James W. Stewart will share his personal experiences and time in jail with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the civil rights movement with Whitfield County middle school students on Thursday.
Mr. Stewart is stepping in for his friend, Carolyn Maull McKinstry, author of While The World Watched, who was scheduled to speak with students before personal circumstances prevented her visit.
The focus of his talk ties in to state social studies standards for students who "evaluate the role of Georgia in the modern civil rights movement" during the eighth grade.
Mr. Stewart grew up in Birmingham, Ala., in the 1960s when racism was prevalent. He was 15 years old in May 1963 when he led the first group of young marchers out of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in what became known as the 1963 Birmingham Children's March. He was arrested and spent four days in the Birmingham jail in deplorable conditions.
Later in life while serving as director of health services for Project Head Start in Birmingham, he noticed a distinct genetic disorder specifically related to African American children that led to his co-founding of the Alabama Sickle Cell Foundation that now serves hundreds of sickle cell families.
Mr. Stewart encourages people to seek a path of apology, forgiveness, and dialogue to promote understanding and believes much of the civil rights movement involved spiritual principles of non-violence.
Two books that contain substantial references to his participation in demonstrations of the Birmingham Children’s March in May 1963 are We’ve Got A Job by Cynthia Levinson and Foot Soldiers for Democracy by Horace Huntley and John McKurley.
Mr. Stewart now lives in Atlanta with his wife, Judy. Together they have four grown children and eight grandchildren.