Remembering the martyrs of the 1963 Birmingham bombing

By Monica Moorehead
September 21, 2023

The 60th anniversary of the infamous Birmingham, Alabama, bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church occurred on Sept. 15. On this day in 1963, four Black girls — Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins and Cynthia Wesley — ranging from ages 11-14, were murdered while participating in a Bible study class in the basement of the church. Members of the fascistic Ku Klux Klan claimed responsibility for this heinous crime, along with a stream of other bombings targeting Civil Rights activists. Three of the four KKK members responsible for the bombing were convicted years later of the murders.

The event was brilliantly documented in Spike Lee’s 1997 Oscar-nominated film, “4 Little Girls,” which included moving interviews with the families of the victims.

The bombing took place less than four weeks after the historic March for Jobs and Freedom in Washington, D.C., and four months after a Children’s Crusade march that was savagely attacked in Birmingham. On May 3, 1963, 1,000 Black elementary, junior high and high school students left their classes to take part in the crusade action against segregation.

The notorious police commissioner, Bull Connor, gave orders to the racist police to unleash vicious dogs and firefighters to aim water in high-pressure fire hoses on these young people before many of them filled jail cells when they refused to end their march. This incident, which created national and international outrage, prompted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to write his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”