Sunday, July 02, 2006

Martyred heroines of a holy crusade for freedom and dignity

On the morning of September 15, 1963, a member of the Ku Klux Klan threw a packet of dynamite sticks through the basement window of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The church was a rallying center for Blacks demanding for human rights. At about 10:25 AM, with 80 children walking into the basement assembly room for closing prayers after hearing the ironically-titled sermon, "The Love That Forgives" on the church's Youth Day, the bombs exploded. Four young girls were killed and twenty others were seriously wounded. The slain were Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, all fourteen, and Denise McNair, who was only eleven. They were changing into their choir robes when the bomb exploded.
The explosion blew a hole in the church's rear wall, destroyed the back steps and left standing only the frames of all but one stained glass window. The lone window to withstand the blast was one in which Jesus Christ was leading young children, although Christ's face had been destroyed. In addition, five cars behind the church were damaged, with two of them destroyed, while windows in the laundry across the street were blown out.
In the funeral of the four girls, Martin Luther King called them “martyred heroines of a holy crusade for freedom and human dignity.” Then, he said to the parents of the girls:
“Your children did not live long, but they lived well. The quantity of their lives was disturbingly small, but the quality of their lices was magnificently big. Where they died and what they were doing when death came will remain a marvelous tribute to each of you and an eternal epitaph to each of them. . . . They died within the sacred walls of the church after discussing a principle as eternal as love.”


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