Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Pop History Moment: The 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing

Like so many of the pivotal events in the US Civil Rights movement, the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, on this day in 1963 was intended to strike fear into the hearts of the black community...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketAt about 10:25 AM that Sunday morning four girls - Addie Mae Collins (aged 14), Denise McNair (11), Carole Robertson (14), and Cynthia Wesley (14) - were killed, and 22 more were injured, when 19 sticks of dynamite hidden in the basement exploded, causing the kind of mayhem and suffering that no one ought to have to live through - and causing significant property damage besides.

Ironically, every one of those bombs backfired into the faces of those who were evil enough to place bombs in a church in the first place, people like Bobby Frank Cherry and Robert Chambliss (both members of that fine, Christian organization the Ku Klux Klan).

Instead of leaving blacks cowed, though, it made them defiant; instead of isolating blacks, it drew their white allies closer, although in certain segments of society it was said that blacks had set the bombs themselves to earn themselves sympathy; certainly that was the opinion of Bull Connor, who was the Chief of Police in Birmingham at the time.

It seems strange to think that there was a time in history when the aims and intentions of the Civil Rights Movement seemed nebulous, so vague that it took events like this to demonstrate the peril entailed in the lives of black Americans. Stranger still is that there were then - as there likely still are today - people who felt that killing was too good for blacks.

Even stranger - and perhaps just as ironic - is the role Southern Baptists now play in hate crimes of their own every day, condemning homosexuals to the same acts of terror their own parishioners had once been.
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