Some 44 years later, inquests into the deaths have. An estimated 8,000 people attended the service. The 16th Street Baptist Church bombing marked a turning point in the United States during the civil rights movement and also contributed to support for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by Congress. More than 1,000 people were present at the unveiling of the memorial, including survivors of the bombing, friends of the victims and the parents of Denise McNair, Johnny Robinson and Virgil Ware. August 3, 2016 - Blanton, the last living convicted bomber, is denied parole. In 1977, Alabama Attorney General Bob Baxley reopened the investigation and Klan leader Robert E. Chambliss was brought to trial for the bombings and convicted of murder. [73]:574, Chambliss appealed his conviction, as provided under the law, saying that much of the evidence presented at his trialincluding testimony relating to his activities within the KKKwas circumstantial; that the 14-year delay between the crime and his trial violated his constitutional right to a speedy trial; and the prosecution had deliberately used the delay to try to gain an advantage over Chambliss's defense attorneys. [97]:162, The state prosecution had originally intended to try both defendants together; however, the trial of Bobby Cherry was delayed due to the findings of a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation. Most parishioners were able to evacuate the building as it filled with smoke, but the bodies of four young girls (14-year-old Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley and Carole Robertson and 11-year-old Denise McNair) were found beneath the rubble in a basement restroom. Within days of the bombing, investigators began to focus their attention upon a KKK splinter group known as the "Cahaba Boys". Five children were in the basement at the time of the explosion,[23] in a restroom close to the stairwell, changing into choir robes[24] in preparation for a sermon entitled "A Rock That Will Not Roll". Lives were lost and you were defined by your skin color. Although the FBI had concluded in 1965 that the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing had been committed by four known Klansmen and segregationists: Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr., Herman Frank Cash, Robert Edward Chambliss, and Bobby Frank Cherry,[6] no prosecutions were conducted until 1977, when Robert Chambliss was tried and convicted of the first-degree murder of one of the victims, 11-year-old Carol Denise McNair. June 26, 2020 - Blanton dies in prison of natural causes, according to a statement released by Alabama Gov. Cochran also reminded the jury of a secretly obtained FBI recording, which had earlier been introduced into evidence, in which Cherry had told his first wife, Jean, that he and other Klansmen had constructed the bomb within the premises of business the Friday before the bombing. Martin Luther King Jr. holds a press conference in Birmingham the day after the attack. Jackson testified that Chambliss had expressed frustration that the Klan was "dragging its feet" on the issue of racial integration,[18] and said he was eager to form a splinter group more dedicated to resistance. "[97] Cross testified that she would usually have accompanied her friends into the basement lounge to change into robes for the forthcoming sermon, but she had been given an assignment. The police were reportedly responding to black youths throwing rocks at cars driven by white people. [22]:57 Although the Cahaba Boys had fewer than 30 active members,[58] among them were Thomas Blanton Jr., Herman Cash, Robert Chambliss, and Bobby Cherry. The church's pastor, the Reverend John Cross Jr., attempted to placate the crowd by loudly reciting the 23rd Psalm through a bullhorn. These instructions were relayed to the crowd present by a single youth with a bullhorn. [55][56], As the girls' coffins were taken to their graves, King directed that those present remain solemn and forbade any singing, shouting or demonstrations. [125], When asked by the judge whether he had anything to say before sentence was imposed, Cherry motioned to the prosecutors and stated: "This whole bunch lied through this thing [the trial]. In the weeks following the September 4 integration of public schools, three additional bombs were detonated in Birmingham. 16th Street Baptist Church interior after the bombing . He said the U.S. Army "ought to come to Birmingham and take over this city and run it.". Fifty years ago, less than a month after the 1963 March on Washington, a bomb exploded at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL, killing four young African-American girls. ". - Riots break out, and two African-American boys, Virgil. Updated BIRMINGHAM, Ala. Maxine McNair, the last living parent of any of the four Black girls killed in a 1963 Alabama church bombing, died Sunday. There had been a history of mistrust between local and federal investigators. Described by Martin Luther King Jr. as "one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity,"[5] the explosion at the church killed four girls and injured between 14 and 22 other people. The bells of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., tolled Monday in remembrance of the four girls who were killed in a bombing at the church 40 years ago. "[66], Bobby Frank Cherry died of cancer on November 18, 2004, at age 74, while incarcerated at the Kilby Correctional Facility. Robinson, aged 16, was shot in the back by a policeman as he fled down an alley,[41] after ignoring police orders to halt. 4:37 PM EDT, Wed September 25, 2013, A grieving relative is led away from the site of the. Given the state's disenfranchisement of most black people since the turn of the century, by making voter registration essentially impossible, few of the city's black residents were registered to vote. Family and friends of Carole Robertson attend graveside services for her in Birmingham on September 17, 1963. distributed by home box office studio productions, 102a east 23rd street, new york, ny 10010, phone (212) "[32], The prosecution called a total of seven witnesses to testify in their case against Blanton, including relatives of the victims, John Cross, the former pastor of the 16th Street Baptist Church; an FBI agent named William Fleming, and Mitchell Burns, a former Klansman who had become a paid FBI informant. [58] By the time of the announcement, Herman Cash had also died; however, Thomas Blanton and Bobby Cherry were still alive. [50] Reportedly, Carole's mother, Alpha, had expressly requested that her daughter be buried separately from the other victims. She spoke with News4's Molette Green about . Barbara Ann Cross also testified for the prosecution. The date and the story of the enslaved Africans have become symbolic of slaverys roots, read more, From February 13 to February 15, 1945, during the final months of World War II (1939-45), Allied forces bombed the historic city of Dresden, located in eastern Germany. May 1, 2001 - Blanton is found guilty of first-degree murder and is sentenced to four life terms. [95], On May 16, 2000, a grand jury in Alabama indicted Thomas Edwin Blanton and Bobby Frank Cherry on eight counts each in relation to the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. May 22, 2002 - Cherry is found guilty and given a sentence of four life terms. All Rights Reserved. Don Cochran disputed this position, arguing that Alabama law provides for "conspiracies to conceal evidence" to be proven by both inference and circumstantial evidence. The day of the bombing, the church was full of its members as well as children who were attending Sunday school. [102] He said: "You've got to have a meeting to plan a bomb. It was September 15,1963 11:00 AM at The 16th Street Baptist Church (United States National Park Service). Three former Ku Klux Klan members are eventually convicted of murder for the bombing. September 15, 2013, marked the 50th anniversary of the bombing. This page was last edited on 2 January 2023, at 22:29. "[63], On May 13, 1965, local investigators and the FBI formally named Blanton, Cash, Chambliss, and Cherry as the perpetrators of the bombing, with Robert Chambliss the likely ringleader of the four. 9:01 AM EDT, Wed September 7, 2022, A grieving relative is led away from the site of the. 2023 Cable News Network. READ MORE: Civil Rights Movement Timeline, https://www.history.com/topics/1960s/birmingham-church-bombing. Following the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, newly-inaugurated President Lyndon Johnson continued to press for passage of the civil rights bill sought by his predecessor. [8], In the years leading up to the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, Birmingham had earned a national reputation as a tense, violent and racially segregated city, in which even tentative racial integration in any form was met with violent resistance. [115][116], Blanton died in prison from unspecified causes on June 26, 2020.[117]. Although this march was met with fierce resistance and criticism, and 600 arrests were made on the first day alone, the Birmingham campaign and its Children's Crusade continued until May 5. At 10:22 a.m. on the morning of September 15, 1963, some 200 church members were in the buildingmany attending Sunday school classes before the start of the 11 am servicewhen the bomb detonated on the churchs east side, spraying mortar and bricks from the front of the church and caving in its interior walls. All Rights Reserved. birmingham church bombing victims autopsy. The bombing, perpetrated by a white supremacist, became a defining moment of the Civil Rights Movement and sparked the outrage that led to the . [46]:386 On September 29, he was indicted upon charges of illegally purchasing and transporting dynamite on September 4, 1963. This group had previously been linked to several bomb attacks at black-owned businesses and the homes of black community leaders throughout the spring and summer of 1963. Now the Jury Must Decide", "Bobby Frank Cherry, 74, Klansman in Bombing, Dies", "Gary T. Rowe Jr., 64, Who Informed on Klan In Civil Rights Killing, Is Dead", "Long Fight Predicted In Case Against Rowe", "Paid FBI Informer Tells Of Murder, Silence", "Memorial Dedicated For Church Bombing Victims On Anniversary", "Siblings of the bombing: Remembering Birmingham church blast 50 years on", "Girl Living in Darkness After Church Bombing", "Alabama church bombing victims honoured by Welsh window", "American civil rights: the Welsh connection", "Death spares scrutiny of Cash in bomb probe", "Pastor Was At Church When Bomb Killed Four", United States Government Publishing Office, "A History of American Protest: When Nina Simone Sang what Everyone was Thinking", "American Guernica, LKM Music - Hal Leonard Online", "Still Reeling From the Day Death Came to Birmingham", "Television Review: A Father's Guilt; A Son's Wrenching Decision", "That Which Might Have Been, Birmingham 1963 - Phoenix, Arizona - Smithsonian Art Inventory Sculptures on Waymarking.com", "Memorial project for 16th Street Baptist Church bombing raises $200,000 of $250,000 goal", "Four Spirits unveiled across from Sixteenth Street Baptist Church", "Four Spirits Statue, Memorial to 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing Victims, Unveiled", Details of Robert Chambliss's 1979 appeal against his conviction, John F. Kennedy's speech to the nation on Civil Rights, Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States, Chicago Freedom Movement/Chicago open housing movement, Green v. County School Board of New Kent County, Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights, Council for United Civil Rights Leadership, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), "Woke Up This Morning (With My Mind Stayed On Freedom)", List of lynching victims in the United States, Spring Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam, Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=16th_Street_Baptist_Church_bombing&oldid=1131172578, African-American history in Birmingham, Alabama, Attacks on religious buildings and structures in the United States, Massacres in religious buildings and structures, Racially motivated violence against African Americans, September 1963 events in the United States, Terrorist incidents in the United States in 1963, Short description is different from Wikidata, All Wikipedia articles written in American English, Articles containing potentially dated statements from 2023, All articles containing potentially dated statements, Articles with unsourced statements from September 2020, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License 3.0. On April 10, 2001, Judge James Garrett indefinitely postponed Cherry's trial, pending further medical analysis. September 17, 2013. One of several vehicles severely damaged in the explosion was found to have carried fishing tackle.[120]). Bombings at black homes[13] and institutions were a regular occurrence, with at least 21 separate explosions recorded at black properties and churches in the eight years before 1963. In his closing argument for the prosecution, Don Cochran said the victims' "Youth Sunday [sermon] never happened because it was destroyed by this defendant's hate. Less than one minute later, the bomb exploded. [17], Hundreds of individuals, some of them lightly wounded, converged on the church to search the debris for survivors as police erected barricades around the church and several outraged men scuffled with police. Investigators also gathered numerous witness statements attesting to a group of white men in a turquoise 1957 Chevrolet who had been seen near the church in the early hours of the morning of September 15. By Rowe's own later admission, while serving as an FBI informant, he had shot and killed an unidentified black man and had been an accessory to the murder of Viola Liuzzo.[129]. Relatives of the slain girls, prosecutor Doug Jones, Alabama Chief Deputy Attorney General Alice Martin, and Jefferson County district attorney Brandon Falls each spoke at the hearing to oppose Blanton's parole. In Birmingham, hundreds gathered at the church for a commemorative service and wreath-laying at the spot where the bomb went off. Both named individuals were charged with four counts of first-degree murder, and four counts of universal malice. Continuing to maintain his innocence, Chambliss died in prison in 1985. [12] The city had no black police officers or firefighters[12] and most black residents could expect to find menial employment in professions such as cooks and cleaners. He had repeatedly proclaimed his innocence, insisting Gary Thomas Rowe Jr. was the actual perpetrator. [94] They unsealed 9,000 pieces of evidence previously gathered by the FBI in the 1960s (many of these documents relating to the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing had not been made available to DA William Baxley in the 1970s). An estimated 2,000 black people converged on the scene in the hours following the explosion. It was later revealed that the FBI had information concerning the identity of the bombers by 1965 and did nothing. The 16th Street Baptist Church served as a rallying point during the civil rights movement. On January 20, 1961, the handsome and charismatic John F. Kennedy became president of the United States. [81], In his closing argument before the jury on November 17,[82] Baxley acknowledged that Chambliss was not the sole perpetrator of the bombing. [79] He testified that Chambliss had visited his headquarters in 1976 and that he had attempted to affix the blame for the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing upon an altogether different member of the KKK. 1965 - Suspects emerge: Bobby Frank Cherry, Thomas Blanton, Robert Chambliss and Herman Frank Cash, all Ku Klux Klan members. [59] Although he met with initial resistance from the FBI,[48]:278 in 1976 Baxley was formally presented with some of the evidence which had been compiled by the FBI, after he publicly threatened to expose the Department of Justice for withholding evidence which could result in the prosecution of the perpetrators of the bombing.[74]. [144], 1963 white supremacist terrorist attack in Birmingham, Alabama, United States, The four girls killed in the bombing (clockwise from top left) Addie Mae Collins (14), Cynthia Wesley (14), Carole Robertson (14), and Carol Denise McNair (11), Shuttlesworth v. Birmingham Board of Education, Armstrong v. Birmingham Board of Education, Smith v. Young Men's Christian Association, University of Alabama desegregation crisis, Tuskegee High School desegregation crisis, 1963 Birmingham campaign's Children's Crusade, Mass racial violence in the United States, Racial segregation of churches in the United States, Timeline of terrorist attacks in the United States, "How Much Has Changed Since the Birmingham Church Bombing? Although no city officials attended this service,[53] an estimated 800 clergymen of all races were among the attendees. [101], The most crucial piece of evidence presented at Blanton's trial was an audio recording secretly taped by the FBI in June 1964, in which Blanton was recorded discussing his involvement in the bombing with his wife, who can be heard accusing her husband of conducting an affair with a woman named Waylen Vaughn two nights before the bombing. ), Both counsels delivered their closing arguments before the jury on May 1. )[22]:63. February 20, 2006 - The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church is declared a national historic landmark. Robinson died before reaching the hospital. Johnson warned the jurors they would have to distinguish between evidence and proof. On September 18, the funeral of the three other girls killed in the bombing was held at the Sixth Avenue Baptist Church. [48]), Chambliss was questioned by the FBI on September 26. Both the church and the bereaved families received an estimated $23,000 in cash donations from members of the public. The Birmingham church bombing occurred on September 15, 1963, when a bomb exploded before Sunday morning services at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabamaa church with a predominantly Black congregation that also served as a meeting place for civil rights leaders. "[9] Birmingham's Commissioner of Public Safety, Theophilus Eugene "Bull" Connor,[10] led the effort in enforcing racial segregation in the city through the use of violent tactics. "[88][89], On the same afternoon that Chambliss's guilty verdict was announced, prosecutor Baxley issued a subpoena to Thomas Blanton to appear in court about the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. The most seriously injured survivor of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, Sarah Jean Collins, remained hospitalized for more than two months, Within two days of the church bombing, Petts had contacted then-pastor of the church, the Reverend John Cross, announcing he had launched a fundraising campaign to create this sculpture via an appeal conducted through the, John Petts died in 1991 at the age of 77. [80] Moreover, Cobbs testified on November 16 that, on the day before the bombing, Chambliss had told her that he had in his possession enough dynamite to "flatten half of Birmingham". [118] Cherry pleaded not guilty to the charges and did not testify on his own behalf during the trial. 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