September 15, 1963

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Photo by Burton McNeely
Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

With more than 45 racially motivated bombings since the end of World War II, Birmingham, Ala., had earned the nickname “Bombingham.”

But none of the attacks was more haunting than the Sunday morning bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church, the oldest black con­gregation in the city.

Four girls—three age 14, one 11—were killed and more than 20 people injured in what was the deadliest act of terror during the civil rights era.

Justice came slowly for the families of the victims, in part because FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover refused to let his agents share the results of their investigation with state or federal prosecutors.

Eventually, three members of the Ku Klux Klan were convicted for the murders—the first in 1977. The last, Bobby Frank Cherry, was convicted in May 2002, almost 39 years after the attack.

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