Yes—get hype people! In just one week, one of our favorite books, Christopher Paul Curtis’ Newberry Honor and Coretta Scott King Honor Award-winning book The Watsons Go To Birmingham, comes to life on the Hallmark Channel.
Starring Anika Noni Rose (The Princess and the Frog), David Alan Grier, LaTanya Richardson and Wood Harris (The Wire), the film adapts the story chronicled in the oft hilarious and deeply moving historical fiction novel about two parents who make good on a threat to send their teenage son, Byron Watson, to spend the summer with his strict grandmother after he gets into a whirl of trouble for doing a little bit of everything: straightening his hair into a “conk,” lighting fires, cutting school, even freezing his lips to the mirror of the new family car. When the family takes off for its trip from Flint, Michigan in the summer of 1963, it drives straight into one of the most chilling moments in America’s history: the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church that killed four little girls.
The movie, produced by Tonya Lewis Lee (author and wife of filmmaker Spike Lee, who wrote, produced and directed the stellar Four Little Girls documentary in 1997) and directed by Tony Award winning director Kenny Leon, will debut just five days after the 50th anniversary of the church bombing. Though deeply tragic, the bombing served as a turning point for the Civil Rights Movement and contributed greatly to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, without a doubt because the atrocious deaths of four little girls—Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Denise McNair—highlighted in neon the inhumanity of Jim Crow and the racists who viciously upheld its separate and grossly unequal tenets.
Just this week, Congress held a special ceremony to posthumously present the Congressional Gold Medal to the families of Addie, 14, Cynthia, 14, Carole, 14, and Denise, 11, who died while they were getting ready for Sunday service. The honor is awarded to those “who have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient’s field long after the achievement.”
NPR recently aired a segment on teaching children and young adults about the Civil Rights movement, focusing on Birmingham and the events that inspired The Watsons Go To Birmingham. The book is discussed and Christopher Paul Curtis talks about teaching children difficult but important history. You can listen to the segment here.
Random House Audio/Listening Library also is commemorating the 50th anniversary of many important events in the Civil Rights Movement by giving away a free sampler CD of various Civil Rights audiobooks appropriate for family listening, including The Watsons Go To Birmingham, Elijah of Buxton, The Lions of Little Rock, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, and Crow. You can see all the offerings here: www.listeninglibrary.com/civilrights
In the meantime, check out this gorgeous featurette of The Watsons Go To Birmingham, and mark your calendars for the premiere of what is sure to be an awesome family movie you don’t want to miss.
“The Watsons Go to Birmingham” premieres Sept. 20 at 8PM/ET on the Hallmark Channel.
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