The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist

by Cynthia Levinson

illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton

Short, snappy sentences recount young Audrey’s foray into the Civil Rights Movement in 1963 Birmingham, Alabama. Fred Shuttlesworth, Jim Bevel, and Martin Luther King were often dinner guests in her home, so Audrey had heard and absorbed a lot about the efforts to end segregation when listening to dinner conversation. When the ministers’ preaching failed to rouse adults to fill the jails by marching in peaceful protest, they announced a new idea—have the children march instead. Audrey wanted to sit at Newberry’s, drink from the clean fountain, use the library, and enjoy other things afforded to white folk; she was ready to march and march she did, at the young age of nine. Jailed as expected, she was separated from the older, teen marchers, slept on a bare mattress, and was questioned by intimidating white men. In several days, the jail was overflowing with young protestors and all were released. Just two months later, Birmingham rescinded its segregation laws. Levinson maintains a folksy, storytelling voice throughout the longish text; but she does not shy away from the inequalities, the harsh jail conditions, or the loneliness Audrey felt while imprisoned. Newton’s digital collage illustrations are mostly filled with bright color and expressive faces. These illustrations convey excitement, concern, and fear. She captures the emotions of adults, teens, and, most especially, Audrey, whose bounce, enthusiasm, and hope is contagious. A gray-toned double-page spread of Audrey lying in her cell is haunting. Levinson draws from material in her 2015 title We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March (Peachtree) but has abbreviated and simplified the story for a younger audience. This important story proves individuals can make a difference at any age.

Reviewer: Peg Glisson