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50 Years Ago, Baptist Church Bombing Shakes Nation

September 15, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
They would have been in their early 60's now. Instead, Denise McNail, Carol Robertson, Addie May Collins and Cynthia Wesley were killed 50 years ago today in one of the worst acts of violence during the Civil Rights Movement. Also remembered tonight, Demetrius Newton, a Civil Rights attorney and Alabama legislator.
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TRANSCRIPT

HARI SREENIVASAN: Finally, the connection.

Tonight, a few lives remembered from the Civil Rights era.

They would have been in their early 60’s now grandmothers, perhaps. Maybe nearing the end of their careers — or enjoying retirement. Instead, Denise McNair, Carol Robertson, Addie May Collins and Cynthia Wesley were killed 50 years ago today in one of the worst acts of violence during the civil rights movement. They died on a Sunday morning when the church they attended, the 16th street baptist church in Birmingham, Alabama, was bombed .

This recollection is from a new documentary called “Preserving Justice.”

PAULETTE ROBY: I could remember seeing my teacher, Ms. Wesly. Her daughter was one of the ones that was killed in the bombing. Cynthia Wesley. And I could remember her sitting on the stoop outside the emergency room crying.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The man in this picture lived in Alabama then, as well. You may never have heard of Demetrius Newton. But he was a Civil Rights attorney who worked with Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin luther king Jr. During that very dangerous era . He was interviewed for the same documentary.

DEMETRIUS NEWTON: One day, while in college, I saw two white police officers manhandle a young black woman that i knew. I think that was the catalyst that perhaps led me to choose a career.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  Later, Newton served as president pro tem of the Alabama house, the first African American ever to do so.

 

“Preserving Justice”
Birmingham Bar Foundation
Birmingham Bar Association
Magic City Bar Association
University of Alabama Center for Public Television and Radio
Photo Credit: Dionne Whetstone
 
The “Preserving Justice” documentary will be broadcast on Alabama Public Television Sunday, October 13th at 6:00 p.m. and more information is available at: PreservingJustice.org.