Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Remember These Four Little Girls

4 girlThere are so many atrocious things that were inflicted upon people of African descent from the beginning of our journey in this place the slaves called “merica”. I am here to report that the horrible murder of four little girls in Birmingham on September 15th, 1963 was without question the worst. It was a Sunday morning while these baby's were attending Sunday school when a bomb exploded at the 16th Street Baptist Church .

Today we are talking about the heinous murders that recently occurred at Sandy Hooks Elementary School that shocked America. What happened when the ground floor of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church collapsed from a terrorist attack by members of the KKK killing for innocent little black girls, while they were attending a Sunday school session, was equally, if not, far more shocking to the world. These four children were in the church basement preparing for the morning service.

All four girls died – Denise McNair, aged 11, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley and Carol Robertson, all aged 14. Many others were injured. Despite the many racial crimes committed in the South, this one was greeted with abject horror. Despite the deaths of four young girls, and the many that were injured, no-one was initially arrested for this crime even though the authorities suspected four men within days of the outrage. Frankly, the authorities placed little value on the lives of Colored People which was one of the reasons to not investigate or apprehend the suspects.

If I can take you back to the era; Birmingham was ground zero for the civil rights movement and the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was an organizational centre for much of the movement’s activities. In particular, youths used the church to help plan strategies to get more black high school children involved in the civil rights cause. In the Spring of 1963, stores in downtown Birmingham had been desegregated and just days before the bombing, schools in Birmingham had been ordered by a federal court to integrate – nearly ten years after the Brown v Board of Education ruling. Of course, the Klan and many racists would not accept this decision nor the successes the civil rights movement.

The chief of police in the city, Bull Connor, was very anti-civil rights and had ordered that police dogs and fire hoses used on civil rights demonstrators in May 1963. Birmingham was well known as a stronghold of the KKK. The influence of the KKK was such that children’s books that showed black and white rabbits together were banned from sale in book shops in the city. Segregation was the norm in the city. Violence against the black community in Birmingham was not unusual but the deliberate bombing of a church took that violence to a new level.

In 1965, J Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, stated that any chance of prosecution was “remote” and in 1968, the FBI pulled out of the investigation. Initially, no-one was arrested for the outrage. Eventually, a known member of the KKK was arrested in 1977 – Robert Chambliss. He was sent to prison and died there in 1985. However, many believed that he was not the only one involved.

In 1980, a US Department of Justice report stated that Hoover had blocked evidence that could have been used in the pursuit of suspects. This led to the Alabama district attorney reopening the case. However, while the case was reopened no new charges were filed.

In October 1988, Gary A Tucker admitted that he had helped set up the bomb. Dying of cancer, no charge was laid against him but federal and state prosecutors reopened their investigations. In May 2000, Thomas Blanton and Bobby Frank Cherry surrendered to the authorities after they were indicted on four counts of first-degree murder and “universal malice”. One year later, Blanton, aged 62, was sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty on four counts of murder.

Blandon said after the verdict was announced "I guess the good Lord will settle it on Judgment Day". Bobby Frank Cherry was initially deemed to be mentally unfit to stand trial. However, this was overturned and he was found guilty after members of his family gave evidence against him.

The role of the FBI has been criticized by some with regards to this case, particularly the role played by J Edgar Hoover. It was only after 14 years that the FBI released 9,000 files relevant to the case – including the so-called ‘Kitchen Tapes’ in which Thomas Blandon was heard telling his wife about building the bomb and planning to use it.

This case which went unsolved for so long speaks to the depth of racial hatred in America not all that long ago. It was more shocking to our community that the powers that be knew who the culprits were and failed to act. Or was the system of injustice so pervasive that their actions were the result of institutional approval. There is a movement today for these four little girls to receive the Medal of Honor. I, for one, think they are deserving of this high honor because their lives were innocently sacrificed for a cause they never really understood.

I pray that the souls of Denise McNair, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley and Carol Robertson Rest In Peace for all eternity. God Bless each of you!!! And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

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