On this day in Alabama history: Four girls died in 16th Street bombing

Sept. 15, 1963

Four girls – Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley – were murdered in Sunday school on this day by Klansmen who planted a bomb at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. The church had been targeted as a frequent gathering place for civil rights protesters, who used the building to plan nonviolent campaigns and demonstrations. The explosion galvanized a community and outraged the nation, and served as a turning point in the civil rights movement. In 1971, years after the FBI closed the case without filing charges, Alabama Attorney General Bill Baxley reopened the case. On Nov. 18, 1977, Robert Chambliss was tried, convicted of murder, and sentenced to life in prison. Two decades passed before Thomas Blanton Jr. and Bobby Frank Cherry were charged in the murder of the four girls. In 2001, Blanton was prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Cherry was tried, convicted and sentenced to life in 2002.

Read more at Encyclopedia of Alabama.

For more on Alabama’s Bicentennial, visit Alabama 200.

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