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David Hines @hradzka
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Yesterday was the 45th anniversary of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL. Four girls were murdered: Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, & Carol McNair.

McNair was 11; the others were 14.
The FBI identified Thomas Blanton, Herman Cash, Robert Chambliss, and Bobby Cherry as the perpetrators, but they weren't tried for years and Cash died without having been charged. (For his part, Chambliss blamed Gary Rowe, an FBI informant.)
The perps in question were KKK -- specifically, UKA, United Klans of America, but even more specifically they were members of a small but even more radical splinter group called the Cahaba Boys.
The Cahaba Boys had formed earlier in 1963 because they felt the Klan hadn't done enough in the face of the SCLC's successful desegregationist campaign in Birmingham.
Quick recap of the Birmingham campaign: MLK's SCLC wanted to desegregate downtown stores and start work toward desegregating the schools. They had tried a campaign in Albany, GA, but it hadn't worked because the local cops and politicos knew how to roll with the punches.
The SCLC realized that for nonviolence to work it needed to induce a violent overreaction, so they looked over suitable locations and selected Birmingham.

MLK *wanted* Bull Connor to pummel people, and Bull Connor obliged him, which only helped MLK and hurt Bull Connor.
The key figure in the SCLC's Birmingham campaign was James Bevel. He was SCLC's head of direct action, and what he did was train and organize students -- not just college, but high school, even elementary. Because if Bull Connor turned dogs and firehoses on *children--*

(he did)
James Bevel's workshops were held in the 16th Street Baptist Church.
Or they had been.

You know, months before.

So in seeking to disrupt and punish things that had happened long before and were now settled, the perpetrators bombed kids changing into their choir robes.
If you go out and read a bunch of modern white nationalists, or Hard Righties in general, you'll find a subset with a particular article of faith: if they just get the cops on their side and unleash violence, they'll win!

you know, like in the segregated South, which won

If you go back and look at the terrorism and state violence committed against the civil rights movement, there's kind of a weird dichotomy to it

in that there's both really a lot of it and thankfully much less than there could have been
The civil rights era had murders and beatings and bombings and police violence but one thing it didn't have was a Tulsa 1921. Riots of the period came later, and they were more bottom-up than top-down.
If you look at the kind of guys who were in the Klan, the quality of membership really dropped off a lot from the first Klan of the Reconstruction era to the third of the Civil Rights movement. The guys down for violence were neither a mass movement nor brilliant strategizers.
The bomb at the 16th Street Baptist Church was evidently meant as a warning: the phone rang. A staffer answered. A man's voice warned, "Three minutes."

The bomb went off less than a minute later, evidently because the perpetrators couldn't set a timer.
That would have been pretty standard for Birmingham, where bombs were used constantly as an intimidation tactic. Fifty bombings from 1947 to 1965 gave one neighborhood the nickname "Dynamite Hill." These caused some minor injuries but apparently no deaths.
And that's just going back to 1947; there were more bombings in town going back to the 20s.

In Spike Lee's movie FOUR LITTLE GIRLS, the documentary about the church bombing, one interviewee notes in passing that Bob Chambliss was apparently connected to all of them.
(FWIW, that Bob Chambliss was reportedly suspected in forty years' worth of bombings in Birmingham, AL but only four deaths makes me wonder if he wasn't so much into killing people as he was intimidating them and watching the fuss when bombs went off.)
I keep telling people to think of political organizing as a nonviolent military campaign. That's what it is.

The 16th Street Baptist Church was a base for efforts in a nonviolent military campaign. Its enemies launched a violent strike to try to counter it. It didn't work.
RIP to Misses Collins, Wesley, Robertson, and McNair, who ought to have been grandmothers by now.
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