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The National Civil Rights Museum features author Christopher Paul Curtis on the 25th Anniversary of his debut novel

Curtis talks about The Watsons Go to Birmingham with author Jason Reynolds on March 2

/EIN News/ -- Memphis, TN, Feb. 23, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- During the 25th anniversary edition release of The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963, Christopher Paul Curtis discusses the novel’s continued impact for generations with renowned author and poet Jason Reynolds in a virtual conversation hosted by the National Civil Rights Museum.  The book is a coming-of-age, moral reckoning story of a young family traveling in the South who confronts racial hatred and protest, yet lifts up history, heroes and safe havens – topics Jason Reynolds also encourages youth today to discover through literature. The two award-winning writers are part of the museum’s virtual Book and Author Series on March 2. 

Christopher Paul Curtis’ first novel, The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 was a best seller in hardcover and paperback, and received many awards, including a Newbery Honor and a Coretta Scott King Honor Award, as did his second bestselling novel, Bud, Not Buddy.  Curtis recalls the idea for his first book came from a trip his Flint, Michigan family took to Florida and was fueled by Dudley Randall’s poem "The Ballad of Birmingham."  He entered the manuscript into a publishing contest.  Although he didn’t win, he said, “an editor saw something special in the Watsons, and my book was subsequently published nonetheless.”

Curtis’ most recent novels include The Mighty Miss Malone, Mr. Chickee’s Messy Mission, Mr. Chickee’s Funny Money, and Bucking the Sarge

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 has guided young readers inside the tumultuous summer of 1963 through the eyes of one studious, thoughtful little boy whose family is caught up in events during one of the darkest moments in American history. The moral of the story is, even in the hardest times, laughter and loved ones can help one get through almost anything. For many young readers, Curtis’ book was an introduction to the Civil Rights Movement, and many of those same readers are now activists calling for change and leading the Black Lives Matter movement across the globe—activists who would share this story with their own kids one day.

One such literary activist is Jason Reynolds who was recently named the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature by the Library of Congress and is spearheading a national virtual tour to inspire youth to read and write. Reynolds co-wrote with Ibram X. Kendi Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You and A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning. Reynolds’ other award-winning work for mid-grade and young adult readers includes The Boy in the Black Suit, All American Boys, Long Way Down and As Brave As You, all of which include youth of color as protagonists.

The conversation with Q&A between Curtis and Reynolds is designed to weave the intergenerational story of African Americans’ fight against racial discrimination and violence to engage a new generation of change-makers. Autographed copies of the 25th anniversary edition of The Watsons Go to Birmingham are available for purchase at the museum’s store.

The Book & Author Series virtual event is Tuesday, March 2, at 6:00pm Central and is free and open to the public.  Registration is required to receive the webinar link.  For more information, visit


About the National Civil Rights Museum

The NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM, located at the historic Lorraine Motel where civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, gives a comprehensive overview of the American Civil Rights Movement from slavery to the present. Since the Museum opened in 1991, millions of visitors from around the world have come, including more than 90,000 students annually. Serving as the new public square, the Museum is steadfast in its mission to honor and preserve the site of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination.  It chronicles the American civil rights movement and tells the story of the ongoing struggle for human rights, serving as a catalyst to inspire action to create positive social change.  A Smithsonian Affiliate and an internationally acclaimed cultural institution, the Museum is recognized as a 2019 National Medal Award recipient by the Institute of Museums and Library Services (IMLS), the top national honor for museums and libraries.  It is a TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Top 5% U.S. Museum, USA Today's Top 10 Best American Iconic Attractions; Top 10 Best Historical Spots in the U.S. by TLC's Family Travel; Must See by the Age of 15 by Budget Travel and Kids; Top 10, American Treasures by USA Today; and Best Memphis Attraction by The Commercial Appeal and the Memphis Business Journal.

Connie Dyson
National Civil Rights Museum