On September 15, 1963, Addie Mae Collins, Carol Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley were murdered in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Countless others were injured in the bombing of this church which has been a cornerstone in the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham. Yesterday, as many posted images of these four little girls and #neverforget, it seems as if we forgotten the other victims of this date, Virgil Ware and Johnny Robinson. This is not to dismissed the story of Addie, Carol, Carole, and Cynthia. No, this is just a call to remember the slain lives taken that day as a result of hate.
Four Little Girls
I recall seeing Ava Duvernay’s Selma earlier this year. As a historian, there were no surprises for me in the movie. When I watched the four little girls walking down the stairs my heart became heavy and my eyes filled with tears. I knew that when they walked down their stairs they would not walk back up. These were the four little girls I read in history books and learned about in documentaries. They were innocent victims in a world full of hate. I encouraged you each to watch Spike Lee’s Four Little Girls, an HBO documentary about the 16th Street Church Bombing.
On WNYW’s morning news show, Bobby Rivers interviewed filmmaker Spike Lee for the release of his first documentary, “4 Little Girls.” Lee’s 1997 feature covers a racial hate crime in September 1963 that made international headlines. Four children were killed in an Alabama church bombing two weeks after Dr. Martin Luther King’s historic March on Washington.
Johnny Robinson and Virgil Ware, from my previous post Victims of Hate
We must also remember the sacrifice of an innocent child shot from the handlebars of a bicycle.
Roderick Royal, Birmingham City Council
Virgil Ware was murdered on September 15, 1963, a sad familiar date in American history. This was the day the 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama.
“Tommy Wrenn always said the history was incorrect. He kept saying there were six children who died that day. He was so discontent that the little boys were left out.”
Shirley Gavin Floyd, chairman of the Civil Rights Foot Soldiers in Birmingham
Two hours after the bombing, thirteen year old Virgil Ware was murdered by two white teens while riding the handlebars of his brother’s bike. He died in his brother’s arms from gunshot wounds to the chest and cheek. Larry Sims was charged with 1st degree murder and found guilty of second degree murder. Michael Farley plead guilty to the same charge and both were sentenced to only seven months of prison. The judge eventually suspended their sentences giving them two years probation for the death of Virgil Ware.
On the day that claimed the lives of four little girls and Virgil Ware, the life of Johnny Robinson was also taken. Following the bombing of the 16th Street Church, Johnny, along with many others, gathered at a nearby gas station. Young white teens started to taunt the growing crowd. According to responding officers, a few members of the crowd began to throw rocks at the white teens. When the police arrived, they ran down an alley. Another police car blocked the other end with the officer in the backseat pointing a gun out of the window. Police later told news reporters that Parker fired a warning shot at the running youth, but other officers reported that the slamming of the car’s brakes resulted in the firing of Parker’s weapons.
It was devastating. It really was devastating because we had to get up the next morning to go to school.
Leon Robinson, Johnny’s younger brother
Whatever happened that day, Johnny was shot in the wrists and back. Shortly after the shooting, he was pronounced dead at a local hospital. Two grand juries refused to charge Parker and it was not until 2009 when the F.B.I. investigated Robinson’s case that the remaining family members learned of what exactly happened to their brother. Despite the reopening of this case, no would could be indicted–Parker died in 1977.
Let us #neverforget.
Until the next post,