Sunday, September 15, 2013

In Remembrance Of....

On Sunday September 15, 1963, the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama was bombed. At the time, the city earned the moniker “Bombingham” because of the string of bombings of black homes and institutions since the early 1900s. At 10:19am, the telephone started to ring and a teenaged girl named Carolyn McKinstry answered. The person on the other end of the time said, “3 minutes.” She did not understand what that meant. At the same time, there were 5 girls in the restroom getting themselves ready for church. The title of the sermon that morning was, “A Love that Forgives.” At 10:22am, a box of dynamite went off. The bombing killed four little girls: Addie Mae Collins (14), Carole Robertson (14), Denise McNair (11), and Cynthia Wesley (14).

The fifth girl that was in the basement was Sarah Collins (12), Addie Mae’s sister. Sarah had to identify her sister's body. Later, Sarah survived the bombing, but her injuries were extensive. She lost her right eye and undergone major psychological damage. She missed Addie's funeral because she was still hospitalized.

In March of 2012, I was a part of the Congressional Pilgrimage to Alabama. While in Alabama, I had to the opportunity to meet and speak to Sarah Collins Rudolph and Carolyn McKinstry. The conversation shed a lot of light on the bombing and the city at the time. I also visited the 16th Street Baptist Church.

The stone marker is set where the bomb went off. I took this last year when I visited Alabama.

After an investigation, it was proven that the attack was racially motivated and the dynamite was planted by members of the KKK. Those involved in the attack were Bobby Frank Cherry, Thomas Blanton, Herman Frank Cash, and Robert Chambliss. On October 8, 1963, Robert Chambliss was charged with possessing dynamite without a permit. He received a one hundred dollar fine and six months in jail. In 1977, Chambliss was charged and sentenced to life in prison. He died in a hospital in 1985. In 2000, the FBI found that there were three others involved in the attack. At this time, Herman Frank Cash was dead but Frank Cherry and Thomas Blanton were convicted.

(Thomas Blanton and Bobby Frank Cherry)

As a result of the bombing, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were passed.

Back in 2004, Dr. Tracy Snipe (Wright State University, Political Science department) brought some family members of the four little girls to Wright State to discuss the bombing and the Civil Rights Movement. The title of the event was, “4 Women from Birmingham.”

On September 10, 2013, Congress presented family members of the four little girls with Congressional Gold Medals at the U.S Capitol.

L-R: Rep. Terri Sewell, Sarah Rudolph Collins, unnamed family member and Rep. Spencer Bachus show off the Congressional Gold Medal. Source: WBRC video

(Pictured here are Rep. Terri Sewell, Sarah Rudolph Collins, unnamed family member and Rep. Spencer Bachus.)

For further information on the bombing, the case, and events to commemorate the 50th anniversary here are some links:

Long Forgotten, 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing Survivor Speaks Out

1963 Birmingham Church Bombing Fast Facts

Congress to present Gold Medal honoring Birmingham's 'four little girls' this afternoon



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