An update from Kim, a Master of Liberal Studies student:

16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham

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.

The sanctuary of the church

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.

One of the most compelling images of the civil rights movement, frozen in time as a statue in Birmingham's Kelly Ingram Park, is that of a Birmingham teenager being set upon by a snarling police dog.

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.