An update from Kim, a Master of Liberal Studies student:
It was Youth Sunday on September 15, 1963, when a bomb planted by the Ku Klux Klan went off just outside an outer wall behind the ladies lounge at Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church. Four little girls who were preparing for church – Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley – were killed in the explosion. The church had been the staging area for civil rights demonstrations that brought hundreds of Birmingham schoolchildren out of their schools and into the streets to march for their freedom.
Bigotry and racial hatred ran so deep in Birmingham in the 1950s and early 1960s that it earned the unsavory nickname “Bombingham” in recognition of the frequency of bombings targeting black homes and churches.
Kelly Ingram Park, across the street from 16th Street Baptist Church, was the site of several days of civil rights protests led largely by high school students in May 1963. Photographs and television coverage of these violent confrontations that pitted Police Commissioner “Bull” Connor’s officers, attack dogs and water cannons against children shocked the nation.
The park that SMU’s civil rights pilgrims toured Thursday is a peaceful place, redesigned with statues and memorials that both recall the violence and encourage reconciliation.