The Change of the Birmingham Bombing

By: Cypress Champion

16th Street Baptist Church 50 years later

16th Street Baptist Church 50 years later

Sunday mornings in the South were the most segregated hours in the week. September 15, 1963 changed things worldwide and at the 16th Street Baptist Church, a prominent black church in Birmingham.

The deaths of Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Denise McNair impacted the lives of community and their surroundings. In all there were four deaths and 22 injuries.

The then and now of the bombing did not stop the church worshipers at all. The bombing helped pull and draw all of the nation’s attention to the struggle of the Civil Rights Movement.

Doug Jones is a Birmingham lawyer who assisted in the prosecution of the bombing trial itself.

He said that the church was a focal point for Civil Rights activities.  School aged children were organized for marches and became a symbol of the efforts of the protest of the demonstrations. The children soon became targets of the Klan because they were the main focal point of the movement.

Jones said that the bombing of the church was very powerful, in fact so powerful that it blew through 18 inches of concrete. He said he believes that a strong element of justice and injustice was served.

The church is still open and the bathroom where the girls were killed is now a kitchen. Greg Townsend was just three years old when the bombing occurred. He remembers being one of the few families with a television, causing others families to come and gather to follow the news.

He remembers looking back and seeing the water hoses, big tanks, dog attacks and angry faces.

Townsend is a member of the church, and a deacon with more than 22 years of service. He said that he is very honored that the struggles and sacrifices that the African Americans went through brought him where he is today.

“Looking back 50 years from now, the bombing not only shook the building but the foundation of the community as well,” Townsend said.  “A lot of people and families left and haven’t came back since ’63.”

The church gets busloads of worshipers every Sunday. Before the bombing, majority of members were African American. While the majority is still African American, white members have also joined.

Tours are available Tuesday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Call 205-251-9402 to schedule an appointment.

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