Birmingham Bombing (Sixteenth Street Baptist Church)

Background:

The bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, was one of the deadliest acts of violence to take place during the Civil Rights movement and evoked criticism and outrage from around the world. On the morning of September 15, 1963, as the congregation's children prepared for annual Youth Day celebrations, a bomb exploded in the stairwell of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church killing four girls and injuring dozens of others in the assembly. In the aftermath of the bombing, riots and violent demonstrations broke out throughout Birmingham, resulting in the death of two young African American boys. Following a tainted investigation by the FBI, Robert Chambliss, an active member of the Ku Klux Klan, was arrested and charged with murder and the possession of dynamite without a permit. Chambliss was acquitted of murder charges until 1977 when the reopening of the case resulted in his conviction, fourteen years after the bombing. In recent years, two additional conspirators, Thomas Blanton and Robert Cherry, have been tried and convicted for their roles in the church bombing. The bombing of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, which previously served as a central meeting place and staging ground for Civil Rights activities, was intended to stall the progression of the Civil Rights movement; however, the tragedy had the opposite effect, galvanizing support and propelling the movement forward.

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