This year, 38 years ago, two events shaped history in the goal of equal rights and liberty for all in America. They were events that showed the ugly that festered inside of America, an ugliness based on a terroristic hate and race supremacy. These events were the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham and the murder and lynching of Virgil Lamar Ware. The common element was that the both occurred on killed Sept. 15, 1963 and both involved children.
On that Sunday, a white man was seen placing a box under the stairs outside of the church, which had become a meeting-place for civil efforts to register African Americans to vote in Birmingham.
A few minutes before 10:30 am., the bomb exploded killing four girls who were in the church attending Sunday School: Denise McNair (11), Addie Mae Collins (14), Carole Robertson (14) and Cynthia Wesley (14). In addition, twenty-three other people were also hurt by the blast.
A witness identified a known member of the Ku Klux Klan, Robert Chambliss, as the man who placed the bomb at the but found not guilty of murder and received a hundred-dollar fine and a six-month jail sentence for having the dynamite.
On the same day the 13 year-old Ware was found lynched and mutilated in Birmingham. Virgil Ware had just entered the eighth grade at the all-black Sandusky Elementary School near his home in suburban Pratt City. While working on a paper route with his two brothers. Larry Joe Sims and Michael Lee Farley, both 16, had attended a segregationist rally that day drove by the brother firing two bullets hit Virgil in the chest and cheek, making Virgil Ware the sixth and final black person to be killed in Birmingham that Sunday.
Although African Americans can applauded some overt change with the election of Barack Obama and the erection of a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. in Washington, D.C., we must recognize the disservice we actually do ourselves by forgetting about those who gave blood for what we supposedly have currently. To forget in memory yet celebrate in symbols is a defeatist mantra that serves no proactive or productive utility. For it will always be as Dwight David Eisenhower stated, “A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”
Our privileges have us more knowledgeable of celebrity and avarice than education and self-determination. Thus if such is the case, the principals symbolized in the actions of those before us and the words of Dr. King are long gone and may be never to return.