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Diane McWhorter
Diane McWhorter
Carry Me Home
ISBN: 0684807475
Carry Me Home
The Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863, but a contemporary African American saying predicted that freedom would come only after another hundred years of struggle. That prediction was about right: the civil rights struggle erupted in the middle of the 20th century, with its violence epicenter in the industrial city of Birmingham, Alabama. There freedom riders and voter-rights activists faced down Klansmen and Nazis, who had put aside their own differences to cast a pall of terror—and the smoke of a well-orchestrated campaign of church bombingsr—over the South.

Diane McWhorter, a journalist and native Alabamian, offers a comprehensive, literate record of the struggle that covers more than half a century and that involves hundreds of major actors. Her work is solidly researched and highly readable, and it offers much new information. Among the many newsworthy aspects of the book are McWhorter's discussions of internal power struggles within the civil rights movement, the uneasy role of Birmingham's small Jewish population, and the collusion of local governmentr—especially swaggering police chief Bull Connor. The author also addresses the segregationist and white-supremacist movements and recounts the tortuous quest to bring the church bombers to justice, which was finally accomplished in 2000. Carry Me Home is a worthy and highly recommended companion to Taylor Branch's Parting the Waters and Andrew Young's An Easy Burden.
Gregory McNamee

Carry Me Home
Program Air Date: May 27, 2001

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Diane McWhorter, the very last line in your book, under acknowledgments, is the following: `I thank my father, Martin Westgate McWhorter, for delivering me, as Robert Penn Warren wrote, "Out of history, into history, and the awful responsibility of time."' What are you getting at there?
Ms. DIANE McWHORTER, AUTHOR, "CARRY ME HOME": If you can figure out what that--that quote mean, let me know because I've been--I've been pondering it for years. It's--it's the last line from "All the King's Men," and the--which was sort of an inspiration for this book, because, as you recall, in that book the main character is able to tie his own--his--his own history--history to characters that he thought had nothing to do with him when he was growing up in--in the--as a child of privilege. So the--I would say the emotional impetus for my writing this book was trying to figure out my father, and in trying to figure out his personal history, I was able to figure out real history.
LAMB: Why did you want to do that?
Ms. McWHORTER: Well, he was a--a really interesting figure, to say the least. He was a downwardly mobile kind of renegade son of a civically prominent family in Birmingham. And he just didn't make sense to me. He was sort of this vigilante spirit among the country clubbers, and I wanted to find out why he had turned out the way he did.
LAMB: Is he alive today?
Ms. McWHORTER: He is.
LAMB: Has he read your book?
Ms. McWHORTER: He--I think--the last I heard, he was still reading it and he's really proud of me.
LAMB: So what does he think of what you tried to do, and what's his reaction to the way you characterized him?
Ms. McWHORTER: I think he feels that it was--that it was honest and--and true. And I think one of the reasons he's taken it so well is that we always had a very strong bond. And it's not--even though I reveal some perhaps painful or embarrassing things about me, it was--it was not done vin--vindictively. It was done in an attempt to understand.
LAMB: Painful things about you?
Ms. McWHORTER: Or about him.
LAMB: What--what's the most painful thing you think you wrote about him?
Ms. McWHORTER: Well, actually, the--the thing that I was kind of most worried about was his relationship--he had a troubled relationship with his own father. His--his own father had been a—a Harvard-educated big lawyer for the power company, and I think he gave my father a fairly short shrift when he was growing up, so he--I--I--that--oddly enough, even though I revealed things about my father's bigotry, I think that was the thing I was worried about most, in a way, because I just felt that that was the--the--the original wound in a way that made him rebel against his past and his background.
LAMB: What's the first thing you can remember about Birmingham, Alabama?
Ms. McWHORTER: The fir--oh, funny you should ask. The first thing I remember was we--at the time, even--even though my father was from Birmingham, when I was growing up, we lived in a small town in Cherokee County out in the sticks, and we would always come into town to visit his mother, my grandmother. And there was an Indurall paint sign that had these sort of goonlike figures with--with--with blue hair sprouting from their heads. They were almost like those troll dolls that we see now. And we called them bushy hair, and when we saw bushy hair, we knew that we were near my grandmother's house. That, and of course, Vulcan, the largest ironman in the world, who held a neon torch that shone green on days when there has been no traffic fatalities in Birmingham and red when there had been a traffic fatality.
LAMB: That's what this picture is in the book.
Ms. McWHORTER: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: Now you say in the early part of your book, that the 1976 bicentennial or centennial, or something like that, of Alabama, was the first reason why you got interested in even doing this. Explain that.
Ms. McWHORTER: Well, I had grown up thinking that the cataclysmic events of '63, which the book--is the climax of the book and the climax of the civil rights movement, had had nothing to do with me: the--Dr. King's demonstrations there, the fire hoses and police dogs, the church bombing. I was growing up over the mountain away from all that and just felt totally alienated from that. And the book that you mention was this--the Alabama volume in a bicentennial series on the 50 states, and it had a very brief account of the troubles in Birmingham. And I realized, for the first time reading that, that--that a man named Fitz Myer had been the only white man in town, he was a businessman, who would agree to let his name be used in the negotiations with Dr. King. And I screamed to my apartment in Cambridge, Massachusetts, `That's my cousin.' And it was the first time I ever realized that this had anything to do with me, and it embarked me on this--this journey home.
LAMB: Here's a picture of him. Who was he, or is he? Is he still alive?
Ms. McWHORTER: He's not alive. He was senile by the time I started doing my research, but I knew his son and grandson quite well. He was a--he was a businessman who had ended--ended up realizing that he was the protagonist of the book because he sort of touched every quarter of the book. He was--he started out as a--one of the big segregationist architects of the Dixiecrat secession from the—from the Democratic Party in--in 1948, when the South seceded from the party. It was this big. It was compared to the original secession, it was so important. He was the sponsor and--and partial bankroller of one of the most rabid, racist--racist demagogues, a man named Ace Carter who then came to fame as Forrest Carter, the author of a best-selling--"The Educational of Little Tree." And finally he became the friend of the civil rights movement. And he went through some strange process of--of faith and redemption that I never quite understood either, but he--he switched sides, and ultimately did the right thing.
LAMB: The 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. This is recorded several weeks before it's aired, but last night on the radio I heard, in the middle of reading this book, it's still an issue from 1963. What's going on there?
Ms. McWHORTER: Well, it took--it took a long time to bring any case because--for several reasons. One is that the evidence is just really weak. The arch perpetrator of the crime, "Dynamite" Bob Chambliss, was convicted by the state of Alabama in 1977, but since then the four other suspects--chief suspects in the crime, were--they never could build enough evidence on them. Nobody involved in the case has ever talked about it. So they--so we may never know what really happened leading up to that explosion.

Also, the investigation initially was very compromised. Birmingham was the Johannesburg of America at the time. It was the most segregated city in America. The--the Birmingham police was in cahoots with the Klan. They had a long tradition of collaboration, and even some of the members of the--of the klavern who perpetrated the--the--the bombing had been under the protection of the police. So the--so that--so that investigation was--was flawed, as well as the FBI's initial investigation.
LAMB: What happened on that day? What was the exact date, do you remember?
Ms. McWHORTER: Oh, sure. It was September 15, 1963. And the—the schools of Birmingham had just been desegregated over the last—the previous couple of weeks, so...
LAMB: Who was president?
Ms. McWHORTER: Kennedy was president. And George Wallace was governor. And Wallace had called out the state troopers to try to block the--the young school children from entering the schools in Birmingham and had, I--I believe, really given a signal to the segregationists that they could go ahead and do what was necessary to stop the desegregation of the schools. What--what had happened was that President Kennedy had introduced federal legislation to outlaw segregation, as a result of the big demonstrations there with the police dogs and fire hoses that spring. So the Klan realized that their franchise was--was runnin' out, and they were gonna do anything to--to stop integration from coming about. And they ended up bombing the church to do that.
LAMB: What was the Klan?
Ms. McWHORTER: What was the Klan? The Klan was a very interesting terrorist arm of the establishment for a very long time. And it had started out in the '20s, in earnest, as a--as the sort of—oddly enough, the liberal arm of the Democratic Party. It was sort of this--this insurgent, radical, populist sort of incarnation of--of the have-not bids for power over the previous couple of decades. That explains how Hugo Black, the great civil libertarian Supreme Court justice had his political career launched by the Klan, because he was part of this insurgent arm of the party.

So Hugo, of course, becomes a--a--an avenue dealer and Supreme Court justice. And in the meantime, the Klan becomes the terrorist arm of the anti new dealers. They are to fight the union, to--to tar it with--with racism and--and--or tar it with--that it's trying to promote social equality among the workers. And then finally, by the 19th--so the--the industrialists of Birmingham, the heavy manufacturing industrialists who--who owned the city, had encouraged this because the last thing they wanted was a strong labor—organized labor. So they en--encouraged the terrorism to--to disrupt labor. And then finally, in the late '50s, the terrorists become bad for business because the economy's changing, it's moving away from heavy manufacturing toward service. And the--the industrialists, the business community, starts disavowing the Klan, but it's too late. They've--they've--they've let this force loose in the community, and they can't call it back. And then that leads up to the church bombing.
LAMB: In--in 1963, how many people lived in Birmingham?
Ms. McWHORTER: I think in the city proper there were about 250,000.
LAMB: What was the racial mix?
Ms. McWHORTER: About 40 percent black.
LAMB: I don't know whether you say it or not, but I think you did--it's the most segregated city in the world?
Ms. McWHORTER: That's what was--it was--it was called the Johannesburg of America, and--and Dr. King called it the most segregated city in America.
LAMB: Well, how would that be, though? What were the things that blacks and whites could...
Ms. McWHORTER: That--that were--that were exceptional in Alabama? The had segregated parking lots. And as one of the sources in my book said, `"Why would they--why would they have to segregate the cars? They can't have sex,"' so--'cause that's kind of what it all boiled down to.
LAMB: And why was it so strong there? Do you have--did you learn that in your study?
Ms. McWHORTER: Oh, yeah, be--because--it was because--it went back to this industrial--this industrial base. There--there was a very strong economic motive to enforce segregation rigidly, to foment racial strife, to keep--it--it--what boiled down to was keeping the--the--the labor force divided so that they could keep wages down, they could have the white workers identified with management, and they would tar the union as the "inward" union so that--to t--to try to repel whites from--from joining.
LAMB: Now it took you 15 years to do this?
Ms. McWHORTER: Well, 19.
LAMB: Nineteen.
Ms. McWHORTER: Nineteen, yeah.
LAMB: What were you doing during those 19 years besides writing this book?
Ms. McWHORTER: Well, I have to say that five of the years were spent cutting the book because the original manuscript was, believe it or not, three times longer than--than what you have in your hand there. So...
LAMB: And you're talking about a book that's 700 pages long.
Ms. McWHORTER: Mm-hmm. It was--the original manuscript was 3,400 pages. And so, you know, I had to go--I cut it. I cut it. I ruined it. I started ov--I started over again. And--and finally I--I was able to--to figure out a way to tell the narrative in a--in a more streamlined fashion, although all the reviews call it exhaustive anyway. And I--and I think, `Oh, no. This is like the Cliff notes version of it.'
LAMB: Where were you living when you did the work on it?
Ms. McWHORTER: I was living in Boston to begin with. That's where I was living when I read the account of Fitz Myer. And I was--had been working for an alternative weekly there, and eventually was the editor of Boston Mag--managing editor of Boston Magazine, in Boston.
LAMB: What was the name of the alternative weekly?
Ms. McWHORTER: The Boston Phoenix.
LAMB: And how did you get into journalism in the first place?
Ms. McWHORTER: Well, I was a literature major in college, and the only thing I felt qualified to do when I graduated was review books. So that's what--I started reviewing books for the Boston Phoenix. And then--and then, as a result of that, just sort of moved into feature journalism and--and taught myself on the job. I had a major.
LAMB: Where did you go to college?
Ms. McWHORTER: I went to Wellesley, where my grandmother had gone, so I was destined from birth to go there.
LAMB: And what was your dad doing when you went to college? What was his work?
Ms. McWHORTER: He was a--he had a small business rebuilding air compressors for--to--to fill scuba tanks for recreational use. He was an avid scuba diver.
LAMB: What was your relationship to him back in those days?
Ms. McWHORTER: In college?
LAMB: Mm-hmm.
Ms. McWHORTER: We were actually--that was our most estranged period. I had sort of entered the cou--the counterculture. Once I moved to Boston, I--I was--it was in the early 1970's, and he--during the Vietnam War--and he was--we--we really fell out over the war. And he was sort of the--the Archie Bunker type. And we--we went for a few--we had a few rough years there where we didn't speak very much.
LAMB: Now there's a name that pops out of this book, almost out of nowhere, that we know in this town, Margaret Tutwiler.
Ms. McWHORTER: Yeah. She was my sorority sister.
LAMB: Where?
Ms. McWHORTER: At--at Brook Hills--The Brook Hill School for Girls in--in Birmingham. She was a class ahead of me. And she--it turns out that her family--she was from one of the founding families of Birmingham, the founding family of Birmingham...
LAMB: And it's pronounced?
Ms. McWHORTER: DeBardeleban. That's actually Margaret's middle name, and she--and her family are major--major characters, major players in the book.
LAMB: Why?
Ms. McWHORTER: Well, they were a--a very prominent coal--coal family 'cause they were coal operators. They--like, they were the fifth largest producer of commercial coal in--in the--in the country, I think. I mean, they were quite big. And they had become, during the New Deal, the sort of staunch, anti-Roosevelt family in the South. They had bankrolled a lot of anti-union, anti-New Deal propaganda. And--and--and Charles DeBardeleben, Margaret's great-great-grandfather, had become this anti-union icon nation--nationwide. He was the only major coal operator to resist John L. Lewis and--and the United Mine Workers to keep them out of his camp.
LAMB: Is she slated to be the ambassador to Morocco? Used to be a spokesman for the Bush administration at the State Department.
Ms. McWHORTER: Margaret, mm-hmm.
LAMB: Yeah. Do you know her very well?
Ms. McWHORTER: I don't her well. We--we weren't very close growing up. Our families were very close. My--my aunt and her mother wen--were in each other's weddings.
LAMB: In--in this book, you have pictures of a lot of the characters. If you're my age, you remember the names and some of the pictures. Do you remember them, when in '63 you would have been how old?
Ms. McWHORTER: I was 10 in '63. I don't. I--I--I didn't--I was totally ignorant of what was going on. And it turns out that--I mean, I--I ended up ge--getting to know them when I interviewed them for the book.
LAMB: This is a picture here of a man named Bull Connor. Who was he?
Ms. McWHORTER: Bull Connor was--most people know him as the—the cartoon villain of the civil rights era. He was the police commissioner of Birmingham who was the--the perfect enemy for the civil rights movement. He's the one who sicced the dogs and fire hoses on Martin Luther King's child demonstrators in the spring of '63. He--what I--he--one of the purposes of the book was to try to present the segregationists in--in full dimensions and try to really explain who they were, why they were, how they came to act seemingly against the values of their Christian culture. And it turned out that Bull Connor had been installed in City Hall in the 1930's, by the corporate interests of Birmingham, as sort of a sop to the--the masses because they were--the industrialists were trying to figure out a way to turn the--the grassroots against the New Deal. And Bull Connor turned out to be their anti-New Deal mascot. So they--they--they put him in City Hall.
LAMB: Who was Fred Shuttlesworth?
Ms. McWHORTER: Fred Shuttlesworth is my hero. He's the hero of the book. He's the--he was a very confrontational militant Baptist preacher who--who led the civil rights struggle in Birmingham. He was known throughout the civil rights movement as the wild man from Birmingham because he was sort of crazily courageous. He--he put himself in--in harm's way in order to test God, to see if God was gonna protect him. His--he--his church had been bombed in 1956. The--the bed he was lying on flew up like a magic carpet, and he came out unscathed. So he--he really felt that he was anointed to--to lead the fight, and--and ended up being a really important figure in the struggle.
LAMB: Where is he today?
Ms. McWHORTER: He has a church in Cincinnati, Ohio.
LAMB: Did you talk to him about this?
Ms. McWHORTER: Oh, a lot. A lot. I'm glad he's still alive to--to--to see his story here.
LAMB: What's the most important thing you learned from him as you were talking to him?
Ms. McWHORTER: Well, what I really learned was that--how important he was in pushing King into--into greatness, that if it hadn't been for Shuttlesworth, we probably wouldn't be celebrating a national holiday for Dr. King today.
LAMB: Why is that?
Ms. McWHORTER: King was--coming into Birmingham, had been extremely passive and unfocused. He--there was a sense that he really did not want this--to--to accept this mantel of leadership. He--which—which almost seem--it makes it even seem more that he was this man of destiny. It was Shuttlesworth who kept pushing him. He said, `You've got to get off the lecture circuits, stop talking to the white people. You've got to lead, you know--you've gotta--you've gotta galvanize the people and--and--and lead us to the promised land,' because he realized that he had the--the authority to do that. Shuttlesworth was always pushing. He was the vanguard--strategic vanguard of the movement. He was the one who pioneered direct action by disobeying unjust laws, as opposed to just passively resisting them. And he was just a--a major figure who hasn't gotten credit in--in most accounts of the movement.
LAMB: Who's this man right there with the tie on and the coat open?
Ms. McWHORTER: Gary Thomas Rowe, the kind of boozy-looking guy. That was the reason that the FBI's investigation into the church bombing was flawed. This was the FBI's chief informant inside the most violent klavern in America, the Eastview 13 Klavern, based in Birmingham.
LAMB: Let me stop you to ask you about what's a klavern?
Ms. McWHORTER: A klavern is like a club, one of the--the small groups of Klansmen. It's sort of a subset of--of the state—of the--of the state Klan.
LAMB: And Eastview 13 is all through your book. What is that?
Ms. McWHORTER: Eastview 13 is the name of this--of this very violent Klan--klavern--Klan club based in Birmingham.
LAMB: Did you talk to anybody for the book that had been a member of that Klan--klavern?
Ms. McWHORTER: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.
LAMB: Anybody that--how about your family?
Ms. McWHORTER: Were they members? Well, I kind of--my hands went clammy when I was reading the FBI informants' reports and I came across a man named Loyal McWhorter, and my last name. And I thought, `Wow,' you know, `my father. That just sounds just like a name he would make up,' because it was kind of mythical and romantic and everything. So there were a few--I--I had some--some tough weeks thinking that that might have been my father. But it turned out there was a real Loyal McWhorter, and he was probably a country cousin of mine. But I ended up talking to his brother, and--and Loyal was murdered by his girlfriend while lying in bed. And--and he--I guess he was such a bad person that the girlfriend got off.
LAMB: Did you ever ask your father point-blank `Were you a member of the Klan?'
Ms. McWHORTER: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Absolutely.
LAMB: What did he say?
Ms. McWHORTER: He never gave me a straight answer. I--I know he wasn't a member of the Klan, but he never told me what he was doing on those nights when he was out at his, quote, "civil rights meetings," fighting the civil rights movement. I--I--I never quite--there's a--there's a verbatim transcript of--of--in my interview with him in the epilogue try--trying to pin him down. And he--he just would never quite tell me.
LAMB: Why?
Ms. McWHORTER: I don't know. I think maybe--one of the sort of touching things he said to me was that, he said, `I'm afraid I didn't do all the things you may have thought I did,' as if I was hoping that he had done the worst. And he almost apologized that--you know, that he wasn't gonna--to offer up any big--big punch line or something. And it was sort of touching, but kind of frighteningly grandiose that he would have claimed false credit or blame for--for--for some of this Klan criminal activity that he really hadn't participated in.
LAMB: Your transcript in the epilogue starts with, `You knew Chambliss,' I said--meaning you. `I knew them all,' he said.

`You knew Gary Thomas Roe?' you questioned him.

`I knew them all.'

`So who bombed the church?' you ask. He gave me a half-lidded look, and trotted out the old chestnut `It was the janitor.'

That's not the only time I saw that in the book.
Ms. McWHORTER: Right. You read it. I'm impressed. You passed the pop quiz.
LAMB: It--it was the janitor. So what's that? Why would they always give that answer?
Ms. McWHORTER: There was--a lot of people thought that--that blacks had blown--had--had bombed their own church in order to get publicity for the movement. That was just a very popular theory among thinking people, as well as the sort of nut cases. So the janitor had been called in for questioning by the FBI, and--and because of that—and in--I'm not sure whether he was a suspect in their minds or not, but he was--he was questioned by them. So as a result of that, there was this popular theory that came down that the janitor had done it.
LAMB: You spend a lot of time in the book telling the story of the bombing itself.
Ms. McWHORTER: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: Have you gone around and talked to people--how many people remember it?
Ms. McWHORTER: The adults remember it. One of the reasons I wrote the book was 'cause I didn't remember it. I have--I don't remember when I found out about it. It was almost as if I had always known, but the Ken--Kent--President Kennedy was assassinated two much—two months later and of course I remember everything about that. So I know it wasn't just that I was too young for it to register, and I really wondered why it was that something that had happened a couple miles from my house had--had not registered on my consciousness at all.
LAMB: Is the church there today?
Ms. McWHORTER: It is.
LAMB: What goes on there? What's--is it still called the 16th Street Baptist Church?
Ms. McWHORTER: It's still called the 16th Street Baptist Church. It's across the street now from a--a--a really great museum, the Civil Rights Institute. And the church has been restored. A lot of the—of the stained glass was damaged in--in the--in the bombing. It's looking for an identity. It was even looking for an identity at the time. Ironically, it was the--the--16th Street was the--was the seat of the white bourgeoisie, and--and they had been pretty hostile to King. They--they had made their accommodations with segregation and kind of didn't want to rock the boat. They had too--they had too much to lose. It was--it was the masses who didn't have to risk that much in order to participate in the struggle. And Reverend Shuttlesworth was very unpopular with the black middle class because he was--he was a mass leader, and there was a big division between the black classes and the black masses. The--the--the masses were called `them asses' because they--they were an embarrassment to these--to the striving elements of the community who had--had really made great strides and--and didn't want to--just really didn't want to risk that. So that was the--so 16th Street was very much in that tradition, and they had let the movement use the church grudgingly.
LAMB: So September of 1963...
Ms. McWHORTER: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: ...President Kennedy's in office. What else is going on in the world? And has this issue been much in the news?
Ms. McWHORTER: Oh, very much. The Civil Rights Act--what—what became the Civil Rights Act of '64, was being debated in Congress at the time. And it--and it was--looked like it might be a losing proposition. There was just Wallace--you know, George Wallace had been up screaming about it, the civil--`civil wrongs bill,' or something.
LAMB: What is this picture here in your book?
Ms. McWHORTER: That's--oh, that's George Wallace. That happened in--in the previous June. That's George Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door. He had run for governor on a pledge to halt seg--the desegregation of the schools of Alabama, even if he had to stand in the schoolhouse door. So there he is facing down the deputy attorney general.
LAMB: Nick--Dick Ca...
Ms. McWHORTER: Nicholas Katzenbach, mm-hmm.
LAMB: And on that September day, on that Sunday morning...
Ms. McWHORTER: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: ...paint the atmosphere.
Ms. McWHORTER: In the church?
LAMB: Yeah.
Ms. McWHORTER: The Sunday school had just--was winding down, and a lot of the kids' Sunday school classes were taking place in the basement, a few girls go into the bathroom to primp.
LAMB: What time is this?
Ms. McWHORTER: This is like 10:15 in the morning. And normally these girls would have gone to a drugstore to get a Coke before the church service, but on this day the pastor was inaugurating a youth day because he was trying to--to breathe new life into the congregation, which was sort of stale and stodgy. So the girls—three of the girls were wearing white for their roles as--as ushers for this youth day, and they were going to be singing in the choir and everything: Denise McNair, Carol Robertson, Addie Mae Collins and Cynthia Wesley. And they were primping because they wanted to look really nice. They were combing their hair in the mirror. And one of the--another one of their Sunday school classmates came into the bathroom and said something like, they need you to get back to Sunday school class because those who don't obey the Lord live only half as long. And at 10:22, this bundle of dynamite that had been against the east wall of the church exploded. And it blew out a man-sized hole in--in the--in the wall of the bathroom, blew the clothes off the girls, stacked them like cord wood under debris and killed them all. One had been decapitated.
LAMB: Did you talk to any of the fathers and mothers?
Ms. McWHORTER: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: And you--you tell some stories that, I mean, they can remember. I mean, what--tell the stories about going to the morgue and finding the--you know, the...
Ms. McWHORTER: Well, in one case--this--and most of that was actually from FBI documents, interviews with witnesses on the scene because the--the families are--have a hard time talking about it. I mean, Spike Lee did his movie about it and they were willing to talk about it, but--about the--called "4 Little Girls," about the chur—the church bombing. The--the pastor, when--when they came upon the girls, he didn't recognize them because he thought they looked like women in their 40s. And he couldn't figure out who they could be because he knew that they were--there had just been kids downstairs. So the owner of a--of a dry-cleaner across the street from the church came up and he saw--he looked at the shoe--the foot of one of the girls, and he said, `Lord, that's Denise.' And it was his 11-year-old granddaughter, Denise McNair and--that's Denise, yeah.

So that was the first time the pastor realized that these were children. And the other--one of the--I think it was the father of--of--of Denise Wesley--I mean of Cynthia Wesley also recognized her shoe sticking out from a--the sheet in this makeshift--shift morgue at the hospital. So those were the--the clothes had been their sort of last thought on Earth, and that is what ended up being blown off them, in--in one case, but--but identifying them...
LAMB: What happened...
Ms. McWHORTER: looking at their shoes.
LAMB: the aftermath of that?
Ms. McWHORTER: Of the church--well, the--the area was sealed off. The--the white people were more worried about rioting blacks, it seemed, than they were about the victims. The--the only thing that I was able to find out about my--I--I found out from my mother's date book that I had been in a civic production of "The Music Man," the musical, and my rehearsal that night was canceled because we were afraid that--that the black people would be out abroad in the streets hurting white people. So it--as it turned out, it was two more black children who were killed that day, one by a police bullet and one by two white teen-agers who happened to ride by this paperboy and shot him off then-the handlebars of his bike. So it was--it was a really tense situation.

Martin Luther King came back to town. President Kennedy's emissaries came back to try to keep the peace, and there were high-level meetings at the White House that night to try to--to figure out how to deal with the situation, whether troops should be sent in or, you know, or--or just how to--how to keep a lid on things.
LAMB: What have you found out about J. Edgar Hoover in all this?
Ms. McWHORTER: J. Edgar Hoover was--was a pretty bad guy, and he was--part of it, I think, stems from the fact that he was a totally bureaucratic creature. And--and he--his--it seemed like as if his main goal in life was to protect his bureau from any kind of criticism. So whenever they would come under criticism from somebody, he would try to find a scapegoat. And as it happened, in--in several instances that scapegoat was Martin Luther King. So he had gone off on this vendetta against him that was so sort of--it was so ugly compared with the fact that this Klan informant, Gary Thomas Rowe, whose picture you showed earlier, was being shielded by the--by his bureau. And--and--and because they were afraid of his--that his cover would be blown, they shielded the criminal activity he—he participated in and his Klan brothers from prosecution for various crimes. So the combination of--of going after King and then protecting the Klan is just--is one of the--the ugliest chapters in the history of the Justice Department.
LAMB: Well, what did the FBI do after the bombing?
Ms. McWHORTER: The FBI did--they--they--they called out a manhunt that--that they were comparing to Dillinger to--to try to find them. And they did a--quite a thorough job, except that because they were afraid that Gary Thomas Rowe might have been involved, they told him to stay away from the scene for a week 'cause they didn't want him to--to show up in--in somebody else's investigative files. When they were showing pictures of suspects to witnesses, they did not show Rowe's picture or a picture of his car. So they were--they were concerned that he might have been involved because he had been involved in other terrorist actions that the Klan had carried out. I concluded that he probably wasn't involved in the church bombing. I'm not sure whether he knew about it or not, but I don't--I don't think he took part in it.
LAMB: But years later I read an account a--about how there was a secret FBI investigation, I mean, years later from '63; that people went to them and they--and--and this thing has been going on all these years. W--how did--how did it stay alive all these years?
Ms. McWHORTER: It--yeah. It--the--the suspects--the five main suspects, including the one who was convicted and the two who were--who are going on trial, are ha--were--were suspects from--virtually from day three. And they just could not build—they could not build a case against them. The--the evidence was--you know, nobody talked. There--the physical evidence in a bombing is always virtually non-existent because the--it's--it's blown up, you know. What the--the--sometimes there's evidence of a timing device, but rarely. And it--the investigation went through fallow periods and then some, you know, eager police chief or attorney general would reactivate it and then come up--come up against the same problem, which was--which was lack of e--evidence. And it--it happens that these two suspects, one--one on trial probably as this airs, and one going on trial if he--if--if they deem him mentally competent--the--the--most of the evidence against them is self-incriminating statements they b--they've made to third parties. There--there's really no new evidence about the crime itself.
LAMB: In the epilogue of your book, again, you talk a lot about your dad.
Ms. McWHORTER: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: Where does your dad live now?
Ms. McWHORTER: He lives outside Birmingham. And he's, you know, virtually retired. And...
LAMB: Is your mom alive?
Ms. McWHORTER: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: All right. Now your--he--he's not married to her any longer.
Ms. McWHORTER: Correct.
LAMB: You--you say that he's had different ways that he's lived his life. It--it--you walk about--Does he live in a trailer now?
Ms. McWHORTER: He doesn't live in a trailer now. He did--one—one of the most humiliating moments of my youth was when I found out that my father was thinking about moving us to a trailer. Now I was l—you know, I was going to this private girls school that my grandmother had founded and, you know, it--was this sort of star student and—and doing everything right. And then my father is--is thinking about moving us to a trailer, and I thought--I just remember thinking, `I—I can never live this down.' We didn't move to a trailer, but eventually he--in--in the 1970s he--he lived in a trailer for a while, got it out of his system; didn't stay too long.
LAMB: Why did he want to do that? I mean, what was the motive?
Ms. McWHORTER: I think it was he grew up in this big house on a hill, a big mansion as my daughters call it, and I think he wanted to get as far away from there as he could. And the--a trailer seemed to fit the bill.
LAMB: When you were growing up, how did he talk about blacks—both your mother and father about blacks in the home? And how long were they married when you were growing up?
Ms. McWHORTER: They divorced when I was out of college, so they were--they were together during my entire childhood. We were taught--polite children were taught you never use the N-word. I mean, it--it--it just was not a nice thing to say. My father did use the N-word, and I think that was--I--I think I sort of rejected his politics almost on class grounds before I did on moral grounds because I--I--I just found this so offensive that he--that our--for our—our social class to use this word. This is what sort of lower-class whites used. I found out much later that--Guess what?--the grownups did use that word, just as they swore, you know, but they didn't do it around us. So--my mother was a--my mother was from Mississippi, so she wasn't really tied into the--into Birmingham society at all. And she was--she's just a really nice person who would never be cruel to anybody. And--and that--she sort of lived that ethic whether it was to, you know, a white person or a black person. But she didn't have any political--take--take any pol--any political stance on--on the race issue.
LAMB: Do you have brothers and sisters?
Ms. McWHORTER: Had two brothers.
LAMB: Where are they today?
Ms. McWHORTER: They're--one's in Birmingham. And I think he was thinking about changing his name when--when my book came out, but I think they're--I think they're all happy now. And it's n--not as big a bombshell as they feared. And my younger brother is in Macon, Georgia.
LAMB: What were they afraid of?
Ms. McWHORTER: I think they were just afraid of the reaction a—that it was going to be so hostile; that--that they might suffer some reprisals.
LAMB: Hostile for what reason?
Ms. McWHORTER: Because I name names in the book, and it's a--it's a pretty unforgiving look at a lot of people that we know. As it turns out, most of the--the really bad people from the book are dead. I've gotten some sort of s--a sad--sad reaction from the namesake sons of--of some of the people who were named in the book who--who were really upset about it. And my uncle has been dissing me in the paper there 'cause he--he...
LAMB: And is this your uncle--Is it Hobert? I can't remember.
Ms. McWHORTER: Yeah.
LAMB: Yeah.
Ms. McWHORTER: Yeah. He's--yeah.
LAMB: What's his story?
Ms. McWHORTER: He was--you know, he was the--the--the guy who f--carried on the family name. And he's a very prominent lawyer in town, and sort of the country club wit and everything. And--and I think--and he's still--he--he still is very much a part of the community and a very visible part of the community. So he...
LAMB: What do you think of him?
Ms. McWHORTER: He--he's very close--I'm very close to him. He was sort of a surrogate father to me, and so I was a little hurt when he--when he told The Birmingham News that--he said, `Diane has written an effective, largely fictional book.' So...
LAMB: Did they ask him what he thought was fictional?
Ms. McWHORTER: No, they didn't, as a matter of fact. And I was a little upset with The Birmingham News about that, too.
LAMB: Was he a Klansman?
Ms. McWHORTER: Oh, no. Oh, no, no, no, no, no. He--he would never--that would--that would be totally beyond the pale for somebody like him.
LAMB: So what was--what doesn't he like about it? I mean, is it—you talk about the Mountain Brook Club...
Ms. McWHORTER: Yeah.
LAMB: ...and the Birmingham Country Club.
Ms. McWHORTER: Uh-huh.
LAMB: Explain what that's all about.
Ms. McWHORTER: Well, the book opens on the day of the church bombing at the Mountain Brook Club, which was sort of the sanctum sanctorum of the Birmingham elite. And that's what my family was a member of—not my father, but my grandfather had been one of the charter members, and my uncle is--w--is one of the--the--the mainstays of the club. So I think that he was really upset about what I said about the club. That's what--that's what he was really upset about.
LAMB: Where is the club?
Ms. McWHORTER: It's in this beautiful, piney valley in Mountain Brook, which is the--the suburb that--that was called over the mountain because there was this kind of barrier between the gritty city and this beautiful suburb. It's really one of the most beautiful places in the world. And the club was just this bucolic plantation-style place where the big mules went, as they--that's what the big industrialists were called--and, you know, just had their cocktails. And...
LAMB: So what's wrong with that?
Ms. McWHORTER: For me?
LAMB: Yeah.
Ms. McWHORTER: I loved it there.
LAMB: What's wrong with it now, though? What did you...
Ms. McWHORTER: Oh. I don't--I don't know why he was so offended about what I wrote about it. I think I said that the--the Mountain Brook Club members sort of disdained the Birmingham Country Club members. And I said that it was the difference between—the difference between the two clubs was--was the difference between Kiwanis, which ran the city, and Rotary, which owned it. And I don't know what problem he has with that, but it seems to be true to me.
LAMB: But you did describe the fact that the clubs had black waiters.
Ms. McWHORTER: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: What was their relationship with the members, and what happened in the Mountain Brook Club the day of the bombing?
Ms. McWHORTER: Well, the--the Mountain Brook Club waiters were—you know, it was--it was this sort of classic paternalistic members of the family--like members of the family relationship. And they--they got a lot of perks, you know, free legal advice. My--my uncle freely gave of legal advice to--to club waiters and also the African-American family that worked for our--for our family and for his family growing up. So it was sort of--you know, it was the classic genteel relationship that enabled segregationists to feel OK about it because they had, A, genuine relationships with black people, and also they had relationships that were civil and kind. So they--that was the way that they were able to overlook the--the systemic—systematic brutality of--of--of the system itself.
LAMB: So if you went to the Mountain Brook Club today, what would you see compared to what you would see in 1963?
Ms. McWHORTER: Well, you know, I went there when I was down there, and people couldn't believe that I showed my face in there. But I did. You would see...
LAMB: How long did you stay, by the way?
Ms. McWHORTER: Oh, I stayed about--I stayed for a few hours, but it was a bingo night, which meant there--there were a lot of young families there, so they were either people who didn't know me or didn't care--wouldn't have cared about the book. But the waiters were glad to see me.
LAMB: Now did you do this after or before you wrote the book?
Ms. McWHORTER: Well, I--I go back--I w--would go back there usually every time I went home while I was writing the book. But, no, when the book came out and I was on my book tour down there, I--I went down there to--to pay a visit.
LAMB: And do they all know who you were? I mean, the waiters know who you were and--had you--had you talked to them?
Ms. McWHORTER: It was--some of the--some of the--some of the old-time waiters said--yeah--yeah, I interviewed a number of the waiters and so, yeah, they recognized me. And...
LAMB: So what--what was the reaction when you went to Birmingham and had your book in hand and went to the bookstores? And--and how much of a tour did you do there?
Ms. McWHORTER: I did a--an extensive tour and I went on a lot of sort of right-wing radio talk shows, too.
LAMB: Right-wings?
Ms. McWHORTER: Uh-huh. And they--the--the reaction has just been fascinating. I would say the--the typical reaction is--and this sort of sums up Birmingham--is--is: Wh--why do--why do you want to drag that up again after tw--after 38 years? I mean, why--why do people care about Birmingham? The people--the--the white people in Birmingham just haven't quite gotten that this was the most important place and the most important story in--in American history perhaps. And--so finally I--I--I came up with an answer, which was: Would you--would you question why people would want to read about Gettysburg? And they say no. And I'd go, well, this is the Gettysburg of the second Civil War. This is the turning-point battle. And--and I--I think finally, you know, p--people are beginning to accept that it's just not going to go away; that this is--this—this is history that was made here, and that people are always going to be interested in it. The other reaction I had gotten was just--h—has been shock that--that all this went on. I mean, tr--tracing all the--the sources of the--of the system back to the New Deal and--and--and the labor--the labor movement and the anti-labor resistance and stuff was--I--I think has just been a big shock to a lot of people.
LAMB: In the acknowledgments, you say, `My family, Richard Rosen and Lucille'--I'm sorry--`Lucy and Isabelle McWhorter-Rosen, were my boon companions on this journey and made my life complete. My in-laws and big supporters Saul and Carrie Rosen.'
Ms. McWHORTER: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: Your husband.
Ms. McWHORTER: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: What's he do?
Ms. McWHORTER: He is a writer of mystery novels and non-fiction, and has also worked in television.
LAMB: And where do all the Rosens live?
Ms. McWHORTER: The Rosens are in Chicago.
LAMB: And--and your family--Where do you live now?
Ms. McWHORTER: Manhattan--Manhattan Island, New York.
LAMB: And besides writing this book, what do you do for--on a full-time basis?
Ms. McWHORTER: Well, I did write--I hate to say it, but I wrote this book on a full-time basis. But I--I raised my two daughters. I also write for the op-ed page of the USA Today. I've written for The New York Times for years and, you know, I've occasionally done—done journalism while I'm doing this, but this really kept me busy.
LAMB: How old are you daughters?
Ms. McWHORTER: They are almost 12--Lucy's almost 12, and Isabelle is 9.
LAMB: And what--what do they think of all this?
Ms. McWHORTER: Well, of course, the--my older daughter just calls me a loser and a crackhead, and whatever is the popular expression now of--of contempt. And my--our younger daughter, I think, thinks that people are going to recognize me on the street now. She's—so they--they kind of took the--the extre--the two ex--two extreme positions.
LAMB: Now do they have any relationship with your father or your mother?
Ms. McWHORTER: Oh, yeah. Yeah.
LAMB: Has all this come up--it ever come up at the, you know, family get-togethers?
Ms. McWHORTER: Not really. I mean, they--they sort of--they've been kind of fascinated with my father, too. They haven't been able to quite figure him out because he's not--he's not the--the typical grandfather. So they--they--I'm not sure they really know exactly what's in here yet.
LAMB: You--you went with your father--if I get the r--right page here--to a place--Is it Velmas?
Ms. McWHORTER: Mm-hmm, Velmas.
LAMB: And you have this in your epilogue again. S--it's a transcript. What was--what happened at Velmas?
Ms. McWHORTER: Well, Velmas was the beer joint that my father would repair to after work for many years. And so in the course of doing research, I--I found that one of the--the benefits of doing research with him was that I really re-established a relationship with him, because I had this sort of ulterior reason to--to ex--expose myself to stuff about him that may have once been painful. So I accompanied him to his beer joint, Velmas, and just listened to the guys talk about--you know, use the N-word and--and--and talk about Yankees and, you know, the--the--the same old stuff.
LAMB: There's--there's a little exchange here that says—somebody says you're writing a book about Birmingham. One man said, `Well, tell them it's about--what it's about,' Papa said to you. `It's mostly about 1963,' you said. And then your father said, `It's about the nigger movement.'
Ms. McWHORTER: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: And what did you do when he said that?
Ms. McWHORTER: Probably--you mean did I--did I correct him or anything?
LAMB: Yeah. Did you--when you go back there and he talks that way, do you correct him?
Ms. McWHORTER: I did for a long time. I did during my 20s. I spent my t--my 20s trying to change him, and then I guess I spent my 30s and some of my 40s trying to understand him. So I kind of retired from--by then I had definitely retired from--from the role of trying to--to reform him. I just decided it wasn't my--my job or my mission.
LAMB: In the next paragraph, you say, `For the next hour,' at Velmas, `I was treated to comments like, quote, "You know, as far as I'm concerned, you can take all the niggers and put them all in a boat and ship them all back to Africa. And you know what? You can send all the Jews right after them."'
Ms. McWHORTER: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: `Oh, no, I think niggers are all right. I think everybody should own one or two or three of them.'
Ms. McWHORTER: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: The people in that--that beer joint said that to you.
Ms. McWHORTER: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: What did...
Ms. McWHORTER: They were--they were talking to each other and, you know, they were just kind of...
LAMB: Did they know that you were writing a book?
Ms. McWHORTER: Oh, yeah.
LAMB: And did...
Ms. McWHORTER: Yeah. I think I may have even been taking notes while--while they were--writing. I think that was one of the—the ways I was able to--to be present in that, that I knew that I was not--I was not--I was not part of it, really.
LAMB: Can you figure out why people want to talk that way today?
Ms. McWHORTER: These people were people who were socioeconomically marginal, and they...
LAMB: Socioeconomically marginal?
Ms. McWHORTER: Mm-hmm. They were...
LAMB: On the edge.
Ms. McWHORTER: ...on the edge. And they--this is what makes them feel good. And that's why the--the--the t--the Klansmen were the sort of dregs of the society, because they--they were, A, the most threatened by integration because their--their jobs might--they—they might lose j--actually lose jobs to--to black people if--if they weren't systematically discriminated against. And also because it was their--their way of feeling important, that they were better than somebody. It's--I think it's called a narcissism of small differences, you know, that the more--the closer you are together, the--the more you make of these tiny differences.
LAMB: Now you say that your family has a connection to a man named Robert Welch.
Ms. McWHORTER: Oh, yeah. Robert Welch was the founder of the John Birch Society, and he, as it turned out, was my grandfather's roommate at Harvard Law School. And he introduced my grandfather and my—and my grandmother to each other.
LAMB: What was the John Bir--what is the John Birch Society? And--and...
Ms. McWHORTER: Well, the John Birch Society was this superconservative, anti-Communist organization which was supposedly an educational organization to alert people to the Communist menace around the corner about to take over America. And it became sort of the respectable alternative for a lot of the segregationists in Birmingham to join after--you know, they--they were--they certainly wouldn't be in the Klan. And they--and so if they wanted to organize, they would often be part of the John Birch Society, because that was socially acceptable.
LAMB: Later on in this epilogue you say, `They didn't believe in Russian domination of this United States and they didn't believe in the hierarchy of the Union. They believed that everybody was responsible for what they did, for their own actions. I always thought that everybody is responsible for their own actions. If their actions ain't too good, they may need to do a little bit more praying.' Who's saying that?
Ms. McWHORTER: That's my father kind of trying to explain how—why he believed what he did and w--and why he was part of this resistance. He now says that he had nothing against black people and there's--there--there's a lot of stuff in the book about his re—his true relationships with--with--with black people. He spent a night in jail once on behalf of some country club waiters because he had—had seen a carload of white people run a red light and hit this carload of black waiters from the country club. And he told the police what had happened and the white kids who had hit the car, the waiters' car, challenged them to a fight. They had a fight, and--and it was my father and uncle who went to jail for them. So he did have, you know, a complicated relationship with blacks. And he had--he had real intimacy with some black people, but--and he would always say now that it was because of--he--he thought they were under--the civil rights movement was under the influence of Communists. That's why he felt like he had to get involved.
LAMB: Any change in Birmingham between '63 and 2001?
Ms. McWHORTER: Oh, I mean, you--you just can't conceive of what it was like in '63. You had--I mean, the change has been just incredible. And, to me, one of the great lessons of this is that, you know, people always said that even if you--you can't legislate hearts and minds. People are people. Human nature is human nature. And you can't just get rid of this system overnight. And guess what? They did. They got rid of it overnight. And it was amazingly peaceful. And that's not to say that--that Birmingham is not still a segregated society. It's not. But it's...
LAMB: Is the Mountain Brook Club, by the way, integrated?
Ms. McWHORTER: You know, I--I don't think it is. I think that—I think my Uncle Hobert was designated to bring a--the--a black guest, you know, as a guest of a member. But I don't think there are any--any black members.
LAMB: What about the Birmingham Country Club?
Ms. McWHORTER: Possibly. It possibly is. Remember the whole Shoal Creek contro--controversy during the PGA Tournament. There was a country club in Birmingham that had to undergo emergency desegregation in order to host the tournament. That sort of put the country clubs on the--on the spot and--and got a lot of them scrambling for a qualified black member.
LAMB: One of the early--I think this is the photograph--one of the early photographs you talk about is this one right here. Can you tell us what that's about?
Ms. McWHORTER: Yeah. That was--that was the sort of classic movement picture of the--of the Birmingham demonstrations. That was a police dog attacking a teen-ager named Walter Gadson. And it was that--it was that photograph that--that President Kennedy saw and he said it made him sick. And it sort of galvanized the--it just galvanized the country behind this legislation to abolish segregation. I compare it to "Uncle Tom's Cabin" because there--it--it told the big truth about segregation, but there was a lot of little misleading details in it. For example, Walter Gadson was not a demonstrator. He was playing hookey and was just sort of, you know, one of the bystanders. He wasn't participating in the movement.
LAMB: You also resurface someone in this book that we don't hear much from anymore. It's this picture right here. A man named Chuck Morgan.
Ms. McWHORTER: Uh-huh.
LAMB: Who was he? Who is he? Where is he?
Ms. McWHORTER: Chuck was a--he's one of the heroes of the book. He as a young Turk lawyer in Birmingham and some people in Washington may remember him as the--he was the head of the ACLU for a while. He was a sort of flamboyant lawyer. He actually went from doing civil rights law to--to the other side. He started representing establishment firms, but he--clients...
LAMB: When did he do that, by the way?
Ms. McWHORTER: In the '80s.
LAMB: Where does he live now?
Ms. McWHORTER: He lives in Florida. He--he's retired. He--he's--he's a--he was a very flamboyant, liberal guy who--his claim to fame in Birmingham, about which he ended up writing a book, was that after the church was bombed, he gave a speech to a—a young--something called the Young Men's Business Club in which he—he blamed the entire community for--for the crime. And he was essentially run out of town, as my father put it. He--he and my father were close friends growing up.
LAMB: Did you talk to him for this book?
Ms. McWHORTER: Oh, yeah, many times.
LAMB: And what was his attitude about what you were doing?
Ms. McWHORTER: Chuck's?
LAMB: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: Oh, he couldn't have been--couldn't have been more pleased that the--that the story was being told.
LAMB: You have a story--and it's just one of those things—incidents that happened back during those days; it may still happen today—about Tom King, who ran for mayor. And the photograph...
Ms. McWHORTER: Oh, yeah.
LAMB: What was it?
Ms. McWHORTER: It was called--this is one of the--the big mysteries of--of Birmingham politics. It was--Tom King was running for mayor against a man named Art Haines, who went on to fame as James Earl Ray's first lawyer. But he was the segregationist candidate. Tom King was Chuck Morgan's candidate, the--they were--they were the liberals. And they--Bull Connor--Tom King was meeting with Bull Connor and one of Art Haines' operatives had--they paid a black con--they left--let a black convict out of jail, paid him to go up to Tom King and shake his hand. And Tom King, when I interviewed him, said he just felt doom wash over him because the--the black man held his hand for, you know, like a good 10 seconds and then just walked away. And they'd gotten a photograph of it. And that was just the ultimate sociopolitical taboo, was to--was to...
LAMB: What year would that have been?
Ms. McWHORTER: '61. To...
LAMB: And the--they--the black fella--the prisoner was waiting somewhere...
Ms. McWHORTER: Yeah.
LAMB: the hallway and walked down and shook his hand.
Ms. McWHORTER: Right. Grabbed it--you know--and--and--and normally, you know, a canny politician would not have shaken hands with a black man. But he'd been on the--on the hustings for so long he just stuck his hand out, turned--you know, `Mr. King,' stuck his hand out. And--and it was that photograph that pretty much cost him the—the el--the mayoral election.
LAMB: Was the 19 years--or were the 19 years' worth it?
Ms. McWHORTER: You know, I've been amazed at how quickly I went from `Oh, my gosh, she's so pathetic. She can't finish a book in 19 years,' to, `Great achievement. Wow. Great achievement.' So, yeah, this has--this has all been worth it, I have to say.
LAMB: In the reviews and in your time out on the book tour, what's the best they've said about you, and what's the worst they've said about you? And does it ever hurt when they say the negative?
Ms. McWHORTER: On the book tour? Well, I haven't gotten much negative--I haven't gotten anything negative to my face. I've gotten--you know, a Klansman showed up at a--at a book signing. I've had a--I've got a few heart flutters. But mostly--you know, mostly the reaction has just been phenomenal. It's--you know, somebody on these right-wing talk shows would call up and say, `This should be required reading for everybody in Birmingham.' You know? And—and one--and a--and a--that was--a white suburban matron called to say that. And then the next caller was a black person who said, `Oh, I know so many people in the book and--and I--you know, this is just an amazing, you know, account of--of this sort of hidden history.'
LAMB: Now your mom and dad haven't been married for years. Has your mom read this?
Ms. McWHORTER: She hasn't read it, but she's my biggest PR agent. She's taken it all over town to the bookstores and flogging it like crazy. So she's really--she's really proud.
LAMB: What does she think of your father from what she read in the book? Or did you say she hasn't read it at all?
Ms. McWHORTER: Well, she kind of knows--I think she--what--what a lot of people have done in Birmingham is just read the personal stuff to see--you know, to see--to see about me and my family and possibly the people they grew up with. She--I think she--I mean, she was married to him so she knows what a perplexing character he is. And I think she understands why--why I did this.
LAMB: What's next for you? Another book?
Ms. McWHORTER: I think so. I'd like to get a political column. I feel competent writing columns, you know, that you can get out and see the next day. So I'd like to do that for a while. And--and then I've got a few other book ideas.
LAMB: Like what?
Ms. McWHORTER: Well, one of them would be about another city, but I--I--I think I'd have to wait for my kids to leave--to leave home to be able to do the research for that. But I--I have a few--I might turn to my mother's family in Mississippi next.
LAMB: Our guest has been Diane McWhorter. This is the way the book cover looks. "Carry Me Home." And, by the way, this picture was taken when, and what is it?
Ms. McWHORTER: Those are children bracing themselves against the fire hose spray, and that was taken in May of 1963.
LAMB: In Birmingham?
Ms. McWHORTER: In Birmingham, in Kelly Ingram Park.
LAMB: Thank you for joining us.
Ms. McWHORTER: My pleasure.
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