Weekend Reads: “Bending Toward Justice”

Bending Toward Justice: The Birmingham Church Bombing That Changed the Course of Civil RightsBending Toward Justice: The Birmingham Church Bombing That Changed the Course of Civil Rights by Doug Jones

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Senator Doug Jones’ memoir is not always an easy or pleasant read. He takes us deep into the hearts and lives of Bobby Frank Cherry and Tom Blanton, the two KKK members whom he successfully prosecuted for their roles in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing that killed Denise McNair, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, and Carole Robertson.

We see a lot about the racial politics of the 1960s, in which all four perpetrators were set free by a white jury, and how those politics had not changed nearly as much as one would have hoped in the 1990s when the two still-living participants in the crime were sent to jail.

Jones also writes (briefly) about his campaign for senate against disgraced judge Roy Moore … and ties the situations together with a look at the racial politics being spurred today by white nationalist elements within the Republican party … all the way to the top of the ladder.

This was a tough book to read. It took me more than a month, because I had to take breaks from it. I have given up on the idea that we’re doing better as a country than we were in the past. My privilege doesn’t blind me anymore. However, the hatred is exhausting to deal with, and I could only read so much at a time about men who were proud to kill four little African-American girls and lament that their crime didn’t take more lives.

The heroes in the story are not Jones and his prosecutorial team, from his perspective. The heroes are the families and investigators who never gave up and never forgot.

Like I said, it’s a tough read. However, it’s an important one. Highly recommended.

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