News / USA

DC Students Pay Tribute to 1963 Birmingham Church Bombing

DC Students Pay Tribute to 1963 Birmingham Church Bombing i
X
September 12, 2013 4:19 PM
Fifty years ago, the racially motivated bombing of an African American church in Birmingham, Alabama killed four little girls. The attack became a milestone in the American civil rights movement and galvanized support for the equal rights campaign. Chris Simkins reports.
Chris Simkins
Fifty years ago, the racially motivated bombing of an African American church in Birmingham, Alabama killed four little girls. The attack became a milestone in the American civil rights movement and galvanized support for the equal rights campaign. 
 
At The Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, students pay tribute to Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, who were attending Sunday school at the 16th Street Baptist Church and died in the September 15, 1963 blast. 
 
Cast members said the choral performance tells the stories of the young victims and remembering this pivotal moment in the civil rights movement can bring greater understanding and awareness of the sacrifices so many made for equal rights.
 
"I learned of the dreams that these girls had,” said Jayme Lawson, a cast member of the school’s production. “They were each individually their own person, and they wanted to do different things. They had aspirations."
 
The church was a gathering place for civil rights organizers.  White supremacists determined to slow the movement carried out the bombing.  The tragedy emotionally shattered the Rev. Martin Luther King.
 
Birmingham civil rights activist Jeff Drew, King's nephew, was also distraught. Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley were his friends.
 
"These little girls, my classmates, my friends whom I had grown up with, their lives were just snuffed away because somebody hated the color of their skin,” said Drew.  “How stupid!"
 
The attack occurred just weeks after the huge March on Washington and King's "I Have a Dream" speech. The bombing shook the nation. 
 
"It was one of the most saddest days that I can remember in my life," said Shirley Gavin Floyd who lost her classmate Addie Mae Collins. "Kids in the auditorium just started crying, and it was just a sad day. And for a whole week, everywhere you went people were crying."
 
Five decades later, President Barack Obama signed legislation posthumously awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to the young victims.
 
Pieces of stained glass from the church were donated to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History by the children of a white Baptist minister, Norman Jimerson, who gathered up ruins from the church as evidence. He was criticized by white colleagues for attending the funerals of the victims.
 
"By keeping the glass and having that within his own possession for many years was part of a reconciliation process, hoping that this symbol of violence and conflict could also be a part of the healing process for people of both races," said Jimerson’s son Randall.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

1855 Slave Brochure Starkly Details Sale of Black Americans

Document lists entire families that were up for sale in New Orleans, offering graphic insight into the slavery trade More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs