The Herald Bulletin

Evening Update

Breaking News

September 16, 2013

Alabama church marks 50th anniversary of bombing

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Hundreds of people black and white, many holding hands, filled an Alabama church that was bombed by the Ku Klux Klan 50 years ago Sunday to mark the anniversary of the blast that killed four little girls and became a landmark moment in the civil rights struggle.

The Rev. Arthur Price taught the same Sunday school lesson that members of 16th Street Baptist Church heard the morning of the bombing — "A Love That Forgives." Then, the rusty old church bell was tolled four times as the girls' names were read.

Bombing survivor Sarah Collins Rudolph, who lost her right eye and sister Addie Mae Collins in the blast, stood by as members laid a wreath at the spot where the dynamite device was placed along an outside wall.

Rudolph was 12 at the time, and her family left the church after the bombing. She said it was important to return in memory of her sister, who was 14, and the three other girls who died: Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley Morris, both 14, and Denise McNair, 11.

"God spared me to live and tell just what happened on that day," said Rudolph, who testified against the Klansmen convicted years later in the bombing.

Congregation members and visitors sang the old hymn "Love Lifted Me" and joined hands in prayer. The somber Sunday school lesson was followed by a raucous, packed worship service with gospel music and believers waving their hands.

During the sermon, the Rev. Julius Scruggs of Huntsville, president of the National Baptist Convention USA, said, "God said you may murder four little girls, but you won't murder the dream of justice and liberty for all."

Later Sunday, attendees of an afternoon commemoration included Attorney General Eric Holder, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, Jesse Jackson, Rev. Joseph Lowery and director Spike Lee, who made a documentary about the bombing.

The church was full, with the only surviving mother of one of the girls, Maxine McNair, sitting in the front row.

Holder called the girls' deaths "a seminal and tragic moment" in U.S. history and recalled gains that followed their killings like the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.

Alluding to the Supreme Court decision this year that struck down a key part of the voting law, Holder said the struggle continues decades later.

"This a fight that we will continue," Holder said.

The dynamite bomb went off outside the church Sept. 15, 1963. Of the Klansmen convicted years later, one remains imprisoned. Two others died in prison.

Two young men, both black, were shot to death in Birmingham in the chaos that followed the bombing.

Birmingham was strictly segregated at the time of the bombing, which occurred as city schools were being racially integrated for the first time. The all-black 16th Street Baptist was a gathering spot for civil rights demonstrations for months before the blast.

The bombing became a powerful symbol of the depth of racial hatred in the South and helped build momentum for later laws, including the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

During the morning commemoration, an honor guard composed of black and whites officers and firefighters watched over ceremonies with mixed-race crowd, something that would have been unthinkable in Birmingham in 1963. That same year, white police officers and firefighters used dogs and water hoses on black demonstrators marching for equal rights.

President Barack Obama issued a statement noting that earlier this year the four girls were posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, one of the country's highest civilian honors.

"That horrific day in Birmingham, Alabama quickly became a defining moment for the Civil Rights Movement. It galvanized Americans all across the country to stand up for equality and broadened support for a movement that would eventually lead to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964," Obama said.

Rev. Bernice King, a daughter of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., noted the changed city in a prayer.

"We thank you father for the tremendous progress we have made in 50 years, that we can sit in the safe confines of this sanctuary being protected by the city of Birmingham when 50 years ago the city turned its eye and its ears away from us," she said.

 

1
Text Only
Breaking News
  • Player ordered to trial for fatal punch of referee

    A recreational soccer player will stand trial for the one-punch slaying of a referee who was about to penalize and eject him from a game in suburban Detroit.

    July 31, 2014

  • Gary teen charged in slaying of mom found dead in trunk

    A 17-year-old girl has been charged with murder in the death of her mother whose body was found in her car's trunk in a wooded area of Gary a few weeks ago.

    July 31, 2014

  • Indiana popcorn fest loses Redenbacher sponsorship

    Orville Redenbacher popcorn is no longer the title sponsor of an annual festival in the northwestern Indiana city where Redenbacher developed the hybrid popping corn that made him famous.

    July 31, 2014

  • Investigators make it to Ukraine jet crash site

    As fighting raged in eastern Ukraine, an international team of investigators on Thursday reached the crash site of the Malaysia Airline Flight 17 and got a first look at where it was brought down by a missile two weeks ago.

    July 31, 2014

  • NWS - HB0706 - scooter - 04 Police say new mo-ped law hard to enforce KOKOMO — With more and more mo-peds hitting the streets, police are having a hard time enforcing new restrictions encompassed in the new scooter law.Mo-ped drivers can still cruise the streets and roads on their two-wheel machines, but the new state

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Venue change granted for blast suspect A judge granted a change of venue Wednesday for the trial of one defendant in a deadly Indianapolis house explosion after prosecutors dropped their objection.

    July 31, 2014

  • Boyfriend of missing Shelbyville woman arrested Authorities searching for a missing central Indiana woman have discovered what they believe to be human remains and have arrested the woman's boyfriend.

    July 30, 2014

  • Pence pushes Medicaid alternative with HHS chief Gov. Mike Pence has told U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell that he wants to maintain Indiana's "freedom and flexibility" under any expansion of Medicaid.

    July 30, 2014

  • Indianapolis mayor backs tax to hire more officers

    Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard is seeking a tax increase to pay for hiring more police officers as part of a wide-ranging response to the city's recent surge in deadly violence.

    July 30, 2014

  • Colts Camp update: Will injured players return?

    Cornerback Vontae Davis and safety LaRon Landry have yet to participate in a training camp practice, and running back Trent Richardson has missed four straight after running through drills on opening day. Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano doesn't want to rush any of those players back onto the field. But he made it clear Wednesday morning at Anderson University that he hopes to see them back soon.

    July 30, 2014

Featured Ads
More Resources from The Herald Bulletin
AP Video
Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction Malaysian PM: Stop Fighting in Ukraine Cantor Warns of Instability, Terror in Farewell Ravens' Ray Rice: 'I Made a Huge Mistake' Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers Small Plane Crash in San Diego Parking Lot Busy Franco's Not Afraid of Overexposure Fighting Blocks Access to Ukraine Crash Site Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida Workers Dig for Survivors After India Landslide Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Helium debate
Helium
Front page
Poll

Do you think school is starting too early?

Yes, it shouldn't start until after Labor Day.
Yes, it shouldn't start for another week or so.
No, it's about right.
Not sure.
     View Results