Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Birmingham Church Bombing: Bombingham

Not In Vain

The church as it is now
The church as it is now

From the day of the bombing in 1963 to the day of Bobby Frank Cherry's conviction on May 22, 2002, almost 39 years had passed. Many of the witnesses, participants and investigators in the case had long since died. Even the Civil Rights Era had faded into history. The Ku Klux Klan, though still in existence today, does not possess nearly the power and influence it wielded in the 1950s and early '60s. Birmingham, too, has changed for the better and bears little resemblance to its former self. It has undergone a total metamorphosis by separating itself from an ugly past and embracing a better and more hopeful future.

The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church still stands and has become an historical landmark of the Civil Rights era. A plaque that commemorates the bombing hangs inside its hallways for all visitors to see. It reads, "Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, Addie Mae Collins, Carol Robertson. Their lives were taken by unknown parties on September 15, 1963, when the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was bombed. May men learn to replace bitterness and violence with love and understanding."

On September 18, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the sermon at the funeral for the murdered girls. "They are the martyred heroines of a holy crusade for freedom and human dignity," he said amid the tears and grief of that day so long ago, "So they did not die in vain. God still has a way of wringing good out of evil Good night sweet princesses; may the flight of angels take thee to thy eternal rest."

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