Posted by: morgan1965 | September 14, 2011

The September 15,1963 Birmingham Bombing – An Act of Terrorism

The terrorist acts of September 11, 2001 have made an indelible mark on the American psyche and our sense of security. This past Sunday, September 11, 2011 we paused to remember that horrific day and to memorialize those who lost their life in the wanton acts of terrorism that unfolded on that fall day ten years ago. On that day, international terrorism reared its ugly head.

The events of 9/11, of course, were not the first acts of terrorism to take place in these United States of America. Many people have forgotten about the terrorism that was perpetrated on Sunday, September 15, 1963, forty-eight years ago. A bomb was placed at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Four black children were killed – Addie Mae Collins (14), Denise McNair (11), Carole Robertson (14) and Cynthia Wesley (14). The bomb, planted by a terrorist, exploded at 10:22 A.M., while the girls and other children were attending Sunday school classes at the church. The blast also injured twenty-three other people.

Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was used as a meeting place for civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph David Abernathy and Fred Shuttlesworth. Tensions were flaring in Birmingham at that time when the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Congress on Racial Equality got involved in an African American voter registration campaign.

A member of the Ku Lux Klan, Robert Chambliss, was arrested, tried and acquitted in the murder case on October 8, 1963. In November of 1977, the same defendant was tried again for the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing. At age 73 the defendant was found guilty, and sentenced to life in imprison where he died on October 29, 1985.

Birmingham at that time was a bastion of racial segregation. Numerous unsolved bombings and police killings had terrorized the black community for decades. Birmingham was the seat of numerous nonviolent demonstrations where the demonstrators were threatened by angry mobs, police dogs and fire hoses.

Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders always proclaimed a message of hope in the midst of tragedy and despair. Hope was at the center of the struggle for freedom. The answer to the struggle was nonviolence, not violence.

Violence was perpetrated upon the people who demonstrated, but it was their nonviolence that achieved the new freedom – desegregation in America. Violence will not bring peace to the global village. We cannot live in fear, but we must learn to trust God.

The three young girls who died on September 15, 1963 became known as the martyrs of Birmingham.



  1. Spike Lee’s movie “4 Little Girls” details this story. It’s been awhile since I have seen it, but I remember it being good.

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