So what did I learn from McKinstry's take on the Birmingham Church Bombin ...more
Adam Shields
Jul 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Short Review: While the World Watched is a first person account of the 1963 16th Street Church Bombing where four young teenage girls died, and her life after that bombing. This is a book well worth reading to get a sense of the civil rights movement for someone that was a young teen. She was probably the last person to see the four girls before they died (she left the bathroom just before the bomb went off). The book does a good job not lionizing the civil rights movement, while at the same tim ...more
Nov 11, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A personal look at a gruesome time in history. The author, Mrs. Mckinstry came of age during the Jim Crow era...and witnessed and even played a part in the fight for civil rights/ human rights. She didn't realize the gravity of racial injustice and hate until September 15, 1963, the day her church was bombed, and the day she lost her childhood friends. The day her life was changed.

I enjoyed this book...unlike anything I've ever read. While I read, it was almost hard to imagine the injustices of
Lauren Stoolfire
September 15, 1963 was a major turning point in 14 year-old Carolyn Maull's life. On that day she was just feet from a bomb planted in her church by the KKK when it went off killing four of her friends. Not only was this day a turning point in her life, but also the Civil Rights Movement.

This memoir acts a an eyewitness account of life in the Jim Crow South - from violent bombings, assassinations, and riots to the peaceful marches and protests that came to characterize the Civil Rights Movement
Aug 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
It's a rare and delightful experience to read an eyewitness account of history, and Carolyn Maull McKinstry's stories about growing up in Birmingham during the Civil Rights movement is engaging and challenging. I learned things I never did in American history, and I appreciated the inclusion of excerpts from famous speeches by Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy. I can hardly believe that people survived such a tumultuous decade, and McKinstry's story is proof that even decades after such hor ...more
Jan 18, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-on-kindle
Great Story Lost in Poor Editing

I really wanted to love this book. Carolyn has a powerful and inspiring story to tell. I just wish it wasn't buried below pages and pages of quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and President Kennedy.

Around halfway through the book I just started to feel like I couldn't keep going. I came here to Goodreads to see if other people had the same experience with the book or if I just wasn't trying hard enough. But it appears from other reviews that my complaints are
Feb 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
This memoir paints a vivid picture of what it was like to live in Birmingham during the Civil Rights Movement.

The tragic events described in this book occurred before I was born, and even though I had learned about many of them before, the author's perspective helped me understand the Civil Rights Movement in a way that I did not grasp before; as a whole as well as the impact on a single person.

In this book, Carolyn Maull McKinstry shares the nightmare of the discrimination, intolerance and pai
This book was written by a woman who survived the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church as a child in the 1960's. She lost 4 of her friends in the blast, and this is a story of how she rose above undiagnosed PTSD and learned to forgive and give her life to God.

There are many excerpts of Dr. Martin Luther King's speeches, some moving photos, and it really helps to explain exactly how awful segregation was in the South by someone who was actually there. She describes being involved in Dr. King
Jan 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Seriously good. Factual and historic detailing of the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King; the bombing of the 16th St. Baptist Church, Birmingham, AL and subsequent deaths of 4 young girls; the deaths of Dr. King, President Kennedy, and Senator Robert Kennedy; the segregation and integration of AL; and, the altered and affected life of Carolyn Maull McKinstry, author, who had been in the bathroom at the church with the girls/her friends only moments earlier. Maull McKinstry really digs into what ...more
Sep 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic eye opening firsthand account of the hardships and trials of a young black girl living through the Civil Rights Movement. It's so hard to sit there and read, wondering how the world could have ever sat back and let all of those events occur without batting an eyelash... and yet racism (although thankfully diminished from what occured here) still exists and is still very much a threat to our society and those who live in it. If you don't come out of reading this book with a new-found re ...more
P.D. Bekendam
Jan 26, 2013 rated it liked it
I picked this up at a bargain price on Kindle's Daily Deal, and I'm glad I did. This is an important bit of history told from the invaluable perspective of an actual eyewitness. I am a Caucasian male who benefited from a sheltered, privileged childhood. If I want to better understand what it was like to grow up as an African American female in segregated Alabama, this is the book to read. Not only does this story provide history, it provides perspective. Sure the writing was simple at times, and ...more
Jan 05, 2013 rated it liked it
Carolyn McKinstry was a young girl of 13 when the 16th Ave Baptist Church was bombed by the Klan and four of her best friends were killed. She lived with guilt over her survival for years. This is the story of history and of her struggle to come to grips with her place in the Civil Rights Movement. She is just one year younger than I and it was most interesting to read of this through her eyes as she watched and participated in civil rights struggles. Growing up in a lilly white Salem, Oregon, I ...more
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Carolyn Maull McKinstry is a survivor of the Civil Rights struggle and an eyewitness to the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing. As a teenager, she marched under Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and bravely faced Bull Connor's German shepherds and stinging fire hoses during the battle for equal rights in her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama.

Now, nearly fifty years after the bombing, Carolyn is still
“And history has proven over and over again that unmerited suffering is redemptive.” 2 likes
“it is not a faith walk if I give you a calendar.” 1 likes
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