4 Little Girls


Today marks 50 years since the bombing of Birmingham’s 16th St. Baptist Church and the murder of the 4 girls pictured above. I have been seeing an outpouring of commemoration, but I’ve noticed a tendency to valorize the deaths of these girls in service of “making a better nation.”

I am not comfortable with the rhetorical framing of the 4 girls (Addie Mae Collins (10), Denise McNair (11), Carole Robertson (14), and Cynthia Wesley (14)) who were murdered in the bombing of Birmingham’s 16th St. Baptist Church on 15 September, 1963 as ‘sacrificial lambs’ or ‘martyrs.’ They were in that basement for Bible study. They did not ask to be murdered and made the martyr-faces of a movement.

I worked in Birmingham and drove past the site of 16th St. Baptist Church. I saw the relics of segregation and racial terror and the continuing legacies of discrimination. It cheapens and ‘softens’ the daily, lived reality of terror to call our slain ‘sacrifices.’ How many sacrifices must be made to amoral political institutions before we are ‘free’ and ‘equal?’

Indeed, as Assata Shakur** said, “Nobody in the world, nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people that were oppressing them.”


**(Lest we forget, the (Black) President who spoke at the March on Washington commemoration put the first Black woman in the FBI Most Wanted Terrorist List– Assata Shakur .)

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