Less than a month after Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” of the monumental March of Washington, the illusion of more peaceful resistance against the civil rights movement was quickly shattered in Birmingham, Alabama, Sunday morning, September 15, 1963 at 10:22 AM when a bomb exploded under the steps of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church planted by Ku Klux Klansman killing four black girls and maiming many more.
White supremacists Robert E. Chambliss, Bobby Frank Cherry, Herman Frank Cash, and Thomas E. Blanton, who were all locals of “Bombingham”, called that because of the numerous bombing attacks, and card carrying members of the Ku Klux Klan, were later identified by an FBI investigation as the perpetrators of the vile deed.
As with many other murders and lynchings, these four executed the bombing, but not without the complicity of a community, local officials, and even federal agencies that not only did little to bring the guilty to justice, but hampered the expeditious wheels of justice that could have brought the dastardly four to trial.
Some of the highest levels of government federally, in the state of Alabama, and particularly locally in Birmingham were all responsible for perpetuating a climate that allowed a shameful disregard of human life flourish in a climate of violence against those citizens authorities took an oath to protect.
Yes Chambliss, Cherry, Cash, and Blanton were evil Klansman that made war even on children because of their demented philosophy, but that bomb explosion was assisted by a conspiracy of attitudes that encouraged and supported the Klan to act.
One of the leading embarrassments is that of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover who as early as 1965 received an FBI investigative memo that identified the four bombers as the prime suspects. It was common knowledge that Hoover detested Martin Luther King Jr. and could have been a factor for Hoover directing subordinates to not give any information to prosecutors of the bombing. This lack of cooperation was a key factor in the criminal investigation going as slowly as it did, even when Alabama’s state attorney later sought assistance from the FBI.
Governor George Wallace of Alabama was blamed as being an instigator to ongoing violence that took place in Alabama. A defiant segregationist, just a week before the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Governor Wallace told the New York Times in an interview that in order to stop intergration a “few first class funerals” had to take place.http://www.ask.com/wiki/George_Wallace?o=2800&qsrc=999&ad=doubleDown&an=apn&ap=ask.com
But much of the shame falls on Birmingham city officials and residents who through silence or actual cooperation with the Ku Klux Klan helped to create the antagonistic climate that encouraged the Klan to act.
One sad issue was the repeated selling of dynamite to Chambliss who had no permit or legal basis to acquire explosives. Ultimately this is the only thing Chambliss was initially found guilty; the illegal possession of dynamite without a permit. During his “trial” Chambliss’ only penalty was a $100 dollar fine and a sentence of 6 months in jail which was suspended, a very light sentence for the lives of four children and the injuries to many others, however it was far more done than the previous cases brought to justice.
Each black child’s life amounted to a $25 dollar fine.
The audacity of bombing a church of Jesus Christ would put to the test the Biblical standard "your sin will find you out". The Bible mentions that the wheels of God's justice grind slowly but sure. It would be interesting to chart what happened not only to the four Klansman, but those that were helpful to the Klan because God always visits the iniquity of certain sins, which confirms the tales of woe that soon follow. That type of justice is inescapable.
Nevertheless the before mentioned issues were all present the day before that Sunday morning bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. The 26 children would assemble in that basement for a Sunday School lesson entitled “The Love That Forgives”.
They would drastically need that lesson to face the rest of their lives……those that survived.
Tomorrow: It Was a Different Sunday