The harrowing first person account of a 13 year old Black girl as she experiences the pivotal moments of the 1963 Birmingham civil rights movement.
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Through Angel's Eyes
Alabama, 1963 – a world is about to explode.
Angel Dunbar’s life is about to be engulfed by the flames.
She’ll be humiliated, spat upon, beaten and left for dead.
And she’ll fall in love – with a dangerous twist.
Want to know what really happened when Birmingham exploded?
Then you’ve just got to live it … Through Angel’s Eyes.
It was gettin’ on to dark when we hit the outskirts o’ town. But instead o’ the riotin’ that was supposed to be goin’ on, things ‘round there seemed real quiet. As we cruised ‘round the factories an’ car wreck yards, those two up front kept their eyes peeled for any sign o’ life, anythin’ that could lead to some action. They were still talkin’ big—steppin’ Ronny out ‘bout not knowin’ how to use that gun now. I jus’ sat there, bit my lip, an’ wished I was someplace else.
“Over there!” the guy in the passenger seat said, pointin’ towards a scrap yard.
We all looked.
A kid on a bike had jus’ come ‘round the corner. He jumped off his bike an’ started climbin’ the wire mesh fence o’ that yard.
“Hot dang!” the driver laughed. “The little prick’s tryin’ to break into that damn wreckers yard.”
We watched that kid struggle to climb over the fence. There was barbed wire on the top an’ he was real careful not to get caught. Even still, his jeans got stuck on the way over an’ he fell to the other side, with a rip down one leg. He jumped up an’ started rummagin’ through the piles o’ junk, lookin’ for who knows what.
'Got him cornered,' the driver sneered, as we cruised towards the wreckin’ yard. That white kid had his back towards us, so we were able to get right up alongside that fence before he noticed us. It was only when the driver revved the engine that he spun ‘round.
He was terrified.
He backed up against that pile o’ junk an’ froze. As he stood there I could see that his eyes were busy, searchin’ out a place to run. But, he soon discovered, there was nowhere. He was trapped. So, he jus’ stood there tremblin’, waitin’ for someone to get outta that car. The front door opened an’ out came the driver. The kid gasped when he realized that it was a black man who was facin' him.
“What ya doin’ here, boy?” the driver demanded.
From where I sat I could hear the fear in that kid's reply.
“Just, just ... looking for a ball I lost.”
“Jus’ lookin’ for a ball I lost,” the driver repeated, mockin’ him. “What you think I am, boy?” His voice was scary now. “Some dumb ignorant nigger? Huh?”
The kid’s eyes were wide open, his face white as a ghost.
“No suh,” he whimpered.
'Then don't crap me, boy,' he stepped up to the fence, takin’ hold o’ the wire meshin’.
'You're a damn thief an’ I've caught ya red-handed, haven’t I boy?'
I noticed the kid’s jeans go wet an’ a puddle formin’ at his shoe.
He'd wet himself.
“Yes suh,” he finally said.
“Well, I'm makin’ a citizen's arrest on you, boy. Now, you got ten seconds to get your ass back over here ‘fore I come over an’ get ya.”
The kid was shakin’ as he moved up to the fence. When he put a foot into the meshin’ to begin climbin’, it slipped. He tried again, an’ slipped again.
“Don't you be crappin' me, boy!”
He was cryin’ now. Still, this time he managed to get his footin’. His arms were shakin’ as he pulled himself up. He made slow progress up that fence, but when he got to the top he didn't even care ‘bout gettin’ caught on the barb wire. I guess, he knew that gettin’ a scratch from the wire was the least o’ his problems now. Once over the top, he seemed to let go an’ fell down in a heap at the feet o’ the driver.
The driver's boot plowed into his stomach.
“That's for lying to me, white boy,” he said.
The kid started coughin’. The driver pulled him to his feet an’ pushed him towards the car.
“Get in back, boy,” he ordered.
The kid fumbled to open the door. Ronny slid towards me.
“Ronny, don't be a part o’ this,” I whispered, grabbin’ his arm.
That white kid was in the car with us now. He looked maybe sixteen or seventeen, but he was sobbin’ like a little kid. He cowered in the corner, his eyes dancin’ round the car, first to the driver, then Ronny, the passenger an’ finally, he looked at me. His eyes seemed to be reachin’ out to me, pleadin’ for help, beggin’ me. Maybe he thought that, ‘cause I was a girl, I'd be the easiest on him.
I felt so sorry for this kid, but what could I do? I felt jus’ as trapped as he was. I looked down at the gun cradled in Ronny's lap. The white kid followed my eyes, an’ when he saw it he let out a shriek. Ronny looked across at him an’, realizin’ what'd caused him to panic, he stuffed the gun under his shirt. The white kid looked up into Ronny's face, as if to ask if Ronny meant to hurt him. I looked at Ronny, too. His face was full o’ confusion. He was jus’ as trapped as me an’ that white kid. I knew what was goin’ on in Ronny's head—a battle between what he knew was right an’ what was easy. O’course, the easy thing was to do nothin’, to go along with the two up front, to terrorize this white kid, to be a man. The hard thing was to stand up for what he believed in, to stand up for us. I made up my mind then that if Ronny couldn't do that, then I had to do it—for both of us!
We were cruisin’ back outta town now. The driver kept lookin’ through the rear vision mirror at that poor white kid. Him an’ the other guy were tauntin’ him, callin’ him a honky an’ askin’ him if he'd said his prayers this mornin’.
“Hey, girl,” the driver's eyes were on me. “What's your name, again?”
“Angel,” I said, without enthusiasm.
He snickered to himself.
“Yeah, that's what I thought. Well, you should know better ‘an any of us, you bein’ an angel, an’ all. You reckon the God that that honky piece o’ crap there prays to is white or black?”
He snickered again, proud o’ himself for bein’ so clever. The other guy joined in.
“Dunno,” I said, between clenched teeth. The more this guy carried on the more I was beginnin' to hate him.
“Oh, come on girl,” he sneered at me. “What ‘bout the angels. What color they be?’
The other guy jumped in to answer.
‘Only pictures I seen they been white,” he said.
“'Course they be white,” the driver echoed him, “an’ any fool knows that the creator's a nigger. Damn Bible tells us that.”
Now he was focusin’ on the white kid again.
“You listenin’ to me, honky boy?”
The kid looked up, an’ through his snifflin’ managed to say, “Yessuh.”
“Well, you better be. Because this is real important stuff, boy. They don't teach you this down at your lilly white Klan schools, now.”
He carried on drivin’ for ‘bout a minute before he spoke again. I hoped that he'd jus’ shut up an’ give us all a rest until we got to wherever we were headin’. But then he started up again.
“What color them angels, boy?”
The white kid was lookin’ out the window an’ didn't even realize he was bein’ spoken to.
“Ronny!” the driver screamed.
“Yeah?” Ronny's voice was unsteady.
“That honky thinks he's too good for us niggers. Too high an’ mighty to answer our questions. Where's that piece o’ yours, boy?”
Ronny looked embarrassed as he pulled the gun out from under his shirt. The white kid trembled.
“See that there piece, honky?” the driver was yellin’ at the white kid now.
“Yessuh,” the kid said.
“Well, that chamber's got six rounds an’ only three of 'em's loaded. Now, I'm gonna ask you some questions, an’ if you get one wrong, Ronny here gonna shoot a round into your foot. Got it?”
“What color them angels, boy?”
“An’ what color God almighty be?”
“'Course he's black, you fool. Now, boy what you reckon that nigger God do if those lilly white angels started gettin’ uppity ‘bout havin’ to minister to a darky? What he do if they said we ain't gonna do your biddin’ no more, Mister Nigger God. Go find yuhself some nigger angels to do it instead. What he do, boy?”
The white kid was bitin’ his lip. He must've been wonderin’ what it was that the driver wanted to hear.
“What he do, boy?”
‘Umm ... I reckon he'd destroy them, suh.”
The driver smiled.
“Damn right he would, boy. You doin’ well, son. Jus’ got one more question for ya. If God almighty, the highest, most intelligent person in the whole damn universe, if he'd kill those racist white sons o’ bitches, then why should I spare you?”
“I—uh—I dunno, suh.”