BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — September 15, 1963 is a day that will forever be remembered in Birmingham.
59 years ago, Ku Klux Klan members bombed 16th Street Baptist church, killing four little girls: Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Carol Denise McNair.
Late civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King described the bombing as one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity.
The bombing contributed to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Three events will commemorate the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing on Thursday.
At 10 am, a memorial service will happen at 16th Street Baptist Church where Dr. Tony Evans will speak.
A ribbon cutting for the repurposing of 16th Street’s parsonage building will be at 11 am, and the day of events will conclude with a community luncheon at noon.
The senior pastor of 16th Street Baptist Church, Reverend Arthur Price, tells CBS 42 that repurposing the parsonage building will honor three men who were vital to how Birmingham was built in the late 1800s and 1900s.
“William Pettiford was a former pastor of the church who started the Alabama Penny Savings Bank,” Price said. “Wallace Rayfield was the second licensed African American architect in the country, T.C. Windham was a trustee chairman here but also had a construction company that helped build the church that we are standing in today,”
The national park service awarded $500,000 to 16th Street Baptist Church to help restore its historic parsonage.
16th Street Baptist Church has attracted visitors from across the country.
Jalen Williams visited the church for the first time Wednesday.
He and his mom are visiting Birmingham from Maryland and wanted to see historical sites while in the city.
Jalen says the bombing is a historical moment that people cannot forget. He says understanding the past helps understand the future and use your voice to help make a change.
“Stand firm for who you are as a black man and black woman and know that things are still happening today, and we can prevent it because we have the power to and the heart to,” Williams said.
A congressional gold medal was posthumously awarded to the victims in 2013.