Birmingham, Alabama 1963

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On September 15th, 1963, a bomb exploded at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The floor of the church collapsed. A Sunday school session was under way and four children were in the church basement preparing for the service. Four girls died Denise McNair, aged 11, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley and Carol Robertson, all aged 14. Many others were injured as well. No one was initially arrested for this crime even though the authorities suspected four men within days of the crime. Birmingham was a major center of civil rights activities and the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was an organizational place for the movement. Youths used the church as a place to help plan out ideas to get more black high school children involved in the civil rights cause. In the Spring of 1963, stores in downtown Birmingham had been desegregated and just days before the bombing, schools in Birmingham had been ordered by a federal court to combine whites and blacks. Many Klansmen would not accept this decision nor the changes that the civil rights cause seemed to be making. In 1965, J Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, stated that there’s no chance of a conviction and in 1968, the FBI pulled out of the investigation. A known member of the KKK was arrested in 1977 Robert Chambliss. He was sent to prison and died there in 1985. However, many believed that he was not the only one involved. In 1980, a US Department of Justice report stated that Hoover had blocked evidence that could have been used in the pursuit of suspects. This led to the Alabama district attorney reopening the case. However, while the case was reopened, no new charges were filed. In 1985, Chambliss died – but never admitted that he had any part in the bombing. In October 1988, Gary A Tucker admitted that he had helped set up the bomb. Dying of cancer, no charge was laid against him – but federal and state prosecutors reopened their investigations.
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