BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The 59th anniversary of the bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church is set to kick off in Birmingham next month.
On September 15, 1963, the Ku Klux Klan planted a bomb in the church, killing four girls– Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Addie Mae Collins– and injuring Sarah Collins Rudolph, sister of Addie Collins.
On Thursday, Sept. 15, the church will host its annual day of remembrance with a special guest speaker Tony Evans, pastor at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas and a syndicated broadcaster on radio and television.
“September 15 is a hallowed day,” Birmingham Mayor Randall L. Woodfin said in a release. “Four little girls lost their lives because of the hate that ruled in our city nearly sixty years ago. Today, as a Black man serving as the mayor, I stand in the light of their legacy in a new Birmingham – one of acceptance, equality and love.”
The day will kick off at 10 a.m. with a memorial service and inspirational message by Evans. At 11 a.m., there will be a ribbon cutting at the 16th Street parsonage, honoring the completion of the restoration and re-purposing of the 1914 structure. The parsonage will display an exhibit that tells the stories of three men who helped to build Birmingham’s Black community in the late 1800s and early 1900s: Wallace A. Rayfield, the second formally educated practicing African American architect in the United States and the designer of the church building and parsonage; William Pettiford, founder of the Alabama Penny Savings Bank and former pastor of 16th Street church; and T. C. Windham, the contractor for the building project and chairman of the church’s trustee board.
The day concludes with a community luncheon at noon in the parking lot of the church at 6th Avenue North.
“As one of the custodians of the historic 16th Street Baptist Church and the story of these little girls, it brings me joy to reflect and see how far we have come,” 16th Street pastor Rev. Arthur Price said. “Still, I acknowledge that we have much further to go. We cannot stop sharing the lessons from September 15, 1963, and also working to bring about peace in our community. We do this for Addie, Denise, Carole and Cynthia so that their deaths will not be in vain.”
The events are free and open to the public. For more information, go to 16thstreetbaptist.org.