Birmingham Church Bombing

July 19, 2020

On Sunday 15 September 1963, Addie Mae Collins, Carol Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley and Carole Rosamond Robertson attended 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, USA.  

They went into the basement of the church to prepare for Sunday School. Denise was 11, Addie Mae, Cynthia and Carole were 14 years old. 

Marches had been taking place in the preceding weeks, with the Black Americans marching to desegregate and to receive justice and equal rights. Dr Martin Luther King, Reverend Andrew Young and Ralph Abernathy of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference had thrown their support behind the movement for desegregation and had addressed the marchers and marched alongside them. Birmingham as a city and Alabama as a state was very much the centre of the civil rights movement, probably due to the virulence and violence of the White Supremacists in the South of the USA. 

The Governor of Alabama at the time, in his inaugural speech on January 14, 1963, had said,

In the name of the greatest people that ever trod this earth I draw the line in the earth and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever.”

This gives you some idea of the atmosphere that existed in the southern US state of Alabama at the time. 

The Klu Klux Klan (KKK) threw lit dynamite through the window of the church. In the basement of the church, the 4 girls were killed and 22 members of the congregation were killed. The KKK admitted to committing the bombing in the hopes of scaring the Black population of Alabama from continuing to march for desegregation. 

It was the 41st bombing in the city of Birmingham in 16 years, all of them carried out by the KKK as acts of racial terrorism, to destabilise the descendants of Africans and delegitimise their efforts to obtain equality. 

Three KKK members were convicted of the murders; Robert Chambliss (died in prison, 1985), Thomas E. Blanton (died in prison June 2020), Bobby Frank Cherry (died in prison, 2004). A fourth member of the KKK, Herman Cash, died before being charged with the murders in 1994.  

Source: 4 Little Girls (documentary by Spike Lee)  Image source:By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29665457

Updated: July 2020

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