WASHINGTON (AP) — House and Senate leaders on Tuesday awarded Congress’ highest civilian honor to four girls killed in the Alabama church bombing nearly 50 years ago that became a watershed moment in the civil rights movement.
The Congressional Gold Medal went to Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, who were all 14, and Denise McNair, who was 11. The ceremony came five days before the 50th anniversary of their deaths inside the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham.
“Their names remain seared in our hearts,” said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California. She was joined at the commemoration by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada, Republican House Speaker John Boehner and cmembers of Alabama’s congressional delegation. Along with the many lawmakers in the crowd paying tribute were director Spike Lee, and several relatives of the girls.