Lowery wins national book award

Published 10:47 pm Tuesday, January 19, 2016

By Emily Enfinger | The Selma Times-Journal

Selma native Lynda Blackmon Lowery, who turned 15 while marching from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, has won a national book award for her story.

Lowery was awarded the Robert F. Silbert Informational Book Honor for her biography “Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom.” The award recognizes the book’s impact on educating younger readers.

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“I am so excited about it, but it also makes me humble to know that somebody actually thinks that my story is worth an award of any kind,” Lowery said. “I never thought my experiences would mean anything to anyone besides me and my family.”

“Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom” is Lowery’s memoir of the Civil Rights Movement in Selma. She was the youngest person to complete the 54-mile Voting Rights March of 1965 from Selma to Montgomery, turning 15 on March 22, 1965 — two days into the three-day trip.

Lowery’s memoir made its debut on Jan. 8, 2015. Since then, she has been traveling and has spoken to more than 5,000 students about tolerance and about her experiences.

“This past year, to me, has been mind blowing,” Lowery said.

She has visited New York numerous times, Chicago, Indiana, Arizona and other states.

Lowery said she’s going to Baltimore in April to visit the Friends School of Baltimore after receiving more than 30 letters from sixth graders.

“They had heard my interview on NPR and they all wrote saying how inspiring it was and how they believe they can affect change,” Lowery said.

She said she received the letters during the Baltimore riots last year.

“I’m watching on TV the burnings and so forth… I received the letters and I started reading them and I just started crying. I was so overwhelmed because I knew there were 30 kids that were not participating in a riot that felt they could change things with what Dr. King said is steady, loving confrontation,” Lowery said.

She said she heard Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak for the first time when she was 13. She said King spoke three words that changed her life.

“He said that you can get anyone to do anything with steady, loving confrontation,” Lowery said. “It was like he was saying it just to me because I knew that I was going to make a change some day with steady, loving confrontation.”

Lowery said she is thankful for the experiences the book has brought her.

For more information about “Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom,” visit www.penguinrandomhouse.com.