Gabriel Haberlin, a just-turned 12 year-old white boy living in the small South Carolina town of Birdsong in 1946, is riding his brand new bicycle when he is almost hit by a car. In fact, if Mr. Meriwether Hunter, an African-American WWII veteran, hadn’t been there to push Gabe out of the way, the accident could have been tragic. Gabe convinces his father to give Meriwether, a talented mechanic looking for work, a job at the family auto shop. As he works alongside the black veteran, the 12 year-old becomes vividly aware of the antagonism and bigotry of another mechanic who is white and rumored to have close friends in the Ku Klux Klan. Even though he served in the Army’s all-black 761st Tank Battalion during World War II, Meriwether doesn’t want to talk about his service, preferring to work quietly and avoid notice. As their friendship deepens, and Mr. Hunter and his daughter, Abigail, begin to trust Gabe, the boy begins to see the impact of discrimination on their lives. Illuminating the disparity between how white and black WWII veterans were treated, this look at racism is historical fiction at its best.
Meriwether Hunter’s story really shows how the war may have ended for the world, but another fight, the fight for justice and equality, continued for African American veterans.