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After the March

SIXTEENTH STREET BAPTIST CHURCH BOMBING

At about 10:20 on Sunday, September 15, 1963, the telephone rang in the Sixteen Street Baptist Church office. “Two minutes,” the caller said.

Less than two minutes later, ten to fifteen sticks of dynamite that had been carefully placed near the ladies' restroom exploded. The blast killed four girls and nearly blinded another, the sister of one of the victims. Twenty other people were injured.

Carole Robertson’s funeral was held on September 17. A combined funeral for Cynthia Wesley, Denise McNair, and Addie Mae Collins was held the next day. The service drew six thousand people, both black and white, and was covered by reporters from around the world. King eulogized the children as “heroines of a holy crusade.”

Three men were ultimately charged in the church bombing, though not until many years later. “Dynamite Bob” Chambliss, who had also bombed Shuttlesworth’s home in 1956, was convicted of murder in 1977; Thomas Blanton Jr., in 2001; and Bobby Frank Cherry, in 2002.

The tragedy inspired President Kennedy and his successor, President Lyndon B. Johnson, to push for the Civil Rights Bill, which became law the following summer. In the years after that, more legislation, court decisions, marches, sit-ins, pickets, and pray-ins were required to seek and increasingly secure equal opportunities for all of America’s citizens—opportunities to work, go to school, live, shop, and vote as they please.

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