Legislation Giving The Congressional Gold Medal to “4 Little Girls”

Legislation Giving The Congressional Gold Medal to “4 Little Girls” Killed in The 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing Signed into Law by President Obama


On Friday, May 24, 2013, President Barack Obama signed into law legislation to posthumously award the Congressional Gold Medal to the “four little girls” – Addie Mae Collins (age 14), Denise McNair (age 11), Carole Robertson (age 14), and Cynthia Wesley (age 14) – who were killed as they dressed for Sunday school in the basement of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama by members of the Ku Klux Klan.  These four innocent girls lost their lives, and 22 other people were seriously injured, on September 15, 1963, when a bomb planted in the church exploded; their senseless deaths, along with the assassination of Medgar Evers earlier that year shook the general conscience of our nation and the world, and together these tragic acts were major contributing factors to the enactment of the 1964 Civil Right Act, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  Perhaps even more tragically, justice was delayed for these 4 little girls and their families until 2002, 39 years after the bombing, when the last of the 4 White Supremacists responsible for the bombing was charged and convicted of the crime.

The NAACP strongly supported this legislation, which was originally introduced by Congresswoman Terri Sewell (AL), who represents Birmingham and Congressman Spencer Bacchus (AL); original bi partisan co-sponsors included the entire Alabama Congressional delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives and Congressmen John Lewis (GA) and Sanford Bishop (GA), who were both born in Alabama.  The bill passed the U.S. House by a unanimous vote of 420 yeas to 0 nays on April 24, 2013; it passed the Senate unanimously, with the strong support of Senator Richard Shelby (AL) and Jeff Sessions (AL) on May 9, 2013.  Present at the Presidential signing ceremony were members of the cabinet, including Attorney General Eric Holder; the current mayor of Birmingham; the current pastor of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church; and members of the four girls’ families. 

A ceremony will be held later this fall to officially award the medals posthumously to the 4 little girls.

(.pdf version)