Tag: Cynthia Wesley

Congress Honors ’4 Little Girls’, Civil Rights Era Bombing Victims

President and CEO of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute Lawrence Pijeaux, front, lays on a table the Congressional Gold Medal posthumously awarded in honor of Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley, the four young black girls who lost their lives in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, on September 15, 1963, presented by Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner, back center, during a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013. Others are, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., from back left, Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala., Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., obscured, unidentified, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
President and CEO of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute Lawrence Pijeaux, front, lays on a table the Congressional Gold Medal posthumously awarded in honor of Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley, the four young black girls who lost their lives in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, on September 15, 1963, presented by Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner, back center, during a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013. Others are, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., from back left, Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala., Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., obscured, unidentified, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

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.

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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.”

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