4 Little Black Girls...

Discussion in 'Honoring Black Ancestors' started by Isaiah, Sep 17, 2004.

  1. Isaiah

    Isaiah Well-Known Member MEMBER

    Jun 8, 2004
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    Sixteenth Street Baptist Church

    On September 15, 1963, four young black girls were killed and 20 other people wounded when a bomb planted by Ku Klux Klan member Robert Edward Chambliss exploded at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The terrorist attack revealed the growing hostility of segregationists towards the Civil Rights Movement as it was making inroads in the Deep South. At the time of the bombing, Birmingham was in a battle over the desegregation of schools; only weeks before, the National Guard had been called in to protect black students. For civil rights leaders, the bombing, which followed less than three weeks after the euphoria of the 1963 March on Washington, was a reminder of the long struggle that remained.
    The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was a center for the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham. Martin Luther King Jr., Fred L. Shuttlesworth, Andrew Young, James Bevel, **** Gregory and Ralph Abernathy all regularly took the pulpit at mass rallies of Birmingham's black community, such as the one following King's April 1963 arrest. The church had been the headquarters for a number of desegregation protests, including the May 1963 Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) rally in which over 2000 black youth marched from the church through Birmingham.

    The Ku Klux Klan targeted the church on the annual Youth Sunday. Eleven year old Denise McNair was with Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Addie Mae Collins, all age 14, in the basement of the church. They were preparing to take their special roles as ushers when the bomb exploded, killing them and burying them in rubble. Twenty others, many children, were injured by the blast. In the day of increased tension that followed, two other black youths were killed. A black 13 year old was shot by two Eagle Scouts who were on the way home from a white supremacist rally. That evening, a 16 year old black boy was shot by one of 300 state troopers ordered into the city by Governor George C. Wallace to preserve the peace in Birmingham.

    As black and white youths battled in the streets of Birmingham the night of the bombing, many white residents wavered between fear of antiwhite violence and feelings of guilt. In the words of white lawyer Charles Morgan the next day, "We all did it...every person in this community who has in any way contributed...to the popularity of hatred is at least as guilty...as the demented fool who threw that bomb." Many in the community, and indeed the nation, struggled with a new awareness of the brutal underside of what had been characterized as simply the Southern way of life.

    Connie Lynch articulated the white supremacist reaction. Rallying the Klan shortly after the bombing, Lynch said the victims "weren't children. Children are little people, little human beings, and that means white people... They're just little *******, and if there's four less ******* tonight, then I say, 'Good for whoever planted the bomb!'"

    Eight thousand people attended a joint funeral for three of the girls. Martin Luther King Jr. gave the eulogy to a community which, having witnessed seven bombings within the previous six months, was torn between exhaustion and rage. An eyewitness reported seeing four men plant the bomb. Police arrested Chambliss after the bombing, but let him go shortly after. In 1977, Alabama Attorney General William Baxley reopened the case, and Chambliss was tried and convicted for first-degree murder.

    A couple of days late, but I thought this must be given our remembrance, the murder of 4 Little Black Girls on September 15th, 1963... Rest in Eternal Peace, Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley...

  2. CarrieMonet

    CarrieMonet Well-Known Member MEMBER

    Dec 26, 2003
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    Isaiah, Thanks for the post...