In the midst of the 50th anniversary of the Birmingham civil rights movement comes an honor for the four little victims that died in 1963. On Thursday, May 9th, the Senate approved to posthumously award the Congressional Gold Medal to Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Denise McNair. The 420-0 vote is now in the hands of the president for an official sign-off.
The four young girls, ranging from ages 11-14, died when a bomb planted by racists exploded at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham on September 15, 1963. The bomb blew a hole through a wall in the church and injured 22 people.
Representatives Terri Sewell (DEM) and Spencer Bachus (REP) led the Alabama congressional delegation. Some relatives of the slain girls prefer financial compensation for the tragedy versus the Congressional Gold Medal. Sarah Collins Rudolph, sister of Addie Mae Collins was critically injured in the explosion and prefers a check for her losses. Such is also the case with Fate Morris, the brother of Cynthia Wesley.
In 1965, British artist John Petts installed a stained glass window picturing an African American Jesus Christ with one hand stretched out against hatred and the other offering forgiveness. It was a groundbreaking scene for the 1960’s, especially since Southern Baptist whites would most likely be against the scene of a black Lord and Savior.
The stained glass window still sits proudly at 16th Street Baptist Church, representing international unity and the lives lost that September in 1963.