Rosalie Turner explains why she took on racial discrimination in her latest historical novel.

It is my pleasure to introduce Guest Blogger Rosalie Turner, a JC Penney Award recipient. Rosalie Turner has been writing for almost 30 years.  Her sixth book, March With Me, released this month marks the 50th anniversary of the Children’s March.  Visit Rosalie at www.rosalieturner.com.

Rosalie Turner
Rosalie Turner

My mentor says that a writer is someone who can’t not write, and I’ve certainly found that to be true. While we must write, the question always arises, “What should I write about?” As a historical novelist, I love nothing more than to find some obscure person and expose them.

My first novel was about Anna Kingsley of Kingsley Plantation in Florida. No one had really told her story and she was an amazing woman, a role model of strength and inner courage for all of us. Anna was born of royal blood in 1793 in Senegal. She was captured at the age of 13 in a tribal raid, survived the horrific Middle Passage, and was brought as a slave to Spanish East Florida. I tell her story in Freedom Bound, which won an award from the Florida First Coast Writers Association.

After releasing two more historical novels – Sisters of Valor, which won a Military Writers Society of America Award, and Beyond the Dream, based loosely on my great-grandparents, I struggled with my next book subject.

For years, the story of the hundreds of black children who left school to march with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement had captured my attention. I knew that 2013 would be the 50th anniversary of their pivotal march, so I decided to write about it as a tribute to them.

March with Me front coverAs with most things, the more I delved into their stories, the more impressed I was with what they had accomplished. In the 1960s. Birmingham, Alabama was considered the most racist place in the country. African-Americans were completely segregated from the white population. The schools were segregated, the churches, the clubs, the waiting rooms and water fountains – everything. Blacks could not use the downtown public library; to get food from the few restaurants they could use, they had to go in the back door to order, then take their food outside. Overseeing and enforcing all this was the ruthless “Bull” Connor, Commissioner of Public Safety.

When Dr. King entered the scene with his non-violent protest, the adults in the black community were not interested in marching with him. They had too much to lose – their jobs, their homes, maybe even their lives. But the children weren’t afraid.

On the appointed day (known to them by secret code words from the local dj) thousands – literally thousands – of children left school and flocked to the 16th Street Baptist Church to march with Dr. King. Some came from as far as eighteen miles away.

And, yes, they were arrested, some even as young as eight years old, and yes, on the second day they were hosed and had police dogs snarling at them. The pressure from those hoses could tear bark off trees, and yet the children came back and marched again and again.

How could I not write of their courage? March With Me was released on March 15, and there is a lot more to their story. Please drop by my blog and share your own recollections of the Civil Rights Movement.


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  • I too touched in racial bigotry in my historical novel. I explored the bigotry that drove American diplomacy as it wrestled with its relations with its neighbors to the south, especially Cuba. It is an important subject. Although racial discrimination is no longer legally acceptable, it will always exist in the minds and hearts of the ignorant. This fact was driven home to me when I visited relatives in Pennsylvania where a black associate was harassed in a public restaurant and arrested for being black. He told me how he had lived much freer of bigotry in Virginia. Surprising, isn’t it?

    • Racial bigotry is always an ugly scar, but the tragedy of it all can make for some powerful writing.

  • Sadly, not so surprising, Jack. I get the Hate Headlines each week from the Southern Poverty Law Center showing the bigotry that exists from all around the country on all kinds of issues. I guess the best we can do is deal with it as individuals trying to move toward being anti-racist, and expose it in our writing, as you have done also. Thanks for sharing.

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