Birmingham reflects on bombing that killed four girls 60 years ago

A community paused Friday to remember the lives of four little girls who were killed when their church was bombed by the Ku Klux Klan 60 years ago.

Hundreds of people gathered outside of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham to attend a special ceremony commemorating the 60th anniversary of the church bombing.  

“It is a reminder that there is still a lot of work to be done in our atmosphere today with our country. And racism is on the rise, at least the expression of it has increased,” said Birmingham native Susan Jamerson.  

It was hate and racism that claimed the lives of Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley. Collins’ sister Sarah was severely injured in the blast, but survived. She lost an eye in the explosion. Twenty-two others were injured, many of them children.

Friday’s ceremony was filled with songs, speeches from elected officials, and a special message from Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. 

“People of all races and faiths, people of courage and conviction cleared the path for me in the wake of this horrible tragedy that snuffed out the too brief lives of those four little girls inside this sacred space,” said Jackson.  

This ceremony brought people of all ages and backgrounds together for one common goal; to remember the past, reflect on the present, and reconcile our future. 

“I think today is evidence of progress made to have a Black woman supreme court justice the first be where four little girls were killed because of hate, because of racism,” said University of Alabama student Camdyn Neal. “I think it shows progress.” 

Progress that everyone should learn concerning our state’s painful past. 

“This is a historic day for the entire country and the state that I am currently living in. And I want to learn more about it,” said University of Alabama student Leif Nuesken. 

The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church had been a rallying point for civil rights activists. According to the Jim Crow Museum, the attack was meant to disrupt Black community activists who had been demonstrating for weeks for an end to segregation in the city. It had the opposite effect. The national outcry at the killing of children at a place of worship helped build support for civil rights legislation.

The four men responsible for the murders were not charged until 45 years later. Three of them, Bobby Frank Cherry, Thomas Blanton, and Robert Chambliss were sentenced to life in prison. The fourth, Herman Cash, died before charges could be filed against him.

Categories: Alabama News