Obama awards top U.S. honor to girls killed in 1963 racial bombing

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    President Barack Obama awarded the highest U.S. civilian honor on Friday to four black girls killed in a civil rights-era church bombing 50 years ago, saying their tragic deaths ultimately "helped to trigger triumph."

    Obama awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to 14-year-olds Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, and 11-year-old Denise McNair, who were killed in the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.
    "That tragic loss, that heartbreak helped to trigger triumph, and a more just and equal and fair America," Obama said. ...

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/...94N0XO20130524
    Elvish, TheCommuter, and aknottedyarn like this.

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  2. 9 Comments...

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    Thanks for posting this news. Congressional Medals, voted on by 2/3 Congress, are awarded to persons "who have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient's field long after the achievement"

    I remember watching this event on the news when I was a child. Last year while traveling to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, I visited 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham with my Dad. We had a personal tour of the Church given by one of the male parishioners waiting to hold a weekly support group. It brought a flood of memories back regarding the struggle for integration of schools and housing --there was a fire bombing of home 1/2 mile from my grade school a year after this event.

    As we were leaving, the gentlemen held our hands and spontaneously prayed with my Dad and I for a safe journey...not something done in our Catholic faith. Later in our trip, we barely avoided a 3 car pileup; Dad and I looked at each other and said simultaneously "that prayer worked".

    How fitting that the first African American President bestowed this Congressional Medal award. As a country, we are much better off for having undergone this struggle. Need to wake up Congress that the current political bickering is similar to these struggles of 50 yrs ago and we need to start working collaboratively to move forward.
    Last edit by NRSKarenRN on May 25, '13
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    I have met many people who were moved to work for civil rights after those girls were killed. It was so clearly tragic and wrong.

    Thank you Karen..What a wonderful experience you had.
    When attending NTI in 1988 a friend and I went o the MLK memorial. We were invited to come inside the Ebenezer Baptist Church. They had alzheimers day care there. A smiling man said, "How nice to have nurses attend our meeting,"
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    Quote from NRSKarenRN
    Thanks for posting this news. Congressional Medals, voted on by 2/3 Congress, are awarded to persons "who have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient's field long after the achievement"
    As tragic an event as this was I fail to see how the victims of a crime qualifies one to receive this award. Should it not also be awarded to all the victims of 9/11, OK. City bombing, Boston Marathon bombing, Newtown School shooting, etc?
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    ‘Four little girls’ killed in 1963 church bombing honored with Congressional Gold Medal

    Washington Post
    By Scott Wilson, Published: May 24 E-mail the writer

    “Four little girls” received in death Friday one of the country’s highest civilian awards, as the nation’s first African American president honored some of the youngest victims in the historic fight for equal rights.

    In the Oval Office, President Obama signed a bill designating the Congressional Gold Medal to the four girls killed on Sept. 15, 1963, when the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham was bombed by a group of Ku Klux Klan members.

    The girls’ names were Addie Mae Collins, 14; Denise McNair, 11; Carole Robertson, 14; and Cynthia Wesley, 14. They died inside their Sunday school classrooms when dynamite, set to explode by a timer, blew up the African American church.

    The attack that killed the girls and injured 22 other churchgoers marked a turning point in the American struggle for civil rights. Propelled in part by public outrage over the bombing, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act the next year.

    Obama has often spoken gratefully about those who participated in the civil rights movement, acknowledging that he probably would not have been elected president without the risks they took in pursuit of equal rights.

    ...The killing of the four little girls, as they became known, came as the conflict over desegregation was escalating across the South.

    The 16th Street Baptist Church was a hub for civil rights activists in the city, and a meeting place for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Abernathy and other movement leaders.

    At the time of the bombing, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Congress of Racial Equality had become involved in an effort to register the city’s black voters, stirring violent opposition.

    “That tragic loss, that heartbreak, helped to trigger triumph and a more just and equal and fair America,” Obama said of the girls’ deaths...
    herring_RN and TheCommuter like this.
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    Quote from HM-8404
    As tragic an event as this was I fail to see how the victims of a crime qualifies one to receive this award. Should it not also be awarded to all the victims of 9/11, OK. City bombing, Boston Marathon bombing, Newtown School shooting, etc?
    If the tragic and horrifically violent demise of the victims provided the spark needed for sweeping social change, then yes, I feel these four girls deserved this posthumous accolade.
    aknottedyarn and herring_RN like this.
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    Quote from TheCommuter
    If the tragic and horrifically violent demise of the victims provided the spark needed for sweeping social change, then yes, I feel these four girls deserved this posthumous accolade.
    This took place in my "neck of the woods."

    Here is a little recent history, although somewhat embarrassing.

    In 2003 the city of Birmingham was going to honor the four little girls by doing something special at their gravesite.

    Kind of touching so far... When the City Counsel was deciding exactly what they were going to do they realized none of them knew where the girls were buried. They discovered the graves of three of the girls in an old overgrown cemetery. Volunteers got out with axes and bush hogs and such to cut back the overgrowth. It took about two weeks to get the place cleaned up enough to resemble a cemetery. During this time they realized the 4th girl was buried someplace else and nobody knew where. The local media put out the word the City was trying to locate the burial site of the fourth girl. Finally a relative, uncle maybe, came forward and told where he thought she was buried.

    These were not Civil War burial sites, but from 1963!

    I can't help but believe this is purely political and nothing more.
    herring_RN likes this.
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    I believe these girls' deaths were catalysts for change. Positive change. It really does not surprise me that they had been forgotten in the 50 years after their deaths. When they died they were just another few "colored children". In retrospect we can see how their deaths became a rallying spot for the end of the cruelty of that era. Their church was not the only one bombed. I recall news reports of many such bombings.

    It may be seen as political. I suspect you are using this word in a pejorative way. Not all politics are bad. There can be political statements such as this that recognize in a formal way the turning of the tide. We see it in war often.This war, that included bombing of churches, now has a "label" identifying a battleground where the tide was turned.
    TheCommuter and herring_RN like this.
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    Addendum: I do believe 1963 was another Civil War. The losses continue as some still seem to be fighting "The War Against Northern Aggression". (New NRA head).

    Unmarked graves are common for people who have changed history. My great uncle Warren was one such person.

    I am glad these young girls have no long been forgotten.
    tewdles, TheCommuter, and herring_RN like this.
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    This was just weeks after the
    I Have a Dream" speech. I was in California just starting college when the bombing happened. Many students began making plans to do something. It led to "Freedom Summer" when people from above the Mason-Dixon line and western states came south for voter registration. Killing children in church certainly created a realization of how bad discrimination was. I many people it caused them to act together to do something.
    tewdles, aknottedyarn, and TheCommuter like this.


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