16th Street Baptist Church marks 50th anniversary of bombing

16th Street Baptist Church marks 50th anniversary of bombing

Posted: Updated:
16th Street Baptist Church. Source: Melynda Sides/WBRC 16th Street Baptist Church. Source: Melynda Sides/WBRC
Rev. Jesse Jackson and Sarah Collins Rudolph. Rev. Jesse Jackson and Sarah Collins Rudolph.
Hundreds attended the services this morning. Source: Melynda Sides Hundreds attended the services this morning. Source: Melynda Sides
The 16th Street Baptist Church bell was tolled once for each girl killed in the bomb and a wreath was laid near the spot where the bomb went off. Source: Melynda Sides/WBRC The 16th Street Baptist Church bell was tolled once for each girl killed in the bomb and a wreath was laid near the spot where the bomb went off. Source: Melynda Sides/WBRC
Memorial for the 4 little girls killed. Source: Melynda Sides/WBRC Memorial for the 4 little girls killed. Source: Melynda Sides/WBRC
BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -

Hundreds of people, both black and white, filled the 16th Street Baptist Church Sunday morning to remember the bombing by the Ku Klux Klan 50 years ago today. 

The blast killed four little girls: Denise McNair, 11, Carole Robertson, 14, Addie Mae Collins, 14, and Cynthia Dianne Wesley, 14.

The Rev. Arthur Price taught the same Sunday school lesson that students heard the morning of the bombing: "A Love That Forgives."

Hundreds attended the church service Sunday morning to remember the lives lost 50 years ago.  Congregation members and visitors sang the old hymn "Love Lifted Me" and joined hands in prayer at Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist Church.

A dynamite bomb went off outside the church Sept. 15, 1963, killing four girls and injured a fifth, Sarah Collins Rudolph.  She lost her right eye in the bombing and remembers being hit by glass in the chest. 

Klansmen were convicted in the bombing years later, and one remains in prison.

Attorney General Eric Holder and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice were among those in Birmingham Sunday to mark the 50th anniversary of the bombing.

The Justice Department says both were scheduled to speak at the University of Alabama at Birmingham early Sunday afternoon, then attend the church's memorial service at 3 p.m. They were joined by Gov. Robert Bentley, U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell and Birmingham Mayor William Bell.

"This is our time, our moment, our opportunity to make the positive differences we seek," Holder said when addressing the crowd at the church's memorial service.

"We're still striving to realize the dream Dr. King shared with us 50 years ago last month," he added.

Terri Sewell also spoke at the memorial service.

"It's because of four little girls in Birmingham that this black girl from Selma can walk the halls of Congress," she said.

But Sewell also added that there is still "work to do," referencing the Jefferson County bankruptcy and the UA fraternity/sorority scandal.

"When we still have fraternities and sororities in our state that block because of race, we still have work to do," she said.

Gov. Bentley also spoke to the crowd gathered inside the church while others watched in front of screens set up in Kelly Ingram Park.

"The four little girls are now forever linked to the cause of justice. The tragic and deadly bombing forever scarred us," Bentley said.

"We choose to look forward to what Birmingham is and can be. What will it look like 50 years forward? That's up to us," the governor said.

The service also included a moment of silence for the four lives lost and a bell tolled for each girl killed in the bombing.

A sculpture honoring the four girls was unveiled Saturday in Birmingham. Throughout the day, people gathered around to see "The Four Spirits" sculpture and take photos of the new momument.

The evening's activities will continue with a power hour and concert at Kelly Ingram Park and conclude with an Alabama Symphony Orchestra concert and fireworks at Railroad Park. See below for a full list of events.

Sunday, Sept. 15:

Noon Premiere of 4 Little Girls documentary hosted by Spike Lee at the Alabama Theatre

3 p.m. Commemorative program for the 50th anniversary of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing at the church

3 p.m. - 6 p.m. Birmingham Originals' Taste of Birmingham Food Festival on First Avenue South

5 p.m. - 7 p.m. The Power Hour with Rod Parsley and Pastor Greg Matthews at Kelly Ingram Park

6:30 p.m. American Idols Concert with Taylor Hicks and guests at Railroad Park

8 p.m. Alabama Symphony, Red Mountain Theatre Company and other in concert at Railroad Park

9 p.m. Closing ceremony with fireworks show at Railroad Park

For more information on the 50 Years Forward effort, please visit http://www.50yearsforward.com/events/.

To learn more about the worship events Sunday at 16th Street Baptist Church, please visit http://www.16thstreetbaptist.org/.

Several streets will also be closed during these events:

6th Avenue North between 15th Street North and 17th Street North

15th Street North between 5th Avenue North and 6th Avenue North

16th Street North between 4th Avenue North and 6th Avenue North

17th Street North between 5th Avenue North and 6th Avenue North

These streets will re-open at 6 a.m. Monday, Sept. 16.

You can follow @myfoxal on Twitter for live updates from the service and today's events.

Copyright 2013 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Powered by WorldNow