Once described by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as “one of the most tragic and vicious crimes ever perpetrated against humanity,” the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Alabama, instantly killed Addie Mae Collins, Carol Denise McNair, Carole Rosamond Robinson, and Cynthia Dionne Morris Wesley on September 15, 1963. This egregious act of domestic terrorism reverberated worldwide. It also sparked the passage of landmark civil rights legislation and a notable artistic response, signified by the jazz musician John Coltrane’s elegiac composition, “Alabama.” Orchestrated by white supremacists, the blast left twelve-year-old Sarah Collins temporarily blind. For decades, she slipped into anonymity. In this intimate first-hand account, Sarah imparts her views on topics such as the 50th year commemoration, restitution, and racial terrorism. This story also delves into the bond between Sarah and her mother, Mrs. Alice Collins. In the backdrop of a national reckoning and global protests, underscored by the deadly violence at Mother Emanuel in Charleston, SC, and tragedies in Charlottesville, VA, and Pittsburgh, PA, Sarah’s unflinching testimony about the ‘63 Birmingham church bombing is illuminating.
About the Authors
Dr. Tracy Snipe is an Associate Professor in the School of Public and International Affairs at Wright State University where he teaches Politics and Film, Black Women and Politics, French Politics and has co-led several civil rights pilgrimages. He has published in The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science and lectured nationally with Sarah Collins Rudolph, Janie Collins Simpkins, and Junie Collins Williams. He is now writing Saving the Best Wine for Last: Remembrances of the 16th Street Church Bombing, along with Williams.
Mrs. Sarah Collins Rudolph was the “Fifth Little Girl” inside the lounge when a bomb detonated at the 16th Street Church. She valiantly tried to rescue her sister Addie, and decades later would receive the Harmony Award from the Congress of Racial Equality for demonstrating bravery. The Birmingham native is married to George C. Rudolph. From the stages of the Madame Walker Theatre Center in Indianapolis, IN, to Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, the civil rights icon shares her views on forgiveness, reconciliation, and racial justice.