On September 15, 1963, a bomb ripped into 16th Street Baptist Church stilling the lives of four Black girls in Birmingham, Alabama. Their deaths, at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan, forced America to reckon with racism. Fifty-nine years later, the legacy of Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley still teaches lessons about what hate can birth and what love can bear.
Today, Thursday, September 15, 2022, the church will host its annual day of remembrance with a special guest speaker and community luncheon. “September 15 is a hallowed day,” said Birmingham Mayor Randall L. Woodfin. “Four little girls lost their lives because of the hate that ruled in our city nearly sixty years ago. Today, as a Black man serving as the mayor, I stand in the light of their legacy in a new Birmingham – one of acceptance, equality, and love.”
The day will kick off at 10 a.m. with a memorial service and inspirational message by Dr. Tony Evans, an American Christian pastor, speaker, author, and widely syndicated radio and television broadcaster in the United States. Evans serves as senior pastor to the more than 9,500-member Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas.
At 11 a.m., there will be a ribbon cutting at the 16th Street parsonage, honoring the completion of the restoration and re-purposing of the 1914 structure. The parsonage will display an exhibit that tells the stories of three men who helped to build Birmingham’s Black community in the late 1800s and early 1900s: Wallace A. Rayfield, the second formally educated practicing African American architect in the United States and the designer of the church building and parsonage; William Pettiford, founder of the Alabama Penny Savings Bank and former pastor of 16th Street church; and T. C. Windham, the contractor for the building project and chairman of the church’s trustee board.
The day concludes with a 12-noon community luncheon in the parking lot of the church at 6th Avenue North.
“As one of the custodians of the historic 16th Street Baptist Church and the story of these little girls, it brings me joy to reflect and see how far we have come,” said the Rev. Arthur Price, pastor of the church. “Still, I acknowledge that we have much further to go. We cannot stop sharing the lessons from September 15, 1963, and also working to bring about peace in our community. We do this for Addie, Denise, Carole, and Cynthia so that their deaths will not be in vain.”
The events are free and open to the public. For more information, go to 16thstreetbaptist.org.