Birmingham Has Day Of Remembrance For 1963 Church Bombing
On Friday, September 15, a remembrance of the 1963 Birmingham church bombing that killed four Black girls was held at the 16th Street Baptist Church to stand in solidarity with those still affected by the tragedy.
The first Black woman Supreme Court Justice, Kentanji Brown Jackson, gave a moving keynote address. A wreath was laid by the sister of one of the four victims in the same spot where the dynamite that caused the explosion was placed outside church walls.
One of the victim’s sisters, Lisa McNair, requested that other Birmingham churches toll their bells Friday morning to mark the tragic moment. She told media outlets that it was important for people to reflect on what happened 60 years ago, and to think about how they can keep it from ever happening again.
“People killed my sister just because of the color of her skin. Don’t look at this anniversary as just another day. But what are we each going to do as an individual to try to make sure that this doesn’t happen again,” McNair said, according to NBC News.
The 16th Street Baptist Church stood as a center of the African-American community at the height of the civil rights movement, providing a meeting place for activists and community members.
On the morning of September 15, 1963, Ku Klux Klan members planted dynamite at the church.
Eleven-year-old Denise McNair, and 14-year-olds Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Addie Mae Collins were in a basement washroom preparing for Sunday service. The explosion killed the girls and severely injured Collins’ sister, Sarah Collins Rudolph, who was in the room as well.
The racially motivated attack occurred amidst violent tensions. Then Alabama Governor George Wallace had just pledged to uphold “segregation forever” during his inaugural speech, two weeks after Martin Luther King Jr. had delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington.
KKK members Robert Chambliss, Thomas Blanton, and Bobby Frank Cherry were charged and convicted for their involvement in the explosion in 1977, 2001, and 2002, respectively.