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Sewell Honors Legacy: “Four Little Girls” Killed at 16th Street Baptist Church

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Monday, September 15, marked the 51st anniversary of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. On that day, domestic terrorists bombed the Church killing Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Morris Wesley.

Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell (D from Selma) released a written statement on the 51st Commemoration of the bombing. U.S. Representative Sewell said,

“Today we commemorate the lives and legacies of four precious little girls – Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Morris Wesley – who died in the sacred walls of the 16th Street Baptist Church 51 years ago today. We also honor the lives of two young boys, Johnny Robinson and Virgil Ware, who were killed in Birmingham within hours of the church bombing. The young, innocent lives that were lost that day awakened the slumbering conscience of America and served as a galvanizing force for passage of historic civil rights legislation including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”

Rep. Sewell continued, “Their legacy paved the way for me and many of my colleagues to serve in Congress today. For that, we owe them a debt of gratitude. This is why I was humbled that my first successful piece of legislation honored the “four little girls” with the highest civilian honor Congress can bestow upon any individual, the Congressional Gold Medal. These heroines deserve to have their proper place in history and I am proud to have been a part of bestowing this honor posthumously on Addie Mae, Carole, Cynthia, and Denise.”

Representative Sewell concluded, “It is not enough, however, that we just reflect and say thank you. When our brothers and sisters of color suffer from some of the same injustices suffered 50 years ago, we cannot ignore that their work has now become our work. We must recommit ourselves to the movement by combating all modern-day efforts to dismantle the rights they died for. Their hallowed legacy compels us to do no less.”

Rep. Sewell said on Facebook, “We can honor their legacy by recommitting ourselves to the cause for which they died.”

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Last year, Congresswoman Sewell sponsored legislation to posthumously bestow the Congressional Gold Medal to Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Morris Wesley, the “Four Little Girls” who tragically lost their lives during the bombing.

At last year’s 50th anniversary of the Church bombing Alabama Governor Robert Bentely (R) said that the City of Birmingham and the State as a whole still bears the scars of the racial struggles of the 1960s that climaxed with the Birmingham bombing.

Governor Bentley said, “Birmingham may have been declared dead that day in 1963. That’s what the nation heard and believed at the time. But Birmingham isn’t dead. It certainly still bears the scars of its turbulent past, as does our State. And at times those scars hide its true beauty. Today we choose to honor the memory, the work and the sacrifice of those who saw a better vision for Birmingham. Today we choose to look beyond those ugly scars and focus on what Birmingham really is, and what it can be.”

The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church Bombing, the use of dogs and fire hoses on voting rights protesters by the City of Birmingham, and the violent suppression of voting rights marchers in Selma were key moments in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s that compelled Congress to act to insure that voting rights were protected by the federal government. Prior to that timer most Blacks in Alabama and other states were denied the right to vote by poll taxes, literacy tests, intimidation, and often actual violence.

Congresswoman Terri A, Sewell represents Alabama’s Seventh Congressional District. She is the first Black Woman to be elected to the United States Congress from the State of Alabama.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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