Early Sunday, September 15, 1963, Bobby Frank Cherry, Thomas Blanton, Herman Frank Cash, and Robert “Dynamite Bob” Chambliss, members of United Klans of America, a Ku Klux Klan group (an organization created to protect the rights and interests of white Americans by means of violence and intimidation), planted 122 sticks of dynamite outside the basement of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.
At about 10:22 a.m., the bomb exploded. Four little girls (pictured above L-R), Cynthia Wesley (aged 14), Carole Robertson (aged 14), Addie Mae Collins (aged 14) and Denise McNair (aged 11), were killed in the blast. Twenty-two others were injured. It was a crime that shocked the nation — and a defining moment in the history of America’s Civil Rights Movement.
Outrage at the bombing and the grief that followed resulted in violence across Birmingham, and two black boys were killed later that day. Sixteen-year-old Johnny Robinson was shot by police after throwing rocks at cars with white people inside, and two white teenage boys shot 13-year-old Virgil Wade, who was on a bike with his brother.
“This afternoon we gather in the quiet of this sanctuary to pay our last tribute of respect to these beautiful children of God. They entered the stage of history just a few years ago, and in the brief years that they were privileged to act on this mortal stage, they played their parts exceedingly well. Now the curtain falls; they move through the exit; the drama of their earthly life comes to a close. They are now committed back to that eternity from which they came.
These children-unoffending, innocent, and beautiful-were the victims of one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity.”
Chambliss was initially charged with the murders but with no conviction. It wasn’t until 1978 that he was prosecuted and convicted of the murders and sentenced to several terms of life imprisonment; Chambliss died while in prison in 1985.
In 2000, the FBI helped state authorities bring charges against Cherry, Blanton and Cash after evidence against them was made public after it hadn’t been revealed to prosecutors on the order of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. Blanton was convicted in 2001, sentenced to life in prison and is currently incarcerated. Cherry, convicted in 2001 and also sentenced to life, died in prison in 2004. Cash, a fourth suspect, was never charged and died in 1994.
In 1997, Spike Lee directed and produced the documentary, 4 Little Girls, which was nominated for an Academy Award for “Best Documentary”.
VIDEO ABOUT ‘THE 16TH STREET BAPTIST CHURCH BOMBING’