Chairman's Blog

Four Little Girls: America Remembers the Lives Lost in the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing

 America Remembers the Lives Lost in the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing

By: RNC Chairman Reince Priebus


On September 18, 1963, Martin Luther King stood up in Birmingham’s Sixth Avenue Baptist Church. He was there to deliver a eulogy for the four little girls killed in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing three days before.

To those gathered at the funeral service for three of the four girls, he captured what their death meant to the nation:

They say to each of us, black and white alike, that we must substitute courage for caution. They say to us that we must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers. Their death says to us that we must work passionately and unrelentingly for the realization of the American dream.

Indeed, the loss of those four innocent lives in a racially-motivated attack helped awaken America to the evils of racism and further galvanized the Civil Rights Movement. And this afternoon, ahead of the fiftieth anniversary of the bombings, the House of Representatives voted to honor the lives of those four girls—and to  award them posthumously a Congressional Gold Medal. 

The text of the resolution reads:

To award posthumously a Congressional Gold Medal to Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley, in recognition of the 50th commemoration of the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church where the 4 little Black girls lost their lives, which served as a catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement.

It’s important we remember their loss. America today is a more just society, in part because of Addie Mae, Denise, Carole, and Cynthia.

Yet these girls deserved so much more than a posthumous medal. They deserved freedom from racial hatred; they deserved the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To truly honor their memory, we must continue to oppose discrimination and fight for tolerance. We must defend freedom and equal opportunity for all. They are the bedrock principles of our nation, and when they are threatened, our country is weakened.

Dr. King called the girls “the martyred heroines of a holy crusade for freedom.” Thank God America took up that crusade. And may we continue to be vigilant in the defense of freedom.