50 years ago today a single moment changed a nation. When explosives detonated in the basement of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama just before morning worship services, it not only took the lives of four little girls, but shattered the hearts of those who knew them as well as those who hoped to soon see the Untied States wash away the stain of racial hatred.
Only weeks before the church bombing, hundreds of thousands convened in the nation’s capitol for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The march produced an iconic speech and moving images, but above all it revealed the overwhelming policy and organizing work that the country yet needed to complete in order to achieve racial equality.
If the March seeded in the national imagination a Dream for the future of a nation mired in conflict, the deadly explosion in Alabama shook the US back to reality.
The Four Little Girls have become symbols of the unfathomable hate harnessed in the being of Northern and Southern bigots. Documentaries, books, and countless articles elevate their legacies as martyrs of the movement. However, on this day it is equally important to remember Carole, Addie Mae, Cynthia and Denise as more than icons but as four daughters, sisters, and friends on the brink of young adulthood who had their futures stolen.