Highest civilian award for young Baptist girls killed in church bombing
A Congressional Gold Medal has been awarded posthumously to four young black girls who lost their lives in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, on September 15, 1963.
The senseless deaths of Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley as they prepared for Sunday school galvanised the civil rights movement, and sparked a surge of momentum that helped secure the enactment of both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
A Congressional Medal is an award bestowed by the United States Congress and is the highest civilian award in the United States.
‘The 16th Street Baptist Church remains a powerful symbol of the movement for civil and human rights, and the ultimate sacrifices made by these girls are emblematic of many others who have lost their lives for the causes of freedom and equality,’ said a spokesman for the United States Mint, which designs the medals.
The design features the silhouette of four young girls, representing those killed on that fateful day, with the words: Pivotal in the struggle for equality.
The reverse depicts a view of the 16th Street Baptist Church with the quote: Killed in the bombing of the 16th St Baptist Church.