Saturday marked the 55th anniversary of white supremacists’ deadly bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The act of terror by four members of the KKK at the historic Black church killed four little girls: 14-year-olds Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley and 11-year-old Denise McNair. Nearly two dozen others were injured in the blast that used dynamite.
The 16th Street Baptists Church planned to hold a memorial service on Saturday for the anniversary. Sen. Doug Jones, who successfully prosecuted two men for the bombing decades ago, was expected to deliver the keynote speech during the morning event.
The community reacted to Birmingham Church Bombing in protest, which resulted in a violent reaction from police.
The church was a frequent meeting place for prominent civil rights leaders and leading Black voices, including Martin Luther King Jr. In fact, it was those fateful series of events that help prompt King’s famous Letter From Birmingham that “his decision not to call off the demonstrations in the face of continued bloodshed at the hands of local law enforcement officials,” History.com reminded readers.
President Barack Obama would go on to sign a bill awarding the four young victims of the tragic 1963 Birmingham church bombing with the Congressional Gold Medal.
Barbara Cross, a friend of the girls who survived the church bombing, recently recalled to TIME how close she was to possibly being a fifth death.
“I will never stop crying thinking about it,” said Cross, 68, who was 13 at the time.
The last surviving bomber was denied parole in 2016 and remained in prison for his role in the mass murder.
Keep scrolling to see vintage images paired with more recent pictures from the bombing, it’s violent aftermath and resulting protests.
16th Street Baptist Church Birmingham Bombing Photos, Then And Now was originally published on newsone.com