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The E-Sylum (9/15/2013)

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This week brought the awarding of a Congressional Gold medal to the victims of the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. -Editor

Church bombing Congressional gold medal

At a ceremony held yesterday at the U.S. Capitol Building, a Congressional Gold Medal was awarded posthumously to Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley. These four young black girls lost their lives in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama on September 15, 1963. The bombing and death of the four girls served as a catalyst for the civil rights movement and contributed to support for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Congressional Gold Medal was authorized under Public Law 113-11, which provided only broad guidance on the design for the medal. The medal was to be “of appropriate design to commemorate the lives of Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley” and contain “suitable emblems, devices, and inscriptions.” The final designs were selected by the Treasury of the Secretary in consultation with the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the Commission of Fine Arts, and the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee.

The obverse design features a silhouette of the four girls, with inscriptions of their names around the outer border of the design. Additional inscriptions “Pivotal in the Struggle for Equality” and “September 13 1963″ appear incused across the silhouettes. The obverse was designed by Barbara Fox an engraved by Jim Licaretz. The reverse depicts a view of the 16th Street Baptist Church. The inscriptions include “Act of Congress 2013″ above, “Killed in the Bombing of the 16th St. Baptist Church” to the left, and “Birmingham, Alabama” beneath. The reverse was designed by Donna Weaver and engraved by Joseph Menna.

The United States Mint will offer bronze reproductions of the Congressional Gold Medal. The 3-inch bronze medal is priced at $39.95 and the 1.5-inch bronze medal is priced at $6.95. These will go on sale today, September 11, 2013 at 12:00 Noon ET.

I'm not sure I like the flat obverse design, but in some ways it is fitting; these girls were never public figures in life, and have been unknown individually in death. The honor itself is quite fitting, if belated. It took decades to bring their killers to justice. The Congressional Gold Medal is the nation's highest honor, and quite deserved. There are other martyrs equally deserving who haven't gotten such an honor, but that shouldn't take away from the remembrance of these innocents. -Editor

To read the complete article, see: 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing Victims Bronze Medal (

I was curious about the actual gold medal - were four struck or just one? If just one, who actually accepted it? This article has the answer: one medal was struck and will be kept at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. -Editor

Bombing victims plaque

House and Senate leaders on Tuesday awarded Congress' highest civilian honor to four girls killed in the Alabama church bombing nearly 50 years ago that became a watershed moment in the civil rights movement.

The Congressional Gold Medal went to Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, who were all 14, and Denise McNair, who was 11. The ceremony came five days before the 50th anniversary of their deaths inside the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham.

"Their names remain seared in our hearts," said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California. She was joined at the commemoration by Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and members of Alabama's congressional delegation.

Along with the many lawmakers in the crowd paying tribute were director Spike Lee, and several relatives of the girls.

The girls were killed in the explosion of a bomb planted outside the church by white supremacists. The attack shocked the nation and helped spur passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Three Ku Klux Klan members were convicted of the bombing years after the attack and sentenced to prison. Two have since died; one remains in prison.

To read the complete article, see: Congressional Gold Medal awarded to Birmingham church bombing victims (

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