Less than one month after gospel singer Mahalia Jackson stood behind her friend, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and urged him to tell the world about his “dream,” Denise McNair, 11, Carol Robertson, 14, Cynthia Wesley, 14, and Addie Mae Collins, 14, were killed when the Ku Klux Klan bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.
The day was September 15, 1963 and the nation lost the last vestiges of its innocence.
The Civil Rights Movement was further galvanized by the incident and Yankees — stunned by the senseless act of violence — joined in and demanded that equality and justice become the way of the land below the Mason-Dixon Line.
On May 24, President Barack Obama, surrounded by members of the girls’ families, signed a bill that posthumously granted Collins, McNair, Robertson and Wesley the Congressional Gold Medal.
Today, on the 50th anniversary of their death, Obama remembers our four little heroes again:
Today, we remember Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley who were killed 50 years ago in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. 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. Earlier this year, I was honored to meet with family members of those four precious little girls as America posthumously awarded them the Congressional Gold Medal, one of our nation’s highest civilian honors.
Watch Dr. King talking about the bombing, and the complicity of apathetic Black citizens, below: