Saturday, September 16, 2006

43 years ago in Birmingham, AL

Friday marked the 43rd anniversary of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church that left four girls dead. Friday morning, protesters marched outside the Birmingham News, upset because the bombing anniversary was not a front-page story. Yes, and it should have been somewhere on the front page. We should always remember, and be reminded of that day and time in our history. You can read more about the bombing here. and here. There is a special report here with links to follow on the bombing. On Sunday, 15th September, 1963, a white man was seen getting out of a white and turquoise Chevrolet car and placing a box under the steps of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. Soon afterwards, at 10.22 a.m., the bomb exploded killing Denise McNair (11), Addie Mae Collins (14), Carole Robertson (14) and Cynthia Wesley (14). The four girls had been attending Sunday school classes at the church. Twenty-three other people were also hurt by the blast. The bombing became the turning point for the civil rights movement.

Here is a link to the four girls pictures. Here is the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing timeline by CNN. Here is a description about Spike Lee's movie made in 1997 "4 Little Girls."

A witness identified Robert Chambliss, a member of the Ku Klux Klan, as the man who placed the bomb under the steps of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. He was arrested and charged with murder and possessing a box of 122 sticks of dynamite without a permit. On 8th October, 1963, Chambliss was found not guilty of murder and received a hundred-dollar fine and a six-month jail sentence for having the dynamite. In November, 1977 Chambliss was tried once again for the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing. Now aged 73, Chambliss was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment. Chambliss died in an Alabama prison on 29th October, 1985.
On 17th May, 2000, the FBI announced that the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing had been carried out by the Ku Klux Klan splinter group, the Cahaba Boys. It was claimed that four men, Robert Chambliss, Herman Cash, Thomas Blanton and Bobby Cherry had been responsible for the crime. Cash was dead but Blanton and Cherry were arrested and Blanton has since been tried and convicted. In May of 2002 Cherry was convicted of the bombing also.

At the time of the 1963 bombing, an outpouring of compassion from around the world resulted in $300,000 in donations. The church was able to make repairs and reopen for services on June 7, 1964. A large stained-glass window of a black crucified Christ was a gift from the people of Wales.

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