I was in downtown Birmingham yesterday taking some photos when it occurred to me I’d never taken my own photos of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, one of the most iconic sites of the Civil Rights Movement and a place of tragedy and resilience. I decided to rectify that.
Most people, especially in Alabama, know that four girls were killed in the church when the KKK set off a bomb. They were: Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Carol Denise McNair.
Across from the church, at the entrance of Kelly Ingram Park, stand two statues honoring the girls. The little bronze Mary Jane shoes and cat’s-eye glasses lend poignant detail to the lives lost that day.
The church website says:
“Sunday, September 15, 1963, at 10:22 a.m., the church became known around the world when a bomb exploded, killing four young girls attending Sunday School and injuring more than 20 other members of the congregation. Later that same evening, in different parts of town, a black youth was killed by police and one was murdered by a mob of white men. It was a shocking, terrifying day in the history of Birmingham and a day that forced white leaders to further come to grips with the city’s bitter racist reputation. The tragedy of that Sunday produced outpourings of sympathy, concern and financial contributions from all parts of the world. More than $300,000.00 was contributed for the restoration of the damaged church. It was reopened for services Sunday, June 7, 1964.”
I didn’t tour the inside of the 1911 church but I took photos of the exterior and the iconic neon sign.
Here’s a quick look at my photos, plus a couple from the Library of Congress.