Obama Signs Bill Awarding 1963 Birmingham Bombing Victims Congressional Medal of Honor

US President Barack Obama (4th L) signs a bill in the Oval Office designating the Congressional Gold Medal to commemorate the four young girls killed during the 1963 bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, as (L-R) Birmingham Mayor William Bell, Dr Sharon Malone Holder, Attorney General Eric Holder, Rep Terri Sewell (D-AL), Thelma Pippen McNair, mother of Denise McNair, Lisa McNair, sister of Denise McNair and Dianne Braddock, sister of Carole Robertson look on May 24, 2013 in Washington, DC. The medal, the highest Congressional civilian honor, was given posthumously to Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Denise McNair who died September 15, 1963 when a bomb planted bywhite supremacists exploded exploded at the church. (Photo by Mike Theiler-Pool/Getty Images
US President Barack Obama (4th L) signs a bill in the Oval Office designating the Congressional Gold Medal to commemorate the four young girls killed during the 1963 bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, as (L-R) Birmingham Mayor William Bell, Dr Sharon Malone Holder, Attorney General Eric Holder, Rep Terri Sewell (D-AL), Thelma Pippen McNair, mother of Denise McNair, Lisa McNair, sister of Denise McNair and Dianne Braddock, sister of Carole Robertson look on May 24, 2013 in Washington, DC. The medal, the highest Congressional civilian honor, was given posthumously to Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Denise McNair who died September 15, 1963 when a bomb planted bywhite supremacists exploded exploded at the church. (Photo by Mike Theiler-Pool/Getty Images

President Barack Obama is set to sign a bill Friday that awards the Congressional Gold Medal posthumously to the four African-American girls killed in the 1963 Birmingham church bombing. The children were murdered when a bomb planted by white supremacists exploded at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, in September 1963.

The deadly blast at the church, which civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. used as a meeting place, was pivotal turning point in the Civil Rights Movement and sparked support for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Not only did the explosion kill the four girls- — Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Denise McNair – another 22 people were injured.

The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian award given in the United States. It is awarded to people “who have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient’s field long after the achievement.”

Each award is specifically designed by the United States mint and individual to the person honored.  The signing ceremony is scheduled to take place Friday afternoon, with members of the Alabama congressional delegation and some family of the four girls killed expected to attend at the White House.  Alabama Reps. Terri Sewell and Spencer Bachus sponsored the bill, which received final approval May 9.

“This bill signing recognizes the legacy of four beautiful little girls whose lives, while far too short, led to permanent change in our society and became an honored part of the civil rights movement,” said Rep. Bachus in a statement.

Although Congress has shown broad support for awarding the medal, the idea has split relatives of the four victims. Some are supportive, but relatives of Addie Mae Collins and Cynthia Wesley have both said they do not want the congressional honor but financial compensation.

Recent recipients include those who died in the September 11 terror attacks and Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish humanitarian who helped thousands of Jews to flee Nazi-occupied Hungary during the Holocaust.

Others who have received the medal include Jackie Robinson, former President Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy, and Pope John Paul II.  September will mark the 50th anniversary of the church bombing. Three Ku Klux Klan members were convicted years after the attack. Two are dead, with one is still serving his sentence in prison.

article by Kunbi Tinuoye via thegrio.com

5 thoughts on “Obama Signs Bill Awarding 1963 Birmingham Bombing Victims Congressional Medal of Honor”

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  2. CONGRESSIONAL GOLD MEDAL (of Honor)

    “I’m goin’ for the gold” was one family’s reply when they were asked how they felt about reparations for civil rights victims in Birmingham.

    FATE MORRIS, brother of Cynthia Morris (aka “Wesley” which is incorrect) has tried for 15 years to clarify the following FACT:

    The State of Alabama ACKNOWLEDGES that Cynthia “Dionne Wesley” is in fact; Cynthia Diane Morris after probate hearings and admission by the late Gertrude and Claude Wesley that they had NEVER adopted Cynthia. Finally, Cynthia’s Death Certificate was considered non-valid without an attached page; the Amended Death Certificate.

    Fate, like Sarah, sought legal help to ensure the historical time-line would be corrected. But, Fate was told “to allow Cynthia to die a Wesley; it would be too much trouble to change text books, Cynthia’s name on plaques, headstones, and statues.

    Can YOU imagine losing your child or sibling via murder, her decapitated body resting in a casket near her friends the day MLK eulogized them? Can you imagine what it would FEEL like to have the Wesley’s tell you they would help with funeral expenses by sending a car to retrieve the family for the funeral …. but the car never came. The Morris family summoned a taxi cab. When they arrived at the church, the funeral director promptly escorted Mrs. Morris and her children to the back of the church sanctuary, and then proceeded to have the Wesley’s stand by Cynthia’s casket!

    This gesture resulted in withdrawal by Mrs. Morris. Mrs. Morris was so grief stricken that she said “she was unable to engage in a public battle with the Wesley family. Cynthia’s siblings have relied on fate Morris to make sure that Cynthia’s name stands corrected and that her remains are relocated to the Morris plot.

    A few weeks ago, Fate was pressured by the families of the “Gold Medal” recipients; whom tried to coerce him into releasing Cynthia’s image and name to the US Mint. Fate refused when he asked “what name would be used.” The caller said, “Wesley.” Fate erupted and explained why he again had to refuse the medal. The caller’s response, “It’s only a name.”

    How would YOU FEEL if YOUR sibling or child was murdered and then her identity stolen? For half a century, Cynthia’s true identity has been fraudulently concealed.

    Every time Fate’s sister is referred to as Wesley, Fate feels as though he’s been “punched in the gut.”

    It’s time we return Cynthia Morris “home” – to her family.

  3. I was residing with a White family near Princeton, New Jersey when the eldest child of that Quaker family presented me with the newspaper headline of the murder of my four Sunday School classmates. I was in the second wave of participants in the American Friends Service Committee’s Southern Negro Student Project, which placed Southern Negro students with White families in the North and East of the U.S. as a kind of cross-cultural or interracial “experiment” if you will. Angela Davis had been the first to be placed, the previous year. My reaction to the shocking news – having to an extent already succumb to the overwhelming friendliness of Whites in Princeton and surrounding communities – was quite costly. I really showed no reaction to the news at all. I suppose I was still not ready to allow a White person to see my pain. This led to many years of denial, unresolved anger, psychic pain and personal destructiveness. It would have been “nice” if I could have just faced the pain that day in September of 1963. The fact is that that event and others prior to it in Birmingham and the world at large, motivated me to research our situation in this country. The question is, why were the four little girls even physically present in Birmingham, Alabama on September 15, 1963 to be murdered? They were there because their ancestors were captured by force of arms and removed by force from their domiciles of origin in Africa, illegally transported across seas to a forced jurisdiction in the United States where they were made physical slaves by force of arms and U.S. Constitutional Public Law. So the U.S. is just as implicated in this heinous crime as is the Alabama Klan. The only reason U.S. African Slave Descendants have not been paid Reparations for U.S. Slavery – some survivors in this case desired financial compensation for the crimes – is that there has yet to be an effective demand. Every people who has made an effective demand has been paid by the U.S. The fact there has not yet been an effective demand by U.S. African Slave Descendants rather speaks to the effectiveness of the crime and speaks to why it is so relatively “easy” to make apologies without payment and to present gold medals to the dead. There is no historical precedent for Reparations having been paid without an effective demand.

    1. Rep. John Conyers, Jr. authored a bill; H.R. 40, seeking reparations for African Americans due to slavery.
      The bill has since died. The problem with reparations based on slavery is this: slavery was instituted by affluent land owners, trade (export/import merchants), and other “business entities.” In other words, the US Government did not issue a mandate, coercing Africans into slavery – wealthy business people imported cheap labor and established slavery as a common practice.

      However, what IS FRUSTRATING is the disparity between reparations for victims of hate crimes. Sarah Collins Rudolph, dubbed the “Fifth Little Girl” in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963 lost her sister, Addie Mae in a violent murder detonated by hatred. She lost her right eye in the blast. Her “good eye” – (the left eye) – is dimming with glaucoma and still receives surgical procedures to this very day resulting from the explosion on 9-15-1963.

      The bombing was committed by KKK affiliates with connections to Birmingham PD, AHP, and other local, state, and federal officials; whom refused to thwart efforts by segregationists-turned-informants. In fact, often elected officials and law enforcement personnel were complicit in criminal activities.

      This is why is especially interesting to note that Mr. Conyers also issued another bill; H.R. 98, The Tulsa, OK Race Riot Accountability Act. The former Chairman of the House Judiciary states:

      “The case of the Tulsa-Greenwood Riot victims is worthy of congressional attention because substantial evidence suggests that governmental officials deputized and armed the mob and that the National Guard joined in the destruction. The report commissioned by the Oklahoma State Legislature in 1997, and published in 2001, uncovered new information and detailed, for the first time, the extent of the involvement by the state and city government in prosecuting and erasing evidence of the riot.”

      Ironically; this is PRECISELY what happened in Birmingham.

      Sarah’s goals to become a nurse were vaporized by the blast. PTSD is a daily occurrence.

      Addie Mae Collins, (Sarah’s sister), was buried in Greenwood Cemetery. The Collins family decided to exhume her grave and relocate Addie’s remains to the “family cemetery.” However, during the exhumation process, the family learned that the casket did NOT contain the remains of Addie Mae Collins, but those of an older female with dentures!

      In initial litigation, Sarah was “shut down” via a Statute of Repose, preventing her from future legal redress.

      To this day, Sarah and her family still do NOT know what happened to Addie Mae’s remains.

      And, you wonder why Sarah has refused the Congressional Gold Medal?!
      __________________

      See more in the next segment ……

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