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From Bull Connor’s attack dogs and water hoses to murderous bombings of black churches and homes, Birmingham symbolized the evil of Southern racism during the early ’60s. But overt racism has slowly abandoned that Alabama city just as surely as did its gigantic steel mills: Black politicians rose to power, whites moved to the suburbs, and subtle residential segregation replaced violence and blatant discrimination. In Leaving Birmingham: Notes of a Native Son, Paul Hemphill explores his hometown’s unusually ugly (if sporadically hopeful) history. Part journalistic history of “the Pittsburgh of the South” and part personal memoir, Birmingham is most interesting when Hemphill explores his troubled relationship with his father, an unreconstructed racist who went to his deathbed unwilling to accept the changes that had taken place. Hemp hill discusses his book at 7:30 p.m. at Borders, 11500 Rockville Pike, Rockville. FREE. (301) 816-1067. (David Plotz)